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Where there is no law, but every man does what is right in his own eyes, there is the least of real liberty
Henry M. Robert

Shamoon Alam KHAN, Ambassador of Pakistan To Ukraine: “We don’t bargain when we make decisions”

23 October, 2001 - 00:00

Pakistan has found itself quite in a quandary. On the one hand, that country’s leadership has expressed a desire to maintain comprehensive cooperation with the international community in combating terrorism and then supported the attacks on Afghanistan. On the other, some Pakistanis categorically oppose the government’s decisions, calling, on the contrary, for supporting the Afghans, their brethren in faith. As a result, immediately after September 11 Pakistani came under a wave of massive unrest, which enabled many analysts to claim that the current President Pervez Musharraf’s regime is shaky. Word spreads from time to time about a new coup in Pakistan. Last week the country’s top Muslim clergy called on the public to go on a general strike against the government on the eve of US Secretary of State Colin Powell’s visit to Islamabad. Nonetheless, the Pakistani leadership continues to claim it is keeping the situation under control. In an interview with The Day, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Pakistan to Ukraine, Shamoon Alam KHAN, expressed the same assurance.

“Some representatives of Islamic states are inclined to think that the current antiterrorist campaign and strikes on Afghanistan are meant to demonstrate US might rather than curb terrorism. To what extent does this operation correspond with the interests of your country?”

“The September 11 attacks are unprecedented in history, for they were targeted against a peaceful population. Pakistan sincerely believes the world has changed significantly after the tragic events of September 11. The antiterrorist campaign in Afghanistan is a serious action aimed at destroying terrorists and the network of terrorist groups. The matter is so serious that Pakistan’s relations with other important and powerful states has changed at the speed of light. We hope these are not short- term changes. We would like to believe that Western countries will not leave Pakistan and Afghanistan in the lurch after the operation has achieved its goal. The attitude of some Islamic states has been formed under the influence of conflicts that have been occurring in their regions over the past fifty years.”

“Isn’t it risky for Pakistan to cooperate with the United States if this can bring about mass disturbances or even civil war?”

“Protest in Pakistan are part of our everyday life. The Pakistani authorities have allowed participation in peaceful demonstrations. This is a normal situation which shows that society is healthy and democratic. However, protests increase the number of violent incidents in which peaceful people suffer. Pakistan decided to apply severe measures against such violence. Most citizens of our country support the decision of President Pervez Musharraf to cooperate with the international community in the fight against terrorism.”

“Is General Musharraf not afraid that his government could be toppled the way the Nawaz Sharif government was two years ago?”

“This kind of threat does not exist. The protests come from small groups of the population. The overall situation in the country is under control. The majority of political parties support the government. Although the fundamentalist, more religious, parties oppose government decisions, they still remain in the absolute minority. They failed to enlist popular support in the last parliamentary elections.”

“Does Islamabad really think that the US has produced convincing evidence of Osama bin Laden’s implication in the September 11 strikes?”

“The United States has produced impressive evidence. The leadership of Pakistan believes this is sufficient for bin Laden to be brought to justice. Yet, our president said we are not the judges and it is not up to us to pass judgment on his guilt or innocence. But evidence does exist.”

“What was Islamabad more impressed with, the evidence of bin Laden’s implication in the acts of terror or the promise of Washington to lift sanctions against your countries?”

“We never bargain with any country. The decision is based on our policies. We are not trying to profit from this situation.”

“Is Pakistan going to sever ties with the Taliban to prove that it is pursuing a new policy?”

“The whole world has dropped all kinds of relations with the Taliban. We continue to maintain diplomatic relations. President George Bush has recently given the Taliban another chance to surrender Osama bin Laden. We therefore think it advisable to keep the door open and give the world community an opportunity to deal with the Taliban. We oppose the Taliban’s policy, but it makes sense not to shut the door with finality on the Taliban and a chance to settle the issue peacefully.”

“You have quoted Mr. Bush’s statement. Does this mean that Washington itself asked Islamabad not to break off relations with the Taliban?”

“This was discussed with other countries. At first there was an idea that Pakistan should break off relations with the Taliban. But then they admitted it would be advantageous if at least one country, for example, Pakistan, retained diplomatic relations with the Taliban.”

“Does Pakistan exert any influence on the Taliban?”

“The Afghan people are very, very independent. While we helped Afghanistan, we received a lot of problems as a result. We have provided shelter to more than two million Afghan refugees over twenty years. As a result, there is no law and order in the places where the Afghans stay. Islamabad has warned them: if you don’t obey the law, we will deport you back to Afghanistan. I think they will behave properly. But, generally, the Afghan people and their government do not heed our advice and show no adequate response to our efforts.”

“Does Pakistan feel itself an outcast in the Muslim world because it supports the US operations?”

“No, Pakistan is not the sole fighter against terrorism. All the Islamic states have condemned the September 11 attacks. We oppose terrorism. But one must differentiate between liberation struggle and terrorism proper. Speaking of Kashmir, this is liberation struggle to which some countries want to add a tint of terrorism. This fifty year long struggle cannot be considered an instance of terrorism.”

“Could you further clarify your interpretation of terrorism?”

“You have touched on a very difficult issue. This a still-unfinished dispute. I do not think anybody in the world can give a universal and clear definition of terrorism. Each will give a definition that serves his own interests.”

“Then tell me please how one can possibly struggle against something undefined?”

“Terrorism can be suppressed by pursuing a balanced policy, having fair laws, creating favorable economic benefits for all people, and bridging the gap between the rich and poor.”

“Do you mean it is possible to do away with terrorism by eliminating the factors that caused it? Then Osama bin Laden is a product of previous global injustice, and, therefore, he should be left in peace?”

“No, the blow should be struck at both the root cause and the result of the matter.”

“Are Pakistani nuclear weapons being stored in a safe place?”

“The nuclear weapons are under full control, and there is no danger of them getting into the wrong hands.”

By Serhiy SOLODKY, The Day