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Karzai terror speech dwarfs PM's

Karzai terror speech dwarfs PM's

Author: Rajeev Deshpande
Publication: The Times of India
Date: August 3, 2008

Introduction: Afghan Prez Says Institutional Support Helping Pak Ultras, Singh Doesn't Blame Islamabad

Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai broke a brittle silence over Islamabad's role in supporting terrorism by bluntly telling the Saarc summit here on Saturday that institutional backing has led to terrorists striking deeper roots in Pakistan.

Karzai has made no secret of his anger over Pakistan's ISI collaborating with the Taliban to launch attacks in Afghanistan in the past. He has directly named ISI in the suicide bombing at the Indian embassy in Kabul. But by naming Pakistan in a summit speech, he has positioned Islamabad as being central to the problem of terrorism. The ticking off only adds to the rising outcry over Pakistan failing to check its military and intelligence establishments who seem to be working for the return of Taliban in Afghanistan. With US President George Bush also asking Pakistan PM Yousuf Gilani about who ran the ISI, Islamabad seems to stand fairly isolated.

Asking South Asian countries to stop playing geo-political games, Karzai said, "In Pakistan, terrorism and its sanctuaries are gaining a deeper grip as demonstrated by the tragic assassination of 'Shaheed' (Martyr) Benazir Bhutto." He added, "While existing on the absolute fringes of our tolerant and peace loving societies, terrorists in our region receive institutional nurturing and support." The reference was crystal clear. While Gilani's options are unclear given the nebulous control he wields over the ISI and the army establishment, Pakistan may not find its easy to fend off Karzai's "name and shame" tactics. It also means that Karzai is mounting more pressure on his principal backers-the US - to use its leverage with Pakistan.

Though PM Manmohan Singh made no reference to Pakistan, he too touched upon terrorism, saying, "The recent attack on the Indian embassy in Kabul and the serial blasts in Bangalore and Ahmedabad are gruesome reminders of the barbarity that still finds a place here in South Asia." But his "terrorists and extremists know no borders" approach seemed to pale before Karzai's plain speaking. Afghanistan has suffered scores of Taliban suicide and roadside bombs that have already killed more than 200 civilians this year, making it among the most violent places in the world. Terrorist strikes have been a regular feature in India as well with serial bombings emerging the most potent threat. While the Indian situation is hardly comparable with Afghanistan, failure to check terror incidents has put the Manmohan government on the backfoot.

"Terrorism in our region feeds on a residual tradition of narrow-minded politics and of pursuing outmoded geo-political interest," Karzai said, which again was a reference to the conviction of Pakistan's political and military establishments over the need to develop "strategic depth" in Afghanistan to prevent the rise of a powerful Kabul and to also feed the "jihad" in Kashmir. While Gilani also referred to Bhutto's killing to argue Pakistan was also grappling with terrorism, his plea may not wash with Asian leaders. Over the past two years, Islamabad has repeatedly tried to cut deals with pro-Taliban tribal groups but has failed to make much headway.

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