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President warns of quitting war against terror

April 13, 2007

ISLAMABAD, April 12: Pakistan on Thursday threatened to quit the international coalition against terrorism if its partners, particularly the United States and its media, continued to accuse Islamabad of dragging its feet.

“If we are bluffing each other, if I am bluffing and if Inter-Services Intelligence is bluffing, then we must be out of the coalition,” President

Pervez Musharraf declared at the concluding session of the Land Forces Symposium 2007 being attended by senior military officials of 22 countries.

He warned that if the blame game continued, it would be impossible to defeat terrorism and extremism, particularly in Pakistan and Afghanistan. “The first sign of defeat is to blame each other,” the president said, calling upon the US and its media to realise the gravity of the situation.

“We have suffered the maximum and we have contributed the maximum. Therefore, we will not accept that Pakistan is not doing enough in the war against terror,” the president asserted. “It pains me when people say that Pakistan is not doing enough.”

At the same time, he made it clear that military means alone could not win the war against terrorism in Afghanistan and that political efforts were needed to restore peace and stability in the country.

He said the coalition forces needed to fight a real battle in Afghanistan to get rid of Taliban, Al Qaeda and warlords.

The president rejected assertions that the peace deal in Waziristan had not worked and Pakistan should scrap it. “If this peace deal has achieved 50 per cent success, not 100 per cent, still it is good and we will not scrap it.”

Gen Musharraf said the people of South Waziristan had succeeded in throwing foreign militants out of their area, now it was time for the people of North Waziristan to follow the course so that Pakistan could be made a peaceful place.

He said Al Qaeda operatives were still hiding in the mountains of North and South Waziristan and the government was cashing them everywhere.

“But that does not mean that everything is happening from Pakistan against the Afghan government,” he said, adding that there were no Pakistani Taliban but only Afghan Taliban who had been going in and out of Pakistan.

The president said Pakistan had no option but to go for selective fencing along its borders with Afghanistan to restrict cross-border movement.

“In fact, work has started to fence eight or nine of about 23 crossing points,” he said.

The president regretted that when Pakistan talked about fencing and mining its borders with Afghanistan, the western world got unnecessarily alarmed.

He proposed that there should be a joint operation by the US forces, Pakistan and Afghanistan to deal with Taliban and Al Qaeda and it should be ensured that nobody crossed into one county from the other.

The president said there were no shortcuts to restoring peace and stability in Afghanistan. A long-term strategy was needed to deal with Taliban and Al Qaeda in the country, he said.

He admitted that some people in Pakistan were still supporting the Taliban to continue to create problems for the Afghan government and the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation forces there.

“Al Qaeda and Taliban pose a direct challenge for Pakistan,” he said.

He was of the view that Pakistani religious extremists who were preaching hatred should be arrested.

The president accused the coalition forces of failing to stop cross-border movement from Afghanistan. They must find a solution to the problem, instead of blaming others, he said.

He reiterated that hundreds of Afghan refugees were involved in terrorism. That was the reason that Pakistan had repeatedly been urging the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) to make arrangements for their return to Afghanistan. “It is good to see that the UNHCR is taking the camps out of Pakistan,” he said.He stressed the need for resolving political disputes in the Muslim world. The number of people supporting extremist activities against the US and Israel was increasing because of the disputes, he said. He said issues concerning Palestine, Iraq, Lebanon and Afghanistan must be sorted out to stop the spread of terrorism and extremism in the world.

The president advised the Pakistani media to report various political and military events in their correct perspective.

Agencies add: “The people in South Waziristan have now risen against the foreigners. They have killed about 300 of them,” Gen Musharraf said.

“And they get support from the Pakistan army, they asked for support,” he said.

“Now there are no Al Qaeda men in the cities,” he maintained. He said there were no Pakistani Taliban in Balochistan and all the Taliban in the province were Afghan.