Tuesday, August 03, 2010

Zardari: International community is losing war against the Taliban.

I still can't work out what David Cameron hoped to achieve by accusing Pakistan of "looking both ways" on the subject of Islamist militancy. And to make those comments whilst in India was simply crass beyond belief.

Well, now Pakistan's president, Asif Ali Zardari, is preparing to visit Britain and has fired a shot across the bows before he gets here.

"The international community, to which Pakistan belongs, is losing the war against the Taliban," said Zardari. "This is above all because we have lost the battle to win hearts and minds."

The president said the Taliban had no chance of regaining power, but he warned: "Their grip is strengthening." He is due to meet Cameron at Chequers on Friday, and said he would speak to the prime minister about his remarks.

"The war against terrorism must unite us and not oppose us," said Zardari. "I will explain face to face that it is my country that is paying the highest price in human life for this war."

He added: "A frank discussion will allow us to restore a bit of serenity. This is why I am not cancelling my visit to London despite this serious accusation. The relationship between our two countries is old and sufficiently robust for that."

And even hardened Tories seem to be shaking their heads in disbelief at Cameron's comments:

The former Conservative party chairman Lord Tebbit said in the London Evening Standard: "I called it sloppy, slap-happy government. It is time for some disciplined thought and disciplined action. Being a prime minister is a serious business."

Tebbit said Cameron's comments exposed a "muddle" in British policy on countering terrorism.

George Bush used to put Musharraf into a similar situation, to the point where Musharraf had to publicly state that he was not America's poodle. Bush never seemed to understand that his War on Terror was deeply unpopular in Pakistan and that Musharraf paid a terrible price for supporting it:
He has suffered terribly for supporting the war in terror. Since shortly after 9-11 there were rioting protesters roaming his streets demanding that Pakistan not be used as a base for the intended attack on Afghanistan.

As we all know Colin Powell had left Musharraf with no choice other than to comply. His compliance made him so unpopular in Pakistan that he suffered from
two assassination attempts.

One would imagine that with the situation so fragile that Bush would recognise his ally's troubles and tread gingerly, especially as Pakistan is a nuclear power and the removal of Musharraf from office could allow these weapons to fall into the hands of al Qaeda.

Did Bush tread carefully? Not a bit of it.
Asif Ali Zardari is now being treated in a similar fashion by Cameron. Just because something is true, it does not necessarily follow that it is wise to say it aloud. And it is never wise to criticise any ally whilst standing in the country of their oldest enemy.

The prime minister was also criticised by the former Liberal Democrat leader Sir Menzies Campbell, who suggested Cameron could mollify Pakistan by pledging more money to the relief effort after floods that have killed more than 1,000 people.

"It is not in our interests to be at loggerheads with a country which is so important to the outcome in Afghanistan and so essential to our national security," Campbell said. "The more generous we can be with aid and assistance, the easier it will be to get back on good terms."

A senior Pakistani official told the Guardian that during his meeting with Cameron, Zardari intends to "put him straight" and press him to be "more careful in what he says".

Cameron looks naive at best and out of his depth at worst.

Click here for full article.

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