British daily highlights Pak links to terrorism in Kashmir
5 October 2001
The Daily Excelsior
LONDON: As British Prime Minister Tony Blair arrives in Islamabad on a four- hour working visit, a leading daily here has highlighted Pakistan’s continuing links to terrorism in Kashmir. In an editorial, ‘The Guardian’ newspaper also cautioned Blair that Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf is still playing a ''double game'' on Afghan issue and the British Premier should ‘beware of too warm an embrace’. It referred to Pakistan’s continuing links to terrorism in Kashmir and said ''after nearly 40 people were killed in Srinagar this week, a furious India demanded immediate action against the Pakistan-based group deemed responsible. This reasonable request met with familiar obfuscation in Islamabad.'' The daily observed that the ''180-degree turnabout in the Pakistani military regime’s Afghan policy since September 11 terrorist attacks on the US, appears almost complete.'' Far from admitting that his pro-Taliban policy was disastrously misconceived, Musharraf, who vetoed a covert CIA-run operation to capture Osama bin Laden in 1999, still opposes Western backing for Northern Alliance. Influential elements within the Pakistani army and the Inter-Services Intelligence directorate, the Taliban’s mentors, appear to have a foot in both camps, the editorial said. It said Musharraf has withdrawn his diplomats from Kabul and is on the point of formally cutting ties with his former Taliban allies. Pakistan has signalled willingness to meet envoys of Afghanistan’s ex-king, Zahir Shah, who hopes to head a Government of national unity, and the military ruler is already setting out his ideas about the ‘multi ethnic’ composition of a post-Taliban administration, the daily said. ''Islamabad says it is now convinced by the US evidence implicating Osama bin Laden and his Al-Qaeda gangsters. It meanwhile continues to pledge full support for the US war on terrorism. All of which suggests that in Pakistan, the US and Britain have discovered a flexible and reliable ally and that Tony Blair, when he meets Musharraf in Islamabad today, can look forward to an encouraging meeting of minds,'' it said. The editorial said ''in point of fact, matters are somewhat more complicated. So volatile is the political situation inside Pakistan, and so strong are anti-American sentiments among militant Islamist groups, that the Pentagon is being forced to look elsewhere (principally Uzbekistan) for operational land bases. ''The hope that Pakistan’s Western airfields could be used for anything more than refuelling and temporary stopovers has been vanquished by growing security fears.'' For his pains so far in this crisis, Musharraf has picked up a likely 600 million dollars in US aid, a lifting of nuclear weapons-related sanctions, extended IMF credit and debt relief, and now a big diplomatic bouquet from Britain. ''But he is still playing a double game. Blair should beware of too warm an embrace,'' the daily said.