M A I N   N E W S

Pak nursing terror: Karzai
Ashok Tuteja
Tribune News Service

Colombo, August 2
As Sri Lanka assumed the chairmanship of SAARC, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and other South Asian leaders today called for a relentless campaign against terrorism even as Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai blasted Pakistan for providing a safe haven to terrorists.

They also resolved to take steps on a war-footing for economic integration of the region, ridding it of poverty and disease.

“Terrorism continues to raise its ugly head in our region. It remains the single biggest threat to our stability. We cannot afford to lose the battle against the ideologies of hatred, fanaticism and against all those who seek to destroy our social fabric,” Manmohan Singh declared in his address to the two-day 15th SAARC Summit.

As the Summit began at the Bandaranaike Memorial International Convention Hall, Manmohan Singh handed over the baton to Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa, the new chairman of the eight-nation grouping, amid a thunderous applause from participating heads of state or government.

Other leaders attending the Summit are President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom of the Maldives, Nepal’s caretaker Prime Minister G.P. Koirala, Bangladesh chief adviser Fakhruddin Ahmed, Pakistan Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani, Bhutan Prime Minister Jigmi Thinley and Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai.

Representatives of the US, the EU, China, South Korea, Japan and Iran are attending the Summit as observers.

Tomorrow, the SAARC leaders will attend the traditional retreat at the government members’ lobby, which will provide them an opportunity to informal consultations. In the evening, the Summit will conclude with SAARC leaders expected to sign four documents, including a mutual legal assistance treaty on criminal matters.

Talking at length on terrorism in a hard-hitting speech, Manmohan Singh said: “Terrorists and extremists know no borders. 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.”

He said the South Asian countries must act jointly and with determination to fight this scourge, defending the rule of pluralism, peaceful coexistence and the rule of law.

However, more than the Indian Prime Minister, it was Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai, who blasted Pakistan for providing a safe haven to terrorists.

Without naming Pakistan, Karzai said terrorism in the region was “the result of institutional support and narrow minded politics”.

“In Pakistan, terrorism and its sanctuaries are gaining a deeper grip as demonstrated by the tragic assassination of Benazir Bhutto,” Karzai said as the Pakistani delegation looked startled over the comments made by the Afghan leader.

Karzai said terrorism in South Asia fed on a residual tradition of narrow minded politics and of pursuing “outmoded geo-political interest”.

In a bid to stave off Manmohan Singh’s blunt talk on terrorism, Pakistan Prime Minister Gilani, who was the last of the speakers from SAARC countries, condemned the attack on the Indian mission in Kabul and said his country had lost its former Prime Minister (Benazir Bhutto) to terrorism to say that his country also had suffered enormously due to scourge. “We need to fight terrorism individually and collectively.”

Sri Lankan President Rajapaksa described terrorism a “plague” and emphasised strengthening of the regional legal mechanism and intensifying intelligence sharing.

All SAARC leaders also called for better economic progress, with Manmohan Singh making a pointed comparison with ASEAN.



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