June 28, 2002
1842 IST

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US move for Afghanistan-Pak pact shot down

Shyam Bhatia in Kabul

Afghan Defence Minister Marshal Mohammed Fahim told he has turned down the US advice to forge a joint security pact with Pakistan to boost the fight against Al Qaeda and Taliban operatives still at large.

"The US has been hoping that we would reach a joint security agreement with Pakistan against terrorism," Fahim told in an exclusive interview. "But I can tell you for the record that this will not work because terrorism and terrorists are being accommodated by Pakistan. Terrorists are trained there in that country."

The interview was conducted at Fahim's defence ministry headquarters in Kabul. The head of his office, General Karam Uddin, was also present.

Fahim also touched on other topics in the course of his 30-minute interview, notably his hopes of attracting assistance from India, the US and Russia to raise a reconstituted national army of 150,000 men.

But he repeatedly returned to the issue of Kabul's relations with Islamabad, saying both he and the late Commander Ahmed Shah Masoud had reached the conclusion that they had been targeted for assassination by Pakistan, which continued to be a safe haven for terrorists trained by the Inter-Services Intelligence.

"Any move for a joint security pact could only be purely symbolic," Fahim explained. "Anything else would not be practical because we are not able to trust Pakistan. There are also practical considerations. How could a joint security pact with Pakistan work when terrorists are living in Pakistan, when they are trained and supported by Pakistan?"

Fahim's concerns have been echoed by another senior Afghan official, Ahmad Wali Masoud, who is his country's ambassador to the United Kingdom.

"Let's put it this way, there has been some sort of persuading or pushing the government to forge a special friendship with Pakistan," Masoud told in a separate interview.

"But we said this idea was not good. Let the representative parliament decide with whom they are going to form a strategic friendship. If someone pushes the government, or makes use of this government to form this kind of alliance, it will be dangerous for Afghanistan, a threat. Some sort of polarisation will start and Afghanistan will be divided. That's not a good idea. Let us get the people of Afghanistan together in peace and prosperity and let them decide on their known political destiny," he said.

Wali argued further that Pakistan has left behind a legacy of bitterness arising from its earlier, wholehearted support for the discredited Taliban regime.

For this reason alone, he points out, any bid to cement a special relationship with Islamabad would be hugely unpopular.

"Isn't this the same Pakistan that brought misery and destruction to this country?" Masoud asked. "Isn't it the same government of Pakistan and ISI that brought killing, massacres and divisions among different Afghan ethnic groups? Those Pakistani friends who are in Kabul should be very much upset and ask their own government and ISI why it happened."

Both Fahim and Masoud have also drawn attention to what they describe as daily reminders of past Pakistani interactions resented by the Afghan man on the street.

The two men, however, acknowledged Pakistan's hospitality in providing shelter for nearly three million Afghans who fled their country after the 1979 Soviet invasion.

But they said stories brought back by nearly one million refugees returning to their homeland after spending two decades in exile in Pakistan are very mixed. Many have spoken of police brutality and corruption in the refugee camps.

Others have spoken with bitterness of unscrupulous landlords exploiting them and refusing to return deposits taken for rental accommodation.

US diplomats in Kabul also acknowledge Afghanistan and Pakistan have had a 'conflicting role' over the past 50 years and say Pakistan's support of the Taliban created deep fissures among the Afghan population.

Employees of US diplomatic missions in Pakistan have also reported strong hostility to Pakistan among Afghan refugees.

Nevertheless, US diplomats said they still hope for a constructive relationship between Afghanistan and Pakistan, adding that Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf has gone out of his way to reach out to the new Afghan government headed by President Hamid Karzai.

One US official told "We think it is important for Pakistan and Afghanistan to build a constructive relationship based on the accomplishments of both nations made in the war against terrorism."

Asked if the US was trying to promote a military pact between Kabul and Islamabad, a Western diplomat in Kabul commented, "There is no US plan to push for a pact. But there is a US interest for both parties to have good relations."

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