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Pak Deal With Taliban
Not at our cost: Karzai

New Delhi, June 1
Days after Pakistan struck peace deal with Taliban, Afghan President Hamid Karzai has said the agreement should not compromise his country's interests, failing which Kabul would be “extremely angry”.

He also disapproved of reported moves by Pakistan to hold talks with Betullah Mehsud, prime accused in the assassination of Benazir Bhutto case. Karzai said if the peace deal by Pakistan with the Taliban in North West Frontier Province puts Afghanistan at risk, he would raise the issue with the leadership in Islamabad. “That should not happen. That is certainly something we are concerned about and we hope our brothers in Pakistan will not allow that,” he said on Karan Thapar's 'Devil's Advocate' programme on CNN-IBN when asked whether he was apprehensive that the peace deal between Pakistan government and Taliban could come at the cost of Afghanistan.

“If a thing like that happens, of course we will take it up (with Pakistan). I definitely hope that will not be the case. That will not happen. We must be very careful,” he added.

“We cannot, under no circumstances, allow elements that are inimical to this country or that to operate from either country,” Karzai said. The Pakistan government and local Taliban in NWFP signed a 15-point agreement on May 21 whereby the militants will stop suicide attacks and the army will gradually be withdrawn from the restive Swat valley.

Asked how Kabul would react if the deal came at its cost, the Afghan President said: “Well, we will not only be upset but extremely angry.” To a question, he said he had not checked up with the US on Pakistan's peace deals with the Taliban as “we know what is going on.... when something is wrong, we know it and raise our voice to the concerned people.” Karzai, however, said peace deals with those Taliban who want to return to normal life were good. “But (talks with) the hardcore ones, the extremist Al-Qaida elements or other terrorist networks ... that is wrong,” he said.

On reported moves by Pakistan's Yousuf Raza Gilani government to hold talks with Mehsud, Karzai said: “(Talks) with the killers of Benazir Bhutto, whosoever they are, I think it is wrong.” When referred to demands from western nations for India to join international forces in Afghanistan, Karzai said it was for New Delhi and the world community to decide on the matter.

Suggesting that he was trying to have a balance in Afghanistan’s relations with India and Pakistan, Karzai said he would not take a step that would bring “more rivalries in the region.”

“We would like to do all for the security of Afghanistan and an effective war on terror in the region but not do something that will bring more rivalries in the region,” he said. “India is a very strong, steady partner of Afghanistan and we have made it clear to all the countries around, including Pakistan. We have reassured Pakistan that our relations with India are in no way going to cause harm to our relations with Pakistan,” Karzai said. “We are trying to bring cooperation, trying to bring integration to the region and not competition and rivalry that is going to affect all of us,” the Afghan President said.

He, however, defended the ban on certain Indian soap operas in Afghanistan saying “these are cultural issues and there is nothing political about it.” “Afghanistan must have the freedom to decide this is what our society wants and this is what our society must not watch,” he said while pointing out that only two of the dozen odd Indian soap operas were banned in Afghanistan. Karzai brushed aside concerns of curbs on freedom of speech and said: “freedom of speech is doable and presentable in lot of other ways and equals the freedom of speech in India.” India has done magnificently in the past six years and the Afghan people see that very clearly,” Karzai added. — PTI



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