Pakistan: Long war worries us
WASHINGTON, Oct. 14 (UPI) - Pakistani Foreign Minister Abdus Sattar said Sunday the longer the U.S. operation in Afghanistan, the "greater will be the worry and concern in Pakistan."
"I think the longer this operation lasts, the greater the damage, and collateral damage, and the larger the number of Afghan refugees that enter Pakistan, the greater will be the worry and concern in Pakistan," Sattar told ABC's "This Week."
Since last Sunday, U.S. and British planes have bombed targets in Afghanistan in retaliation for the Taliban regime's refusal to hand over Osama bin Laden, the man Washington says was behind the Sept. 11 terror attacks on New York and Washington that killed more than 5,000 people.
Pakistan, the only country that recognizes the Taliban regime as Afghanistan's legitimate government, is concerned that the strikes may irk its own Islamist parties. Sattar said Pakistan had asked the United States to hold back on bombing frontline Taliban forces to prevent the ant-Taliban Northern Alliance from capturing Kabul.
"I think this is substantially true," he said. "Mainly, that at this time, for the minority ethnic group in the northeast to march down to the south, capture Kabul, will destabilize an already volatile situation. And the best thing is that we should talk about the future political plans and help the Afghan people in forming for themselves a broad-based government that can bring peace and stability to Afghanistan."
Northern Alliance Foreign Minister Abdullah Abdullah, speaking on CNN's "Late Edition, said:" We are like 40 kilometers north of Kabul. And the issue of Kabul is one of political as well as military importance for us and also as far as the situation in Afghanistan as a whole is concerned. Moving towards Kabul will need a political as well as a military decision."
Sattar said Pakistan supported Afghanistan's exiled King Zahir Shah in his bid to be part of a post-Taliban government.
"(He) is known for the benign rule that he gave to his country," Sattar said. "In fact, his era is now looked, it seems, in retrospect, to be a golden era and I'm sure a large number of Afghan people would welcome a role by the former king in leading his people and country to a peaceful future."
Shah is allied with the Northern Alliance, but Sattar said this would not pose a problem for his government.
"We have nothing against the Northern Alliance," he said. "Many of these people have a role -- have had a role in the struggle against Soviet occupation and the question really is that there should be a balance. Namely, that all ethnic communities should be represented in the future government."
He said: "The United Nations has to have an impartial role and we would leave it to the Secretary-General of the United Nations to form a combination of forces that can best provide the umbrella for the future government in Afghanistan to achieve stability and peace in their country."
Taliban's Deputy Ambassador to Pakistan, Sohail Shaheen told NBC's "Meet the Press" that the United States should present his country evidence against bin Laden before taking any other action.
"First, we are the party to the case, not Pakistan," he said, referring to the fact that the United States presented Islamabad evidence against bin Laden. "If America wants to talk to resolve the issue, it should talk with us. If he (bin Laden) is involved in any kind of terrorist act, America should provide evidence and then we will discuss his putting on trial."
Shaheen warned that though the United States had an advantage in the airstrikes, "the real war will start when ground troops enter Afghanistan."
Former Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto told "Meet the Press" that during her tenure as leader, the Taliban did not give refuge to bin Laden, who was living in Sudan at the time.
"The Taliban in my time did not allow Osama bin Laden to use their territory as a base for al Qaida against the rest of the world," she said.
She denied that her country's Inter Services Intelligence had created the Taliban, a widely held perception.
"The ISI denied to me that they had created them, that the Taliban did come up, and ISI and my government did own them, but at that time, the Taliban was very different," she said. "They promised peace, as opposed to war with the world. Secondly, they were confined to Kandahar and did not go to Kabul. They entered into negotiations with the Northern Alliance and were prepared to deal with them."
Bhutto, a critic of Pakistani President Gen. Pervez Musharraf, praised him for his handling of the crisis.
"In this crisis, he's showed a lot of nerve, and he's taken actions that people did not expect," she said. "He sidelined two of his closest colleagues in the military who had bring him to power. He also took the right decision in standing with the international coalition."
Bhutto said the issues in Afghanistan would be reflected in the reflected in the rest of the Muslim world.
"The debate is much larger in the Muslim world," she said. "It's one between dictatorship and democracy, and that's one of the underlying causes of the social ferment in Pakistan and in other Muslim countries. I think the time has come for all Muslim nations to restructure our own outdated systems in a more democratic light. Without that, I fear that this tussle between dictatorship and democracy can play into the hands of fundamentalists."
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