Friday, December 28, 2007

Pakistan: Hours before Her death, Benazir Bhutto expressed concerns about curbing extremism

Hours before her death, former Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto met with Afghan President Hamid Karzai, who was visiting Islamabad. After the meeting, Bhutto told VOA reporter Sayed Hassan that she and Mr. Karzai expressed concerns about curbing extremism in the region.

Benazir Bhutto: "I explained to President Karzai that the Pakistan People's Party hoped to win the elections and form the government and we look forward to working very closely with Afghanistan. We too believe it is essential for us both of our countries and indeed the large Muslim world to work to protect the interests of the Islamic civilization by eliminating extremism and terrorism. I touched upon the need to - I asked him about madrassas [Islamic schools] in Afghanistan and I said we discussed about madrassas and they have only the traditional madrassas.

You know there are two types of madrassas. One is the traditional madrassas, which teaches Islamic teachings and which are very good and which are very noble and on the other hand there are these training institutes that brainwash young children and turn them into warriors and fighters for no cause- for creating anarchy and chaos but they pose as madrassas which they're not. So I asked him, he said 'we don't have that problem in Afghanistan', I said well we have that problem in Afghanistan and we discussed about trade in the region.

Trade had gone up really high in 2006. It's come down now and I suggested that might be due to the fact that there is destabilization going on the frontier province. We've had the incident in Swat with Alpuri, the bomb blasts on Eid ul Azha, as I was in Charsadda yesterday's bomb blasts were in Peshawar. So the destabilization is now by the extremists, is not now relegated to the tribal areas of Pakistan but they have descended into not only the settled areas of frontier province they have descended into Peshawar. So there is an absolute need for both our countries to cooperate closely on terrorism related issues and also on issues of how we can enhance the quality of life of our people by improving economic ties.

I was pleased to read in the newspapers today that Pakistan and Afghanistan are forming a committee for intelligence sharing. I think this is a good and positive move and I mentioned to the Afghan president that we in the PPP were desirous of seeking good relations with Afghanistan as well as with India.

I mentioned that while we were trying to control the extremists and the militants they had turned their guns inward but I said it was still very necessary for us to dismantle these groups; because while some of them may have been formed in a noble cause, for example, some may have taken up the cause of fighting the occupation of Afghanistan or others might have taken up the cause of Kashmir but nonetheless once such people were trained they could always turn their guns on other objects and therefore it was important in the PPP's view that we should seek peaceful means of conflict resolution so that our people did not suffer, our countries did not suffer and our Islamic civilization did not suffer."

By Sayed Hassan Islamabad
Published with the permission of
Voice of America
Disclaimer: This report does not necessarily reflect the views of Mike Hitchen Consulting