14 October 2001
Secretary of State Colin Powell is expected to hold talks Monday in Islamabad with Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf about the military campaign against terrorist targets in neighboring Afghanistan. His visit comes a day after one person was killed when police and paramilitary troops tried to stop an anti-American demonstration in a southern Pakistani town.
The government of Pakistan has pledged its support for the U.S.-led campaign against Taleban military and terrorist targets in Afghanistan. It is allowing American planes to land at airports within Pakistan's borders, but officials say Pakistan's role is limited to logistical support. Pakistan's cooperation with the anti-terror campaign has prompted sporadic anti-American demonstrations.
In an interview on ABC television, Pakistan's Foreign Minister Abdul Sattar was asked if his government is worried about the effect that a long military campaign might have. "I think the longer this operation lasts, the greater the collateral damage," he replied. "And the larger the number of Afghan refugees that enter Pakistan, the greater will be the worry and concern in Pakistan."
Foreign Minister Sattar also confirmed reports that his government has asked the United States to refrain from bombing frontline Taleban forces to prevent the main opposition group, the Northern Alliance, from being able to take control of Kabul, the Afghan capital. He said that would only destabilize an already volatile situation.
In a separate interview, on NBC television, former Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto praised General Musharraf for his handling of the current situation. Ms. Bhutto, who lives in exile and faces arrest on corruption charges if she returns to Pakistan, says she is surprised by General Musharref's decision to strongly support the battle against terrorism. "In this crisis, he has showed a lot of nerves," she observed. "And he has taken actions that people did not expect. He sidelined two of his closest colleagues in the military who had helped bring him to power. He also took the right decision in standing with the international coalition."
Ms. Bhutto says she would like to return to Pakistan and run for election as prime minister again, if she can be assured that she can return safely. But now, she says, all attention should be on the effort to capture the terrorist suspects.
Ms. Bhutto says the political and social struggles in Pakistan, Afghanistan and other Muslim countries are related to a larger debate about democracy and dictatorship. "I think the time has come for all of us as Muslim nations to restructure our own outdated systems in a more democratic light," she said. "Without that, I fear that this tussle between dictatorship and democracy can play into the hands of fundamentalists."
Ms. Bhutto says suspected terrorist leader Osama Bin Laden wants a theocracy - a religious dictatorship, and tyranny for Afghanistan. And she says different civilizations need to engage in dialogue, not conflict.
Foreign Minister Sattar says Pakistan supports United Nations efforts to find a broadbased multi-ethnic government for Afghanistan. But Mr. Sattar says a role for the Taleban is problematic. "I think those people who are responsible for bringing this hardship to the Afghan people by mortgaging their policy to a handful of outlaws who are foreigners, they probably will not have a role in the future," he said, "but there are many others, good people, who have a record of service to Afghanistan in their struggle for recovery of independence and freedom. They could have a role."
Mr. Sattar says the former king, Zahir Shah, could have a role in a future Afghan government, and all ethnic groups should be represented, including the majority Pashtuns.