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Pak-Afghan border becoming less 'well-managed'

Publication Date : 18-01-2013

 

Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar has said that a “responsible transition” in Afghanistan would mean that the Americans would leave the country at a time when “at least some of the entry-goals have been achieved”.

“I do not want the (Americans) to leave behind conditions which are worse than the ones they inherited,” Khar said while speaking at the Council of Foreign Affairs (CFR) at the end of her United Nations visit on Wednesday.

“As the international community’s transition from Afghanistan takes place, we are of course very concerned, and we request only one thing: a responsible transition.

“A responsible transition entails a stable Afghanistan, an Afghanistan which will not be a breeding ground for terrorists, where women will have their rights, and will be a source of stability to the region.

She noted that the 5 million-plus Afghan refugees that Pakistan had been housing for the last three decades in Pakistan started to trickle back in 2007.

But since 2009 a fresh crop of refugees started coming into Pakistan and because of that property prices in Peshawar have risen by almost 300 percentage points over the past year.

She pointed out, “One major objective of foreign presence in Afghanistan was to reduce the ideological space that exists for extremist mindset. I think if you look at the last 10 years, the ideological space for extremists has only increased.

Before 2001 there was only one suicide bomb attack inside Pakistan. But only in the last two or three years there have been more than 300 suicide bomb attacks, which have caused 30,000 civilian deaths.

The number of people crossing from Afghanistan into Pakistan, she said, had increased exponentially in the last six months, which meant the borders were becoming less well-managed.

Khar emphasised that Afghanistan had made many gains in women’s rights and building schools, and overall she was choosing to be “concerned but cautiously optimistic”.

The foreign minister also faced some questions from the CFR audience about Osama bin Laden’s presence in Pakistan and also about the impact of US raid in which the Al Qaeda leader was killed.

“Osama bin Laden inflamed emotion on the US side, and it was equally so for the Pakistanis,” Khar said.

‘Villain, not a hero’

Khar also defended Pakistan’s prosecution of Shakil Afridi, the physician who ran a vaccination programme in Abbottabad that was started by the Central Intelligence Agency and intended to extract DNA from the occupants of the house where Osama bin Laden was believed to be hiding. He was arrested after Bin Laden was killed by an American SEAL team, and the United States government has repeatedly tried, and failed, to get him freed.

“To me he is a villain, not a hero,” said Khar, arguing that he had “contracted himself to terror groups.”

He was sentenced to 33 years in prison — ostensibly not for his role in the Bin Laden hunt, but for his ties to Islamic extremists.

She argued that his action, and the CIA programme, had now made it all but impossible to conduct vaccination programmes. Several Pakistani workers trying to give polio vaccines have been killed by Islamic extremists, who have argued the vaccines are part of an American plot.

Khar also defended the safety of Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal.

 

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