Meeting Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf on Monday, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Erdogan praised Pakistan's efforts to contain what he called "extremists" during the second day of a three-day official visit.
Erdogan: Strong support for
Addressing guests at a state banquet, Erdogan whose own party's roots lie in Turkey's Islamist movement said:
"The determination and crucial support Pakistan has shown in the fight against terrorism and fundamentalist radical movements have been well appreciated by the international community."
"We strongly support ... your reformist policies towards modernisation and progress. Turkey will always stand by your side in these efforts," he added.
Erdogan's comments come amid a battle between political parties and General Musharraf over Islam’s role in the state. Pakistan’s president, who took power in a coup in 1999, has praised secular Turkey as a model of a modern country.
Musharraf plans change
He has recently revived his campaign to adopt a "modern, dynamic, progressive" attitude to defining the role of religion in Pakistan.
Twice last week Musharraf tore into an alliance of Islamic political parties which have chosen to implement Islamic Sharia law in the North West Frontier Province and launched an Islamisation programme.
He accused the parties of trying to impose a "Talibanised" version of Islam on Pakistan, tarnishing its image, and going against the "moderate" vision of the 56-year-old country's founders.
Since late 2001 Musharraf has banned at least seven parties, arrested their leaders and followers, ended Pakistan's support of Afghanistan's Taliban regime and moved to modernise Quranic schools.
Improving economic ties
|Four ministers and 100 business |
men accompanied Turkish delegation
Erdogan’s visit is the first visit by a Turkish leader to Pakistan since 1997. Musharraf visited Turkey, where he lived as a child while his diplomat father was posted there, within weeks of seizing power in a coup in November 1999.
Boosting lagging economic cooperation is high on the agenda. Trade between the two Muslim countries, which also share a common history of military intervention, has hovered around $170 million over the past five years.
"The visit of Turkish prime minister to Pakistan is a starting point of very intense economic relations," Turkish Treasury Minister Ali Babacan told reporters after talks with Pakistan's Finance Minister Shaukat Aziz.
Aziz and Babacan discussed proposals to set up a joint investment bank, with Aziz adding that the bank would focus on projects in Iran, Afghanistan and central Asian republics.
"It will really build a bridge between the two countries and take the economic cooperation to a higher level," Aziz said.