June 24, 2008

Private TV Show Sees Afghan President’s Pakistan Remarks As Diversion Tactic

Afghan private Ariana TV aired the Haqiqat (The Truth) programme on 23 June to analyze President Hamed Karzai's recent remarks that Afghan forces would hunt down Pakistani Taleban and insurgents inside Pakistan if necessary.

The presenter began the feature by saying that some politicians inflame regional and controversial issues to hide their failures and divert the attention of the public away from their shortcomings. The presenter then linked this idea to the president's recent remarks on Pakistan, which he described as "unexpected and surprising".

The presenter said the president took the opportunity of recent events, such as the Paris Conference, Laura Bush's recent trip to Afghanistan and the US troops' attack on a number of terrorists on Pakistani soil, to try to divert attention away from the Kandahar jailbreak and its aftermath and this resulted in his remarks on Pakistan and the insurgents there.

When asked about this diversion tactic and the president's attempt to ignore the Kandahar jailbreak and focus on the Pakistani government's interference, Sebghatollah Sanjar, a presidential official from the government's policy-making department, replied that the president had always insisted on targeting "the terrorist havens" on the other side of the border. He continued: "When [Pakistani Taleban leader] Baitullah Mehsud overtly announces that they have reached an agreement with Pakistan but want to continue their jihad in Afghanistan and when he can easily take part in a press conference of 30 journalists, how can the Pakistani intelligence service not be aware of that?" He added that they had arrested many Pakistani fighters involved in the war and terrorist attacks and that was good proof of the Pakistan's interference.

The official reiterated that they have not "waged a war against Pakistan and wholeheartedly support the elected government of Pakistan... However, we doubt the elected government can control the Taleban and terrorists..." He acknowledged the Afghan government's failure to prevent the Kandahar jailbreak, describing it as a "disgraceful incident". He added that the sole aim was to target terrorists, particularly those on the other side of the border, and any country that cooperated with that process was welcomed.

Replying to another question about the outcome of Karzai's remarks, the official denied that the president's comments had a negative impact on the country's economy and supply of foodstuffs, pointing the finger of blame at those who take advantage of the situation or have a political game to play.

Afghan MP Sayed Ishaq Gailani, however, emphasized that the president's remarks were aimed at diverting the people's attention away from the "disgraceful" Kandahar jailbreak while the "issue of Pakistan is quite a different issue".

The presenter continued that the country was severely dependent on Pakistan in terms of economy and strained relations had an unpleasant impact on the market, not to mention the fact that Pakistan, because of its strategy and closeness, had played a significant role in the country's history.

Afghan MP Mohammad Rahman Oghli said he believes the country is still vulnerable in terms of security and what the president said regarding an attack on Pakistan is mainly about the US air strikes and not the Afghan troops. He then referred to the US Senator Barack Obama's latest remarks on targeting terrorists in the tribal areas and described the USA as the "big brother".

Later in the programme, the presenter focused on the different policies of Britain and the USA in the region, which could weaken the international community's strategy in the region.

Prof Zia Rafat said Pakistan had close ties with Britain and therefore "the Afghan government's pressure on Pakistan does not produce a positive result; instead it will further antagonize the Pakistanis... Time will tell whether or not Pakistan will be able to resist the US and Afghan officials' pressure and continue their policy of double standards. If they succeed in their policy, the outcome will be disastrous for Afghanistan."

Former Afghan diplomat in Pakistan, Akmal Ghani Ahmadzai, however, says after six years, the US officials now know the Afghan officials well and they no longer need to know them through the channel of Pakistan.

Summing up, the presenter said the government still lacked a concrete strategy towards Pakistan and that was why it had sometimes acted towards this country in a friendly way and sometimes in an unfriendly way.

Originally published by Ariana TV, Kabul, in Dari 0900 23 Jun 08.

(c) 2008 BBC Monitoring South Asia. Provided by ProQuest Information and Learning. All rights Reserved.