26 June 2008
Pakistan has rejected as baseless and irresponsible Afghan allegations that its spy agency was behind a recent assassination attempt on President Hamid Karzai. The two countries are allies in the U.S-led war on terror, but accusations that Taliban insurgents are using sanctuaries on the Pakistani side of the border for attacks against Afghan targets have long strained bilateral relations. Ayaz Gul reports from VOA's Islamabad bureau.
Afghan officials often blame elements within Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence agency for fueling the Taliban insurgency in Afghanistan.
But, on Wednesday, the Afghan government accused the Pakistani spy agency of a role in the failed attempt to assassinate Afghan President Hamid Karzai during a military parade in Kabul two months ago. An Afghan intelligence service spokesman said evidence collected by investigators and confessions from 16 suspects detained after the attack show the Pakistani spy agency was involved.
Pakistani Foreign Ministry spokesman Mohammed Sadiq says such statements will not help joint efforts to root out terrorism and extremism from the region.
"These allegations suggest that responsible members in the Afghan government perhaps wish to re-ignite the blame game. Pakistan rejects these baseless and irresponsible allegations and the attitude and proclivity behind them. We hope the Afghan government would adopt serious attitude and desist from vitiating the atmosphere of bilateral relations with Pakistan," said Sadiq.
Tensions between Pakistan and Afghanistan have been rising in recent weeks. Earlier this month, Afghan President Hamid Karzai threatened to send troops into Pakistan to fight Taliban militants responsible for cross-border attacks.
Taliban insurgents have stepped up attacks in Afghanistan and critics have questioned the government's ability to maintain law and order in the country.
Pakistan is being criticized for failing to prevent the spread of extremist forces on its side of the border and for its attempts to strike peace deals with Pakistani Taliban in the volatile tribal regions bordering Afghanistan.
Afghan officials and commanders of the NATO-led forces say those deals will help militants re-group to launch more cross-border attacks. But Pakistani officials say they are talking to tribal elders in the hope they will press the militants to end violence in the under-developed border regions.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Sadiq defends the Pakistan's policy.
"There is a certain advantage, which will accrue because of those talks. It will allow the government of Pakistan to engage in the socio-economic development of the area, and we believe that the use of force alone cannot resolve this issue," he added. "The militancy and extremism could be addressed by a three-pronged strategy, which includes, of course, the presence of troops there and the use of force, if and when required, but as well as the socio-economic development and the political dialogue."
The government has deployed tens-of-thousands of soldiers in an effort to secure the border with Afghanistan in tribal areas that are havens for al-Qaida and Taliban operatives. But the Islamic fighters have extended their extremist activities to some of the urban centers in the northwestern province, which borders Afghanistan.
Police in the troubled Swat Valley said Taliban militants have burned down a state-run hotel in the country's only ski resort at Malam Jaba. In separate attacks in the region this week, militants burned down several schools for girls.
The security situation in the northwestern Pakistani region has been deteriorating, despite a month-long peace deal between the provincial government and a pro-Taliban Pakistani cleric, Maulana Fazlullah.