Monday, September 17, 2001, Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

Pak ultimatum to Taliban

Pakistan Embassy staff in Kabul have left for their country in view of new developments following Tuesday’s multiple terrorist attacks. Pakistan’s ambassador to Kabul Mr Arif has reached Islamabad and the rest of the staff was expected soon, sources said.

Islamabad, September 16
Pakistan is to send a team of officials to Afghanistan for talks with the ruling Taliban as President Pervez Musharraf battled to win domestic support for his commitment to help the US combat international terror.

“I do know that a delegation will be going to Afghanistan, maybe on Monday,’’ Maj-Gen Rashid Qureshi, spokesman for Pakistan’s military government, said.

He declined to give details of the team’s composition or its mandate, but earlier CNN said Pakistan would give the Taliban an ultimatum to hand over the prime suspect in the US terror attacks — fugitive Saudi-born Islamic zealot Osama bin Laden — within three days.

CNN quoted sources close to General Musharraf, but Maj-General Qureshi said he had no knowledge of any ultimatum. Another government source said Pakistan regularly asked the Taliban to expel Bin Laden in any official meetings. Pakistan is one of only three countries to recognise the Taliban government that harbours Bin Laden, but has scaled back its mission in Kabul since last Tuesday’s devastating terror attack on New York and Washington.

Although Pakistan has yet to spell out in detail what assistance it will give Washington, the USA says Islamabad has promised full cooperation following earlier requests to give access to its airspace, seal off the border with Afghanistan, cut fuel supplies and share intelligence.

Activists of Pakistan's militant religious parties raise anti-US slogans during a rally.
Activists of Pakistan's militant religious parties raise anti-US slogans during a rally in Islamabad on Saturday to condemn a possible US attack on Afghanistan. 

Some US officials have suggested Washington also asked General Musharraf to allow some US military forces to be stationed in Pakistan in anticipation of raids against Saudi-born militant bin Laden and his Taliban protectors.

He has a tough task ahead.

With his grip on the country still not entirely secure — he only declared himself president in June — General Musharraf has been advised to seek the views of religious and political groups or risk an unforgiving domestic backlash.

General Musharraf must now decide whether to help the USA and risk internal turmoil, or back away and suffer sanctions, possible military strikes and economic meltdown.

“Without doubt, Pakistan is caught between the devil and the deep sea,’’ Dawn newspaper said.

But the stakes are now higher than ever before — especially given the degree of support the Taliban enjoy within Pakistan.

The Taliban have threatened to attack any neighbouring countries supporting US strikes against Afghanistan. It was a pointed warning to Pakistan, delivered in Islamabad by the Taliban’s ambassador. Around two million Afghan refugees live in mostly squalid camps just inside Pakistan’s border.

“What is important in the situation is that there is no compromise on national interests....,’’ the Pakistan Observer said in an editorial. Reuters


Don’t involve India, Pak tells USA

Islamabad, September 16
Pakistan has told the USA that it was against involving India and Israel in any military operation in Afghanistan to hunt down Saudi dissident Osama bin Laden, prime suspect in terrorist strikes in America, CNN reported today.

Quoting sources close to President Pervez Musharraf, the American TV Network said that Pakistan has also made it clear that it would not allow US forces to use its soil and any operation in Afghanistan should be limited to use of airspace only.

The sources said Pakistan was against involvement of India and Israel in any military action.

WASHINGTON: Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf has asked his US counterpart George W Bush to play a more active role in settling the Kashmir issue and to lift sanctions against it, CNN reported today. Mr Bush telephoned General Musharraf last night and thanked him for Islamabad’s full support to the international campaign against terrorism.

During the 15-minute conversation between the two leaders, it was not clear from the American Television network report whether General Musharraf’s offer of full cooperation against terrorism was unconditional or whether he was conditioning the extent of his cooperation on Mr Bush abandoning longstanding US policy of not mediating between India and Pakistan unless both sides request mediation.

Abandoning all sanctions against Pakistan will involve withdrawing the US law imposing sanctions against coup regimes. PTI


Musharraf may visit China

Islamabad, September 16
Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf is likely to visit China in the next few days to discuss the situation arising out of the terrorist attacks in the USA, even as American President George W. Bush telephonically thanked him for Islamabad’s decision to join the international community to fight against terrorism.

Media reports here said today that General Musharraf planned to visit Beijing in the coming days to hold talks with Chinese leaders on the fast emerging situation.

General Musharraf held close door discussions with the Chinese Ambassador here, Lu Shin Lin yesterday, soon after presiding over an emergency joint session of Cabinet and the National Security Council (NSC), which has tacitly endorsed his decision to fully cooperate with USA and the international community to cooperate with the USA to apprehend Osama bin Laden, the prime suspect behind Tuesday’s terrorist attacks in the American cities.

Though the date for the visit has not yet been finalised, it is expected that the President will visit Beijing in the next couple of days to take its close ally into confidence, Pakistan newspaper Dawn said today. Pakistan officials were not immediately available to confirm the report.

Quoting diplomatic sources, the reports said during his discussions with the Chinese Ambassador, General Musharraf has proposed to visit China to assure Chinese leaders that despite decision to permit US military action against Afghanistan’s Taliban and Bin Laden, Pakistan would not compromise on its sovereignty.

Meanwhile, reports here said that US President George Bush last night telephoned his Pakistani counterpart Pervez Musharraf and thanked him for Islamabad’s full support to the international campaign against terrorism.

Officials said the two leaders had a cordial conversation and Mr Bush expressed his “warm thanks for Pakistan’s support in America’s hour of crises and grief,” Pakistan daily “The News” said today. PTIBack

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