Pakistan's pledge to curb militants is strongest yet

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — Pakistan's new government gave its strongest commitment yet on containing Islamic militancy, vowing Wednesday to prevent attacks on Afghanistan but insisting foreign forces would not be allowed to operate in Pakistan.

The statement came as the latest spasm of violence between militants and tribesmen left 37 people dead in tribal regions of northwest Pakistan, a stronghold of Taliban and al-Qaida fighters.

Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani met with top officials, including the chiefs of the army and the powerful Inter-Services Intelligence. He said the government would not allow the tribal areas to descend into chaos, and he reserved the right to use military force.

”Pakistan will not allow its territory to be used against other countries, especially Afghanistan,“ his office said in a statement.

In a shift from the policy of former army chief and U.S. ally President Pervez Musharraf, the newly elected government has been trying to reach peace deals with militants, which the United States fears will only give the fighters time to regroup.

Afghanistan says the Taliban and al-Qaida are taking advantage of the lawlessness to turn the region into a base for launching attacks across the border.

In an apparent bid to blunt that criticism, Gilani said any deals would be with tribal leaders — not militants — and that the agreements would include an obligation to stop ”cross-border movement for militancy“ and expel foreign fighters.

”They will be made to understand that the use of force by the military will be justified if the tribes act contrary to their obligations,“ it said.

In Washington, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Richard Boucher said that Gilani's policy statement would ”to some extent“ address concerns that the peace deals would lead only to more violence.

”Certainly the approach of saying, "We will work with the tribes to kick out the terrorists' is a better approach than going directly to negotiate with militants,“ Boucher said.