M A I N   N E W S

Karzai Threat
Pakistan vows to defend territory
Afzal Khan
writes from Islamabad

Pakistan summoned the Afghan envoy to the foreign office and lodged a strong protest against Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s statement threatening to send his troops inside Pakistan to hunt down the Taliban.

The Afghan envoy was told that security forces in Afghanistan could take any action they wanted against militants in their country but not on Pakistani territory. Pakistan would not tolerate any such intrusion and would defend its territory.

Earlier in separate statements, Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani and foreign minister Shah Mahmud Qureshi repudiated the statement and vowed to defend Pakistan’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.

In the Senate, treasury and opposition members condemned the statement and voiced concern that Karazi was actually conveying American message to Pakistan. PML-Q leaders Mushahid Hussain and Kamil Ali Agha said Pakistan must give a firm response to Afghanistan and refuse to accept American pressure being steadily build up to operate inside Pakistani territory. Many senators called for a national conference on the issue to strengthen national unity against continued external pressures.

Claiming right of hot pursuit against the Taliban as they take refuge inside Pakistan, Karzai told a news conference in Kabul on Sunday that he would send Afghan troops to Pakistan’s tribal areas to hunt down Taliban commander Beithullah Mehsud and Mullah Omar. In London, US President George Bush virtually endorsed Karazi’s statement and said tribal areas inside Pakistan must not be allowed to become safe haven for the Taliban and the Al-Qaeda.

Gillani, talking to a TV channel, said: “We neither interfere in other countries’ internal affairs nor will we allow anyone to interfere in ours. He hoped that Karzai’s remarks would not reignite a blame game by Afghanistan.

While emphasising that Pakistan wanted friendly ties with Afghanistan, the Pakistani premier reiterated that the country would not tolerate any violation of its sovereignty. “Such statements will not help normalise relations between the two countries,” he said.

Foreign minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi termed Karzai’s statement as “regrettable” adding that such “irresponsible and threatening statements” would undermine bilateral relations. He said both countries faced a common enemy.

Qureshi said it was time for both countries to close ranks in the fight against terrorism. The only way to win the war against terrorism and extremism was by showing “full respect to the territorial sovereignty and non-interference” in each others internal affairs. “Since the two countries were faced with a common enemy it was all the more necessary that Afghanistan refrained from making irresponsible threatening statements,” Qureshi said.


US copters intrude into Khyber area

Islamabad, June 16
Two military helicopters of the US-led coalition forces in Afghanistan intruded into Pakistan’s Khyber tribal region, triggering panic among local residents, reports said on Monday.

Local residents said the helicopters intruded deep into the Landi Kotal area of Khyber Agency, adjacent to Afghanistan’s Nangarhar province on Sunday afternoon and hovered over the town for more than 10 minutes.

This was the first intrusion by helicopters of the coalition forces into Khyber Agency, the Dawn newspaper reported.

The incident occurred almost a week after an air and ground strike by coalition forces on a Pakistani post in the adjacent Mohmand tribal area killed 11 Pakistani paramilitary personnel and 10 tribesmen.

The spy planes of coalition forces have increased their flights over Pakistan’s tribal belt since last week. Spy planes and fighter jets have also increased their flights over North and South Waziristan tribal regions over the past four days. Waziristan is the stronghold of Pakistani Taliban commander Baitullah Mehsud. — PTI



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