Is Pakistan’s Swat deal a surrender to militants, asks Holbrooke

February 20th, 2009 - 10:59 am ICT by IANS  

Washington, Feb 20 (IANS) US special representative Richard Holbrooke has called Pakistan President Ali Zardari to express concern over a peace deal allowing imposition of Islamic law in the restive Swaat region controlled by Taliban militants.

“It is hard to understand this deal in Swat,” in northwest Pakitsan, the envoy, who returned this week from a regional tour that included visits to Pakistan, Afghanistan and India, told CNN television in an interview Thursday.

“I am concerned, and I know Secretary (Hillary) Clinton is, and the president (Barack Obama) is, that this deal, which is portrayed in the press as a truce, does not turn into a surrender,” said Holbrooke who has been charged with coordinating US policy to bring peace and stability in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

“I talked to President Zardari of Pakistan on the phone about two hours ago and I expressed to him the same kind of concern you have just stated to me,” he said.

“President Zardari has assured us it is not the case.” He has described the deal as “an interim arrangement” to stabilise the restive Swat region north of the capital Islamabad, said the US diplomat.

“He does not disagree that people who are running Swat now are murderers, thugs and militants and they pose a danger not only to Pakistan but to the US as well.”

Holbrooke told PBS television earlier that the US was “troubled and confused” about what happened in Swat, “because it is not an encouraging trend.”

Noting that previous cease-fires have broken down, he said: “And we do not want to see territory ceded to the bad guys, and the people who took over Swat are very bad people.”

Asked to comment on Holbrooke’s remark State Department spokesman Gordon Duguid said the envoy had spoken to the Pakistanis. “They understand that the threat of terrorism is a threat to them as well as to us.”

The US, he said would be talking to the Pakistanis about this at a review meeting on Afghanistan next week that will be attended by delegations from both the countries led by their foreign ministers.

The Pakistani government’s pact with the Taliban to introduce Islamic law in the northwestern Swat valley has raised concern among NATO countries with troops in neighbouring Afghanistan that are struggling to quell the Taliban in the border region.

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