Pakistan not in danger of collapse: Zardari

May 11th, 2009 - 3:46 pm ICT by IANS  

Taliban Washington, May 11 (IANS) Pakistan is not in danger of collapsing in the face of a Taliban onslaught as its population “is much, much more than the insurgents are”, President Asif Ali Zardari has said.
“Is the state of Pakistan going to collapse?” Zardari asked rhetorically on NBC’s “Meet the Press” programme Sunday evening and replied: “No. We are 180 million people. The population is much, much more than the insurgents are.”

At the same time, Zardari admitted to a “problem” with the Taliban in the troubled northwest and appealed for an international response to counter the militants.

“I think we need to find a strategy where the world gets together against this threat, because it’s not Pakistan-specific,” he maintained.

“It’s not Afghanistan-specific. Like I said, it’s all the way from the Horn of Africa. You’ve had attacks in Spain. You’ve had attacks in Britain. You’ve had attacks in America. You’ve had attacks in Africa, Saudi Arabia,” Zardari pointed out.

“So I think the world needs to understand that this is the new challenge of the 21st Century, and this is the new war.

“It’s an accepted position that you, we, cannot work this problem out unless Pakistan, Afghanistan and America are on the same page,” Zardari contended.

The remarks came as Pakistani Interior Minister Rehman Malik said about 700 militants have so far been killed in the ongoing military operation against the Taliban in three districts of the North West Frontier Province (NWFP).

“Seven hundred militants have been killed and 20 security personnel martyred,” in the military operation that began April 26 and which would “continue till the elimination of the last terrorist”, Malik told reporters in Islamabad on his return from Washington.

Speaking on “Fox News Sunday”, US Central Command chief General David Petraeus said “there are a number of signs of difference” between Pakistan’s new offensive against the Taliban and the previous ones which have not been effective.

“There is a degree of unanimity (among Pakistanis) that there must be swift and effective action taken against the Taliban in Pakistan,” he said.

“And this is reflected also, as has been announced by the Pakistani leaders, in the shift of forces from the eastern part of their country faced off against India to the North-West Frontier Province areas where the fighting is already ongoing and where more presumably it will be conducted,” he added.

Asked if he was confident that Pakistanis have the counter-insurgency strategy to beat the Taliban, Petraeus had said during last week’s trilateral summit: “There’s an understanding that this does have to be a whole-of-government approach.”

The Pakistani military moved into action against the Taliban after they violated a controversial peace accord and moved south from their Swat headquarters to occupy Buner district that is just 100 km from Islamabad.

Under the accord, brokered by Taliban-backed radical cleric Sufi Mohammad with the NWFP government, Sharia laws were to be be imposed in Swat and seven other districts collectively known as the Malakand division, in return for the militants laying down their arms.

The military operation began in the Lower Dir district and later spread to Buner and Swat.

Close to 300,000 civilians have been displaced due to the military action, UN agencies and other NGOs have estimated.

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