March 2002 News

Musharraf shouldn't play games about terrorism: US

9 March 2002
The Hindustan Times

Washington/New Delhi: THE US for the first time publicly questioned General Pervez Musharraf's commitment to ending cross-border terrorism. A senior Bush administration official on Friday said: 'He is an important ally. We will be with him if he acts. If he plays games, then there will be problem.' The official iterated the standing US view that 'there is no place for cross-border terrorism and even Musharraf has agreed to that.' He also endorsed New Delhi's argument that an end to cross-border terrorism was a prerequisite for Indo-Pakistani dialogue. 'We are in a new day Pakistan has to make strategic changes, not tactical ones.' The official did praise Musharraf, saying, 'The feeling here is that there is a perceptible dip in cross-border infiltration' - even adjusted for winter. The US 'is also inclined to believe news reports that the ISI is in the process of disbanding its Kashmir cell.' US sources say the statement was 'addressed to Pakistan.' New Delhi observers say this is the first sign of official US concern about Musharrafs ability to break the jehadis. An Indian analyst recently in the US said Daniel Pearl's murder had 'shaken' US faith in Musharraf. 'They don't question his commitment yet, but they wonder if he is too weak,' he said. Certain developments have eroded Musharrafs standing with the US.. One,, the Pearl killing and evidence the ISI withheld information from Musharraf about Omar Sheikh. It has not helped, say diplomatic sources, that Pakistan is dragging its heels over extraditing Sheikh. Two, his inability to capture Al Qaeda and Taliban hiding in Pakistan. The Hamid Karzai regime has cited a Pakistani hand in recent unrest in east and south Afghanistan. The Cato Institute, a US think tank close to the Republicans, last month went further. Its policy brief said: 'Islamabad should have been placed at the centre of the [axis of evil].' The US is watching Musharrafs ability to control cross-border terrorism. When US Assistant Treasury Secretary Kenneth Dam visited New Delhi recently, Indian officials told him that after a drop in infiltration in early January, it had started to rise again. New Delhi and Washington are watching to see.


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