LAHORE, Sept 22: Leaders of various opposition parties are of the view that President Gen Pervez Musharraf had changed Pakistan’s policy about the Taliban under US pressure.

Reacting to remarks made by the president in an interview that the US had threatened to “bomb Pakistan back to stone age” after 9/11 attacks if it did not cooperate, the leaders said that the general had failed to act like the leader of a nuclear power.

PML-N secretary-general Iqbal Zafar Jhagra said his party had always believed that the US would take action against Pakistan in case it did not cooperate in eliminating the Taliban.

However, he said, Gen Musharraf had claimed that he had saved the country by pursuing a policy he had devised for the situation.

Mr Jhagra said if Gen Musharraf had talked to the US like the leader of a nuclear power, the situation in the region would have been different from what it was at present. The US, he insisted, was not in a position to hurl threats to a nuclear power.

He said it was a cowardly act on the part of Gen Musharraf that he buckled under pressure.

Replying to a question, he said that had the PML-N been in power at that time, it would have followed a different policy. He recalled that as prime minister Mian Nawaz Sharif had rejected US pressure and carried out nuclear tests in May 1998.

He said that while the US was pressurising the government, Mr Sharif said that a decision on nuclear tests would be taken by the nation.

The PML-N leader said that what Gen Musharraf had said clearly meant that his visit had been quite disappointing. The general, he said, had perhaps realised that the US had used Pakistan for its own interests and was going to walk away.

Leader of the Opposition in the Senate Mian Raza Rabbani said the new “doctrine of pre-emptive strike” had no moral or political justification and was in total violation of the principles of international law. “It is unheard of that sovereign countries should be treated in such a manner, no matter how grave the provocations.”

He said the opposition at that time had stated that the turnaround in the policy had occurred because the regime had buckled under pressure. But it was denied by the rulers.

He said it was strange that the revelation had been made now and President Bush and Armitage denied any knowledge or having made such a statement. “This is a good example of trust in one another,” said the PPP leader.

When asked how the PPP government would have acted in such a situation, Mr Rabbani said: “Had there been a democratic government, I don’t think the US official would have spoken in these terms, if at all he had. A democratic government would have created a political consensus through parliament and would have spoken with one voice of the nation, as was exhibited when the late Zulfikar Ali Bhutto went to Simla with the mandate of the entire nation and was able to achieve the impossible. That just shows what the collective strength of the people can deliver.”

MMA president Qazi Hussain Ahmed said Gen Musharraf’s statement reflected a shift in his policy towards the US. “Perhaps he no longer fears the US and thus wants to talk quite frankly.”

He said it was also possible that Gen Musharraf was not in a position to meet the ‘do more’ demand by the US.

He said if the US had hurled any threat, Gen Musharraf should have taken the nation into confidence and resisted all pressures just like Iran had been doing.

Gen Musharraf, he said, should have talked to China, Russia and other friendly countries to resist the pressure.

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