Gilani, Bush to discuss rise of Taliban in PakistanJuly 25th, 2008 - 2:43 pm ICT by IANS
By Muhammad Najeeb
Islamabad, July 25 (IANS) Pakistan Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani will discuss with US President George W. Bush at the White House Monday the rising Taliban-led militancy in areas bordering Afghanistan, officials said Friday. This will be the second meeting between Bush and Gilani after their talks in Egypt in May. Washington has been demanding that Islamabad “effectively control” terrorism and destroy Taliban camps.
Islamabad has failed to curb the increasing influence of Taliban in the restive North West Frontier Province (NWFP) and was forced to hold talks with some of the militant leaders to convince them to have a ceasefire.
According to media reports, the Pakistani Taliban, who had been trained in Afghanistan, are effectively controlling many areas in the NWFP and Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA).
The News daily in its front page report Friday said the NWFP “was on a fast track of breaking away from Pakistan because of Islamabad’s blind following of Washington’s war on terror”.
However, a government official said the report was “highly exaggerated and beyond reality”. According to him, the situation was “not good” but not as bad as the media portrayed.
He said the prime minister had been fully briefed on the situation and “the Americans know the reasons behind the problems”. The official it was a myth that the Taliban were controlling many areas in Pakistan.
The official said that last week’s ultimatum by the Taliban to the NWFP government to quit was aimed at creating media hype.
“Some elements with vested interests were giving the impression that NWFP was about to fall to the Taliban, which is nothing but wishful thinking… Pakistani security agencies are in full control of the situation,” the official told IANS.
A PPP leader said the government was worried about the situation in FATA and NWFP and was “seriously considering handing it over to the army”.
Requesting anonymity, the PPP leader said the situation had worsened because of border violations by the coalition forces based in Afghanistan.
“It is an open secret that some senior officers in the coalition, in collaboration with the Afghan leadership, were involved in arms and narcotics trade and making a lot of money,” he said, adding the violations had been brought to the notice of the US and British authorities.
He alleged that arms and ammunition meant for “the coalition forces were being bartered for narcotics that are smuggled out of Afghanistan”.
The PPP leader was sure that this issue would also come up during the Bush-Gilani meeting besides other national and international issues, including the future of President Pervez Musharraf.
Gilani is scheduled to leave Saturday for the US with a limited media team and only 40 other members of the delegation.
Asif Ali Zardari, head of the ruling Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), was earlier scheduled to accompany the prime minister. But he changed his mind after officials conveyed to him that this may create a problem of protocol for the American president.