NEW YORK, Feb 14: President Asif Ali Zardari has said that Pakistan is fighting for “survival” in the face of an onslaught by the Taliban who have “established themselves across a large part of the country”.
“The Taliban do have a presence in huge amounts of land in our side. Yes, that is the fact,” he said in an interview with CBS. The interview will be broadcast in the network’s “60 Minutes” programme on Sunday night.
“We’re not doing anybody a favour. We are aware of the fact it’s ... Taliban... trying to take over the state of Pakistan. So, we’re fighting for the survival of Pakistan. We’re not fighting for the survival of anybody else,” Mr Zardari said in the interview.
The network released excerpts on Saturday.
President Barack Obama said this week there was no doubt terrorists were operating in safe havens in Pakistan’s tribal regions and the United
States wanted to make sure Islamabad was a strong ally in fighting that threat.
Mr Obama had called Mr Zardari on Wednesday and discussed with him the surge in violence by Al Qaeda and the Taliban. The US president had expressed concern over the attacks on US forces inside Afghanistan.
Mr Zardari told CBS Pakistan had been in denial about the Taliban in the past. “Our forces weren’t increased .... We have weaknesses and they are taking advantage of that weakness,” he added.
According to a report in the US media, President Zardari has now put 120,000 soldiers into the fight against the Taliban.
In the interview Mr Zardari brushed aside a question seeking comments on speculations that he lacked the “full support” of military and intelligence services. “I am confident they are behind me.
“If that wasn’t the case, then Islamabad would have fallen because obviously if the army doesn’t do its job, these men are not restricted. They (militants) have blown up the Marriott Hotel before. They’ve attacked us inland before. They would be all around us, wouldn’t they?” he told CBS news.