Pashtuns tell Bush, Blair leave Osama, Taliban to us
By John Fullerton
QUETTA, Pakistan, Oct 6 (Reuters) - Pakistan's Pashtun nationalists appealed on Saturday to the United States and Britain not to intervene militarily in Afghanistan, saying Afghans would smoke out Osama bin Laden and bring him to justice.
"Listen to us: Pakistan is our country, but Afghanistan is our motherland," said Mehmood Khan Achakzai, chairman of the Pashtunkhwa Milli Awami Party (PMAP). "Do not punish the innocent for something outsiders have done, for a government imposed on Afghans by foreign powers."
Eighteen years ago on Sunday, under Pakistani military ruler Zia ul-Haq, the PMAP held a rally in Quetta at which shots were fired. Four people died, 11 were hurt and 29 arrested. Security forces blamed Achakzai. He went underground for six years, emerging the day after General Zia died.
This Sunday another public meeting is planned by a party that is widely seen as having massive support among Pashtuns spread across the country, from Quetta in Baluchistan to Peshawar in the North West Frontier Province.
They share the same language, culture and heritage as the majority Pashtun-speakers across the border in Afghanistan, but the PMAP is a leftist, nationalist and pro-democracy party that seeks a federal, parliamentary system in which all the major language groups of Pakistan -- Baluch, Pashtun, Punjabis, Serakis and Sindhis -- are proportionately represented.
Pashtuns on either side of the porous 2,240-km (1,400-mile) border dividing Pakistan and Afghanistan number about 20 million. "Pakistan should be a non-aligned, parliamentary democracy in which all organs of the state, including the military, intelligence services and judiciary are subject to parliament," Achakzai said.
As for Afghanistan, Achakzai said he believed Western powers demanding the overthrow of its Taliban rulers and the handover of Saudi-born Osama bin Laden shared responsibility for the current crisis, having aided and abetted bin Laden and other militant organisations and individuals in the war against the decade-long Soviet occupation.
"These same powers turned their back on Afghanistan once the Soviets withdrew," he said.
The answer lay with the Afghans themselves, not foreign intervention, and with a broad-based government established with the consent of the country's citizens, not another regime imposed on it, he said.
"The Afghans are a wounded people, a people who need guarantees of non-interference from the international community, not blame for something they didn't do, for people who are strangers in their midst."
The only way to achieve this was by setting up a Loya Jirga or grand council under the auspices of ex-king Zahir Shah, deposed in 1973 and now 86 years old and living in exile in Rome.
Ideally, the council should be held in Afghanistan, but if necessary it could be held abroad. "As Afghan citizens, the Taliban have the right to take part. If they don't, to hell with them," Achakzai said.
A stable, independent and sovereign Afghan government free of foreign interference would be the answer to terrorism, not foreign military intervention of which Afghanistan had had more than its fair share over the past 200 years, he said.
As for Osama bin Laden and his militant network in Afghanistan, they would be neutralised by Afghans themselves. "Afghans will dig these rabbits out of their holes, and deal with them," he said.
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