Page last updated at 11:16 GMT, Wednesday, 22 October 2008 12:16 UK

West 'should stand by Pakistan'

By Barbara Plett
BBC News, Islamabad

Taleban militants in Pakistan's Waziristan district
The Taleban control many tribal areas of Pakistan

Pakistan's foreign minister says it is in the interests of the West to stand by Pakistan as it fights Islamist militancy and economic turmoil.

Shah Mahmood Qureshi told the BBC that Pakistan had played an important role in making Western countries more secure by battling al-Qaeda and the Taleban.

Pakistan is seeking international help to bolster its economy.

But it is facing pressure from the United States to fight harder against Islamist militants.

Should help

The Pakistani government has been appealing to its international friends for emergency funds to tide it over a balance of payments crisis.

Shah Mahmood Qureshi
Mr Qureshi says the ISI has been made a scapegoat for American failure

It argues that as a frontline state fighting Islamist militancy other countries should help it.

Foreign Minister Qureshi told the BBC that Pakistan's actions against al-Qaeda and the Taleban had brought greater security to the West, but at great cost to Pakistan, with thousands of Pakistanis killed and injured, and a raging insurgency undermining an already struggling economy.

If we fail now, Mr Qureshi said, it will not only be Pakistan which suffers.

"You have to wake up and realise that Pakistan is a victim, Pakistan has stood by you. Stand by Pakistan, and if you don't stand by Pakistan you will let yourselves down," he said.

Pakistan has been getting a bad press, especially in the American media. It is criticised for failing to fight hard enough, with its intelligence agency, the ISI, accused of supporting the Taleban.

Mr Qureshi said the ISI had become a scapegoat for American failure in Afghanistan.

He said it was easier to criticise than to assess the difficult conditions in which the security forces had been operating and he urged the world to admit that Pakistan had delivered more than any other country in the global battle against Islamist militancy.

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