Thu, 04 Dec 2003

Terrorism high on agenda of Mega's visit to Pakistan

Fabiola Desy Unidjaja, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

President Megawati Soekarnoputri is scheduled to make a four-day state visit to Pakistan on Dec. 13, the last leg of her three- nation, nine-day overseas trip that will also take her to Japan and China.

Minister of Foreign Affairs Hassan Wirayuda announced on Wednesday that the visit was aimed at enhancing bilateral relations between the two Muslim countries.

"The leaders of the two countries will discuss various ways to enhance bilateral trade cooperation and, of course, terrorism issues," Hassan said.

Six Indonesian students, including a brother of Indonesian- born terrorist suspect Riduan Isamuddin, alias Hambali, are currently in detention in Pakistan for their alleged involvement in terrorist activities and networks.

Pakistan said earlier that the six would be deported and an Indonesian team consisting of foreign ministry officials and police personnel would leave for Pakistan later this week to bring the students back for questioning.

Hassan said that there was a need for the two Muslim countries to stand together and restore the image of Islam, which had been tarnished by the involvement of militant Muslims in a series of terrorist attacks around the globe.

The visit will be the first by Megawati to that country. Former president Abdurrahman Wahid visited the country in 2000 and Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf paid a return visit to Indonesia in the same year.

Pakistan foreign ministry spokesman Masood Khan told AFP that the two leaders would discuss bilateral ties, economic and trade cooperation, and joint industrial projects.

"Cooperation within the regional and international context will also be on the agenda," Khan said.

Megawati has met Musharraf three times this year: First on the sidelines of a Non-Aligned Movement summit in Kuala Lumpur in February, then at the UN General Assembly meeting in New York in September and finally during the Organization of the Islamic Conference summit in Kuala Lumpur in October.

Hassan said by the time of the visit six Indonesian students currently under the detention of Pakistani authorities would be in the custody of Indonesian police.

"The team bringing the students home will leave this weekend. The students will undergo direct questioning by police," the minister said.

The six students were arrested in September and Pakistan said that the men were involved in terrorist activities.

Indonesia decided to bring the men home for further interrogation with regard to the accusations.

Megawati will begin the trip on Dec. 9, with Tokyo as the first leg of the journey, to attend the Association of Southeast Asia Nations-Japan summit on Dec.11.

Before continuing to Pakistan, the presidential entourage will spend a night in Shanghai on a private visit to the city.