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'Govt of Pakistan is the fountainhead of radical Islam'

March 28, 2012 02:51 IST
The government of Pakistan has been providing weapons and resources to radical Muslim elements, who use them against Americans, says US Republican Congressman Dana Rohrabacher, who declares he was once Pakistan's best friend. Aziz Haniffa reports

US Republican Congressman Dana Rohrabacher, a senior member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, acknowledged that he was once Pakistan's best friend in Congress and an acerbic critic of India, but in a cathartic confession at the National Press Club on Tuesday accused the government of Pakistan as being the fountainhead of radical Islam.

Rohrabacher, who was meeting with journalists to explain the bill he introduced in Congress calling for the independence of Baluchistan from Pakistan, said, "I was Pakistan's best friend in Congress when I was elected back in 1988."

"I have been involved with Pakistan and with the Inter-Services Intelligence and with the government of Pakistan during the Reagan years, and I was also, of course, deeply involved with the mujahideen during their struggle against the Soviet occupation," he recalled.

But Rohrabacher confessed, "During that time, I was operating under false pretences," and then correcting himself, said, "I was not operating -- they were. But I had no idea that the Pakistanis were so much personally involved in promoting radical Islam and did not support the democratic principles that I thought were binding us during the Cold War."

"In fact," he said, "at that time, when we should have known, when the United States provided assistance to the mujahhedin, a lion's share of it were channeled by the ISI into Hekmatyar Gulbuddin and to the worst, most radical, tyrannical form of Islam. And there was no excuse for that."

Rohrabacher said, "So people like myself, spent a lot of time lying to ourselves while just ignoring this — that was clearly contrary to the interests of freedom and liberty and in the interests of the people of the United States. And, it wasn't until I started to question whether or not we should be lying to ourselves, people were saying, you can't do anything to correct the situation with the Pakistani government -- with that regime -- because it might help radical Islam."

He said it was analogous to those who argued before World War II that it would be counterproductive to take on Adolf Hitler, because it would lead to the Germans becoming more radicalised.

"Well, we know now -- anybody who's been honest with themselves now -- should have known that the government of Pakistan is radical Islam," he said.

Rohrabacher, who is chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, asserted that "the government of Pakistan has been providing weapons and resources to radical Muslim elements, who again use them against Americans. Here we are now, Pakistan has been our friend all these years we thought, now we find out that they were really our enemy."

Thus, he argued that "now is the time for a reassessment because of this -- what's America's position is going to be in South Asia, and that's when we started paying attention to the Baluchis because the Baluchi people are an oppressed population, just as the Kurds have been an oppressed population and they have a right to their own country and the United States should be on their side."

He reiterated that "Pakistan has now proven itself to be an enemy of the United States and an enemy of freedom, rather than a friend and so, we are moving forward to try to restructure and not only recognise that the people of Baluchistan have a right, but to restructure America's positioning in South Asia."

Continuing his invective against Islamabad, Rohrabacher said, "The government of Pakistan and their murderous policies toward any Baluchi that sticks his or head up and asks for their right, coupled with their support for terrorism, which has resulted in the death of many Americans and many other people who are victims of radical Islam, it is time for a change. It is time for us to make sure that we side with the right people and oppose those people like the government of Pakistan who are committing these evil deeds."

Rohrabacher, then in a mea culpa vis-à-vis India, acknowledged that "during that time period, when I was the best friend to Pakistan, I was probably not too friendly with the Indians."

He said it now "behooves the United States today to understand that the Cold War is over and we can no longer lie to ourselves about the horrible crimes that are being committed by Pakistan in their support for terrorism as well as their oppression of other peoples like the Baluchis."

Rohrabacher thus reiterated that "we should position ourselves so that we have a much closer relationship with India, considering that India is not being engaged in these types of activities and the Cold War is over -- there is no longer a Soviet Union."

Aziz Haniffa in Washington DC