Coalition troops are losing the war against the Taliban in Afghanistan, President Asif Zardari said in an interview published in France on Tuesday.
“The international community, to which Pakistan belongs, is losing the war against the Taliban. This is, above all, because we have lost the battle to win hearts and minds,” he said in comments published in French newspaper Le Monde.
Zardari told the daily that the US and Nato-led coalition forces had “underestimated the situation on the ground” in Afghanistan. “I think they have no chance of regaining power, but their grip is strengthening,” he said of the hard-line militant movement.
After wrapping up meetings with French leaders, Zardari arrived in London on Tuesday, vowing to tackle Prime Minister David Cameron’s “uncalled for” allegations of Pakistani support for terrorists, officials said.
Cameron sparked furore last week by saying that Pakistan must not “look both ways” in secretly promoting terrorism while pretending to seek regional stability. “The war against terrorism must unite us and not oppose us,” Zardari told Le Monde. “I will explain face to face that it is my country that is paying the highest price in human life for this war.”
“Cameron’s uncalled for remarks and the fact that these were made in India had disappointed the people of Pakistan,” said a spokesman for the president in a statement on Monday after Zardari met French President Nicolas Sarkozy in Paris.
Zardari told Sarkozy it was “unfortunate if some people continued to express doubts and misgivings about our will and determination to fight the militants to the finish,” according to the statement. However, Cameron insisted that he did not regret comments about allegations of Pakistani support for terrorists. He said he had given a “pretty clear and frank answer” to a straight question while visiting India last week. “I don’t regret that at all,” he told BBC radio.
At home, opposition parties such as the PML-N, MQM, PML-Q, Jamaat-e-Islami, Tehrik-e-Insaf, as well as a section of the media and civil society have lashed out at the president for going on a visit to the UK despite Cameron’s comments, and while Pakistan grapples with the impact of the worst floods in 80 years – with up to 3.2 million people affected.
However, PPP information secretary Fauzia Wahab said the demands to cancel the visit were unjustified. “Diplomatic relations are based on national interest, not on emotionalism,” she said.
She said it is better to convey our displeasure over the British PM’s remarks through a high level bilateral contact than by adopting a jingoistic posture.
Political analyst Dr Hasan Askari was of the same view. He told The Express Tribune that not only will Zardari’s trip strengthen diplomatic ties and economic cooperation with the UK, but their prime minister will become careful in making public statements.
Regarding the floods, which have claimed the lives of at least 1,500 people, Dr Askari said the president is not involved in relief work anyway, and being here or there does not make a difference.
He further said that the criticism of the opposition parties was “misplaced” and that the president needs to keep up diplomatic channels.
However, another political analyst, Zafar Hilaly, disagrees. He said the president’s trip is a “vacuous communiqué”. The outcome of the trip will essentially be to say that “everything is well” between Pakistan and the UK, he told The Express Tribune.
He added that the trip is for Zardari’s son, Bilawal Zardari Bhutto’s political coronation.
Hilaly said Pakistan is in a state of emergency and the people want to see their leaders manning them, struggling with them and shouldering their crisis. Instead, he added, “we see Zardari smiling in France.” (with additional reporting from afp and ASIM AWAN in ISLAMABAD)
Published in The Express Tribune, August 4th, 2010.
Comments are moderated and generally will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive.
For more information, please see our Comments FAQ