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'Who do Pakistanis fancy themselves to be?'
December 15, 2006 10:53 IST
Using sharp language against Pakistan for fomenting terrorism in his country, President Hamid Karzai has made a no-holds barred attack on Islamabad from blood-soaked Kandahar, charging the southern neighbour with seeking to 'enslave' Afghanistan.
He also said that Pakistan had destroyed Afghanistan's 'national institutions' in the period following the Soviet withdrawal when those who had cooperated in the fight against the former USSR had turned away.
In a 90-minute speech at Kandahar's Ahmad Shah Baba high school on Wednesday, punctuated by frequent applause from hundreds of listeners, including a large student body, the President warned Pakistan that Afghanistan was no longer weak. It had an elected government, he said, noting that Afghanistan now enjoyed firm international support.
Kandahar in southern Afghanistan, bordering Pakistan, is the President's hometown. Karzai had not visited Kandahar for more than a year, setting tongues wagging. Kandahar and the neighbouring province of Helmand are also the epicentre of Taliban extremist violence rocking the country.
In his speech, Karzai recalled that a series of suicide attacks had rocked the country just before Pakistan Foreign Minister Khurshid Kasuri visited Kabul last Thursday. This, he said, was a coded message that Afghans should 'surrender' to Pakistan, else they will be killed and defeated.
Resorting to nationalist rhetoric, he called on the students to turn the pages of Afghan history. He said Genghis Khan, Alexander, British colonialists and former Soviet Union had not succeeded in gaining control of Afghan soil. "Who do the Pakistanis fancy themselves to be," he asked.
Karzai alleged Pakistan was afraid of a peaceful Afghanistan set on the road to development. To no avail, he said, he had repeatedly pleaded with the leadership in Islamabad that destruction of Afghanistan was in no way in Pakistan's interest.
He said that it was for the sake of peace that he had given a call for 'peace jirga' with Pakistan's participation and hoped that the government there would take positive steps to make the proposed convention a success.
Analysts in Kabul see the the Karzai speech as a national mobilisation effort.
According to an Afghanistan Times editorial: 'Clearly, the President no longer hides his anger behind friendly words about Pakistan and calls upon it to stop interfering in Afghanistan's affairs.'
Significantly, the (tribal or community) 'elders,' who are deemed important in social life here, of the battle-torn provinces of Kandahar, Helmand, Uruzgan and Zabul, called on
Karzai in Kandhar and lent him their support for the 'peace jirga' plan.Also in Kandahar, a day before his angry anti-Pakistan barrage at the school grounds, the President met with NATO commanders and asked them to devise ways in coordination with the government to eliminate civilian casualties. At a press conference later, he took potshots at Pakistan for fanning terrorism in Afghanistan.