Pakistan row deepens as UK envoy summoned

By Ian Dunt

Britain’s high commissioner in Pakistan has been summoned to answer questions in the wake of David Cameron’s explosive comments about the country’s support for terrorism.

Speaking during a trip to India, Pakistan’s staunch regional rival, the prime minister said Pakistan could no longer “look both ways” on terror.

His comments followed a Wikileaks publication of thousands of US documents revealing concerns about Pakistan’s Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) agency’s relationship with the Afghan insurgency.

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This morning, British high commissioner Adam Thomson answered a summons from the foreign ministry in Islamabad concerning Mr Cameron’s comments.

Pakistani foreign mnister Shah Mehmood Qureshi asked for an explanation of the comment and conveyed “the sentiments of the government and the people of Pakistan” over the issue.

“The foreign minister emphasised that terrorism was a global issue and had to be dealt with by all countries in a spirit of cooperation, rather than putting the entire onus on any one country,” a statement read.

Downing Street refused to admit Mr Thomson had been summoned, referring only to a “meeting”. No 10 said they had discussed a broad range of bilateral issues including preparations for Pakistan president Asif Ali Zardari’s visit to Britain later this week.

The summons is the latest sign of anger in Pakistan over the comments, which prompted Pakistani intelligence to cancel a trip to Britain in protest and saw the burning of Mr Cameron’s effigy in demonstrations in Karachi.

The row comes amid the backdrop of devastating floods in Pakistan, with rescue workers struggling to reach 27,000 in danger. At least 1,100 have been killed and whole communities ruined.

Mr Zardari arrived in Europe today, holding talks with French president Nicolas Sarkozy before starting a five-day visit in the UK.

He had been under considerable domestic pressure to cancel the trip in protest at Mr Cameron’s comments, but his visit is taking place nonetheless. No 10 said said counter-terrorist issues were on the agenda for talks at Chequers on Friday.

“Pakistan faces some very big challenges,” the prime minister’s spokesman said. “The prime minister is looking forward to discussing them with President Zardari on Friday.”

Shadow foreign secretary and leading Labour leadership contender David Miliband said the comments revealed Mr Cameron could not be trusted with the delicacies of international relations.

“Mr Cameron has used the last two weeks to make a verbal splash on foreign policy,” he said.

“Like a cuttlefish squirting out ink, his words were copious and created a mess.”

Labour MP Khalid Mahmood also lambasted Mr Cameron for the comments, saying they enflamed community relations.

“A lot of people of Pakistan origin are hugely inflamed by this,” he said.

“They feel their country of origin has been criticised for no reason other than point scoring. He [Mr Cameron] is just trying to curry favour with the Indians.”

During the trip to India last week, Mr Cameron said: “We should be very, very clear with Pakistan that we want to see a strong, stable and democratic Pakistan.

“We cannot tolerate in any sense the idea that this country is allowed to look both ways and is able, in any way, to promote the export of terror, whether to India or whether to Afghanistan or anywhere else in the world.”