Obama administration initiating dialogue with Pak religious parties

      US Special Representative to Afghanistan and Pakistan, Richard Holbrooke, is initiating a dialogue between the United States and Pakistani religious parties to try to improve Washington's image in the country. "The purpose is to broaden the base of American relations in Pakistan beyond the relatively narrow circle of leaders Washington has previously dealt with," The Dawn quoted Vali Nasr, a senior adviser to Holbrooke, as saying. According to reports, the Jamaat-e-Islami and the Jamiat-e-ulema-e-Islam parties are to visit the US embassy in Islamabad to have talks with Holbrooke and his team. The Jamiat-e-ulema-e-Islam party was active in rousing support for the Taliban in 1990s. Meanwhile, Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari has praised Holbrooke's meetings with Islamist parties, highlighting his efforts for being aimed at promoting reconciliation and dialogue instead of 'the violent mindset'. "We need to help Obama. He's a breath of fresh air to the world," Zardari said. The decision has come as a shock to many leaders in both countries who have questioned Holbrooke's timing for trying to engage Taliban sympathisers right before the scheduled elections in Afghanistan, where US forces are battling for peace. John Bolton, former US Amassador to the United Nations, said: "As a general proposition, democracy in Pakistan is fragile enough now that negotiating with people that some on the democratic side of the Pakistani spectrum would think themselves are terrorists strikes me as fairly risky."

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