Pakistan at centre-stage over Canadian politician’s remarks
* High commissioner in Ottawa says Dion ‘deluded’ to think of military intervention
By Khalid Hasan
WASHINGTON: A virtual storm broke out over Pakistan in Canada last week following Liberal party leader Stéphane Dion telling a press conference that NATO forces should intervene in Pakistan to prevent terrorists from crossing over into Afghanistan.
In a speech in Quebec City, Dion said, “If they (the Pakistanis) are not able to deal with it on their own, we could consider that option with NATO forces in order to help Pakistan help us pacify Afghanistan.” Most reporters present at the event interpreted the observation as Dion calling for military intervention, sending in troops, including Canadian ones, into Pakistan. After the appearance of these reports, Dion expressed surprise, saying, “I was surprised by the way it was reported. I did not expect this interpretation.”
Sharp reaction: Musa Javed Chohan, Pakistan’s high commissioner (PHC) in Ottawa, reacted sharply, calling Dion both uninformed and irrational. He said there was no way foreign troops would be allowed on Pakistan’s soil, and suggested Dion was deluded to even think of it. Defence Minister Peter MacKay said, “He can’t be serious,” while Jason Kenney, another member of the cabinet said, “His foreign policy is a descent into amateur hour. He’s out of his league on the world stage and not worth the risk.”
Foreign Affairs Minister Maxime Bernier wrote to PHC, saying, “Canada will continue to work with Pakistani and Afghan officials to improve the management of your shared border. I believe it is necessary for me to reaffirm Canada’s position at this time due to recent remarks made by the leader of the official Opposition, which do not reflect the views of the government.” Dion insisted that what he had in mind was a diplomatic intervention to pressure Pakistan into a more aggressive response to insurgent infiltration, and that he had never said explicitly it should be a military venture.