Govt failed to contain Taliban: Benazir

March 09, 2006

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ISLAMABAD, March 8: Former prime minister Benazir Bhutto has criticised the military regime for endangering good relations with Afghanistan following harsh comments made by Gen Musharraf on American television.

The latest crisis between Islamabad and Kabul erupted when President Karzai handed a list of wanted Taliban that he suspected were hiding in Islamabad.

Instead of dealing with the Afghan concerns, Gen Musharraf chose to deride his Afghan counterpart by claiming on CNN, “he is unaware of what is happening in his own country.”

Ms Bhutto in a statement on Wednesday said the PPP was deeply concerned over the deteriorating relations with Kabul, the handling of the tribal areas as well as the security situation in Balochistan. She said these worrying developments made it imperative for Gen Musharraf to review his own performance instead of adding fuel to the fire by calling information of other countries “nonsense” without first investigating the matter.

She said that innocent women and children were being killed in the tribal areas every time the Musharraf regime wanted to “prove” its credentials that it was a “reliable” ally in the war on terror. Mohtarma said that the recent news that 100 persons were killed in the tribal areas had shocked the nation. She said that such measures were bound to alienate the local population whose support was essential in stopping the Taliban from exerting control on Pakistani territory and to launch attacks into neighbouring Afghanistan.

Ms Bhutto recalled that President Bush came to Pakistan to see whether General Musharraf was still as committed to fighting terrorism as he claimed after 9/11.

Ms Bhutto said the PPP was committed to establishing the writ of government in the tribal areas as it had established the writ of government in Karachi after the discovery of plans to make Jinnahpur by breaking up Pakistan. She said the perception that Taliban were attacking Afghanistan from Pakistan could spell more trouble for Pakistan unless Islamabad put its house in order.

Ms Bhutto said that a PPP government would work closely with the Afghan government on issues relating to terrorism. She said that a PPP government would work to politically resolve the problems posed in the tribal areas and in Balochistan through co- opting the people and drawing them into a political system. Unfortunately, the military regime was exacerbating the situation by opening a second front in Balochistan where army had been called in to suppress the Baloch people.

Ms Bhutto said that it was painful to see the army pitched against its own people. She said the PPP felt grieved when the people or the jawans were killed. She said the PPP believed that under Gen Musharraf’s regime there is a “conspiracy going on against Pakistan” (to use Musharraf’s words). Instead of building a viable political system, investing in education, health and a police force that can protect the people from criminals, the Musharraf regime has protected and promoted the breakers of law, inducting some of them into the Cabinet while releasing scores from prisons in shady political deals made only to keep out those parties with whom Musharraf has a personal grudge.

The PPP Chairperson called upon Gen Musharraf to rise above his personal sentiments to act in the national interest to secure the integrity, unity and well being of Pakistan.