COLOMBO (Reuters) – Terrorists were gaining a deeper grip in Pakistan, and were receiving institutional nurturing and support, Afghanistan’s president said on Saturday, calling on South Asian countries to stop playing geo-political games.
“In Pakistan, terrorism and its sanctuaries are gaining a deeper grip as demonstrated by the tragic assassination of shaheed (martyr) Benazir Bhutto,” Karzai told a summit of South Asian leaders, also attended by Pakistan’s prime minister.
“While existing on the absolute fringes of our tolerant and peace loving societies, terrorists in our region receive, institutional nurturing and support. “It is this imbedded nature of terrorists that make it a much more sinister threat.”
Relations between Afghanistan and its neighbor Pakistan have sharply deteriorated in recent months with Afghan officials repeatedly accusing Pakistani agents of secretly backing Taliban insurgents fighting Afghan and foreign troops on Afghan soil.
Afghanistan has suffered scores of Taliban suicide and roadside bombs that have killed more than 200 civilians already this year, making it among the most violent places in the world.
The Afghan government has told the United States and NATO allies that the source of the terrorism in Afghanistan goes back to the sanctuaries inside Pakistan territory.
“Terrorism in our region feed on a residual tradition of narrow minded politics and of pursuing out-moded geo-political interest,” Karzai said.
“In a region, prone to many challenges, terrorism may well prove to be the most destabilizing.”
Pakistan denies the Afghan charges and says the Kabul government is trying to divert attention from its own failure to quell the Taliban insurgency.
Pakistan too is roiled by terrorist violence. Former prime minister Bhutto was killed in a gun and bomb attack in the city of Rawalpindi on December 27 as she emerged from an election rally.
Pakistan’s new civilian government has turned to talks with militants in its tribal border region in order to defuse violence that has killed hundreds of Pakistanis in the last year.
But Afghan and NATO leaders say the talks have eased pressure on the militants allowing them to send more insurgents into Afghanistan where attacks along the eastern border are up by some 40 percent this year.
“While the people of Afghanistan today are bearing the brunt of international terrorism on a daily basis, it is with tremendous trepidation, that we are watching the wild fire of terrorism spreading across the region.
“It is time we all realize that the pursuit of narrow geo-political interest and the use of militant radicalism as instrument of policy cannot succeed or serve any long term purpose.”