Afghans insist Pakistani border remains porous
SPIN BOLDAK: Despite a strong crackdown involving tens of thousands of troops and a pledge by President Pervez Musharraf to do all he can in the hunt for Osama Bin Laden, Afghans say a steady stream of Taliban fugitives are still finding a safe haven on Pakistan’s side of the 2,000-mile border.
An Afghan tribal chief known as Palawan and other Afghan security officials say they aren’t convinced, insisting that Pakistan’s security and intelligence services are rife with Taliban and Al Qaeda sympathizers — leaving an escape route through which the terrorists can attack and escape. “They are living there, they are coming to do the terror attacks, and they are going back,” Palawan said, gun at his side as he drove along the barren border.
Pakistani officials scoff at the charges and say they are doing everything they can to arrest Taliban and Al Qaeda fugitives. “This is nonsense,” Pakistan Information Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed said in Islamabad. “We are fighting against terrorists, not sheltering them.” But Palawan isn’t alone in his suspicions, and Afghans haven’t forgotten the strong support Pakistan gave to the former Taliban regime before Musharraf abandoned them in favor of the US just after the attacks on New York City and Washington. “Without Pakistan, the Taliban would be finished. Without the Taliban, Al Qaeda would be finished,” Gen Khan Mohammed, regional commander of Afghan militia, said in the southern Afghan city of Kandahar, the capital of the southern Kandahar province that includes Spin Boldak.
Some Afghans say Pakistan’s security and intelligence services make a distinction between turning away Al Qaeda members and turning away their former Taliban allies seeking shelter. “I don’t think there’s been a fundamental shift in the perception of the Taliban in the Pakistan military,” said Vikram Parekh, an analyst with the International Crisis Group in Kabul, the Afghan capital. “That’s going to be the big problem” - whether Pakistan’s powerful military “draws a line between Al Qaeda and the Taliban.”
Afghan intelligence officials say they have intercepted phone conversations from Taliban commanders in Quetta. —AP