No terror camps in Pakistan: Musharraf aide (interview)

May 19th, 2008 - 6:24 pm ICT by admin  

A file-photo of Pervez Musharraf
By Manish Chand
Islamabad, May 19 (IANS) Even as India gets ready to raise its concerns about cross-border terrorism with Pakistan Tuesday, Aftab Sherpao, a key ally of President Pervez Musharraf, has rejected the presence of terrorist camps in his country that allegedly target India. “There are no such camps existing in Pakistan,” Sherpao told IANS in an interview here when asked about the Indian accusation about terrorist camps in Pakistan that were allegedly used to launch terror attacks against India.

“Such rhetoric should not be allowed to vitiate the atmosphere. Such charges are counter-productive and do not help in the normalization of relations between the two countries,” said Sherpao, a former home minister who acted as pointsman of Musharraf in the battle against terrorists and extremists.

“We have moved forward in many areas. Let’s not get caught in this sterile talk,” Sherpao stressed ahead of the resumption of the composite dialogue process between the foreign secretaries of the two countries Tuesday.

“Pakistan is a victim of terrorism and has suffered more terror attacks and suicide bombings than probably any other country in the region,” said Sherpao, a prominent figure during the stand-off around Islamabad’s Red Mosque last year. Subsequently, he became a high-profile target for Islamist militants.

India has repeatedly conveyed to Pakistan information it has about the presence of terror camps run allegedly by the ISI which launch attacks in the Indian territory - a charge denied by Islamabad.

Pakistan gave an undertaking to India in 2004 not to allow its territory to be used for anti-India terror - an assurance that led to the resumption of the suspended peace process between the two countries.

Indian Foreign Secretary Shivshankar Menon will raise the issue of cross-border terrorism with his Pakistani counterpart Salman Bashir during their talks Tuesday. The recent terror attacks in Jaipur will also figure in the discussions.

He will also convey New Delhi’s concerns about the violation of the nearly five-year-old ceasefire at the Line of Control by Pakistani Rangers who fired heavily on Indian troops to allegedly provide cover to infiltrating militants from across the border.

The two sides are, however, keen not to let the sticky issue of cross-border terror cloud the peace process between them.

Underlining the cross-party consensus in Pakistan on bolstering the peace process with India, Sherpao said the new democratic dispensation is likely to carry forward some of the initiatives taken by Musharraf for bettering ties with India like the launch of cross-border travel and trade links.

“Basically, it will be a continuation of the policy that was followed by the previous government. The military establishment also wants better relations with India,” he said.

“There will be no significant change in the new government’s policy towards India. It will pursue confidence-building measures and open-ended engagement with India,” said Sherpao, the leader of Pakistan Peoples Party (Sherpao) which was part of the previous government and is now in opposition.

Sherpao, however, pointed to “political contradictions” between the PPP and Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz) and their potentially divergent stance towards engagement with India that could hobble the peace process between the two countries.

“No leader is here for good. One has to go by the political opinion in the country,” Sherpao replied when asked whether Musharraf’s days as the president of the country are numbered.

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