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PAKISTAN: Tribal elders warn against incursions by US-led forces

Sarmad Qazi

Sunday, 7 September, 2008

"ONE more incursion into the Pakistani territory by the US-led occupying forces in Afghanistan and we will retaliate", a senior member of the Pakistani coalition government said yesterday.

Speaking to Gulf Times during a telephone interview from Islamabad, Munir Khan Orakzai, who is the member of Pakistan’s National Assembly from the tribal Kurram Agency, said: "We (the FATA members) have been promised by the government, including Asif Zardari, that if there is another attack on our land from anyone, we must exercise the right to retaliate."

Last week, in an unprecedented step, Nato forces launched a land raid in one of the seven Pakistani tribal agencies bordering Afghanistan, killing civilians. Previously air strikes from either the Nato or coalition forces (ISAF) into the Pakistani territory had been registered.

"The government is preparing a letter, that will be sent by the National Security adviser to the Prime Minister, Major Mahmood Ali Durrani, to the American administration soon, detailing our stance," said Orakzai, who added that he and members of parliament from the FATA are "under tremendous pressure from their constituents who continue to ask why they are being bombarded."

The 20 parliamentarians from FATA - a bloc headed by Orakzai - refused to vote for Asif Zardari, a day before he was to stand in the presidential election and only after 4-5 hours of talks 'and promises’ by the Pakistan Peoples Party and other coalition members of the government, did they agree to vote for him. Zardari won the historic presidential election yesterday, claiming 479 votes.
"Once he is sworn in, in couple of days, the first thing that this parliament will do is to debate Pakistan’s policy on this so-called war on terrorism. That’s the first thing this session is going to hear, after Zardari’s address to the parliament," he explained.

According to him, so far Pakistan’s role in the war on terrorism has been decided by "one dictator", former president, General (retd) Pervez Musharraf, but "time has come that this is debated in a democratically-elected parliament, followed by chalking out of a new plan."

"So far this policy of military operations has failed in the FATA. Pashtuns have historically subdued Persians, Greeks, Turks, Mughals, Afghans, Sikhs and British. What makes these new forces think otherwise," he questioned.
A report in April by the US Government Accountability Office (GAO), the independent, non-partisan investigative arm of Congress, exposed a dangerous strategic failure on the part of the Bush administration to combat and defeat the 'Al Qaeda network’.

The GAO report also indicated that the US has attempted to address the threat in FATA largely through the Pakistani military, not "recognising that the problems of FATA will not be solved by military means alone."

The resources allocated remain grossly out of balance as well. The overwhelming majority — 96% — of US spending in the FATA during fiscal years 2002-2007 went to military expenditures. Only 1% of spending — approximately $40mn in USAID money — went to development assistance during this time frame.
"We have also been assured that in the next 4-5 days if the fighting between Sunnis and Shias doesn’t stop in Kurram Agency, the army will be sent to carry out an operation."

:: Article nr. 47024 sent on 07-sep-2008 04:48 ECT


Link: www.gulf-times.com/site/topics/article.asp?cu_no=2&item_no=240137&version=1&temp

:: The views expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of this website.

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