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Look for Osama in Karachi and Quetta, suggests Afghan diplomat


Washington: Said Tayeb Jawad, Afghan ambassador to the United States, said here on Tuesday that the search for Osama Bin Laden should be centred in Karachi or Quetta as the chances of his being found in an isolated area were slim.

He was answering questions after delivering his concluding address to a conference on Afghanistan organised by the Middle East Institute.

Mr Jawad did not think Bin Laden was being “harboured” in the Afghanistan-Pakistan tribal belt. He said the Al Qaeda chief’s infrastructure stood destroyed and it would not be long before he himself was caught. He pointed out that it was logical to look for Bin Laden in the same areas from where leading Al Qaeda figures had been arrested.

Reacting to an earlier speaker’s assertion that Pakistan would continue to need “strategic depth” in Afghanistan, the ambassador said it should be realised that times had changed. The day of the Great Game was over and no more games should be played in his country. A strong, democratic Afghanistan was the best means of ensuring Pakistan’s security, no less than that of Afghanistan itself. He said “strategic depth” meant a weaker Afghanistan, whereas what was needed was cooperation. He pointed out that Pakistan-Afghanistan trade last year was worth $1 billion, a figure that could easily be increased many times. There were so many economic opportunities for Pakistan in Afghanistan, one factor being Central Asia. Afghanistan, he stressed, wanted the most friendly relations with Pakistan. Pakistan could play a very positive role in the region. Any other policy would bring harm to both countries, he added.

Mr Jawad, in answer to another question, called Gulbuddin Hekmatyar a “criminal”. He said the Karzai government had permitted those Taliban who wanted to return to normal life to settle back in their villages. They had been made more than welcome, but there was no question of any such quarter being given to Hekmatyar and his kind because they had committed crimes against the people of Afghanistan. “Their day is done,” he declared. He stressed that the Karzai government wanted to bring everybody into the fold, but there would be no “negotiations” with those who were once on the other side. “However, if they want to come back, they will be welcomed,” he added. khalid hasan

"This declaration by the Ulema Council is an extremely important statement of Islamic principles," says Said Tayeb Jawad, Afghanistan's ambassador to the United States. "This is the highest and most respected group of religious scholars in the country and sends a powerful message in support of the reform agenda of the government and its international partners. It sends a strong signal to terrorists, elements of the Taliban and other extremists who would thwart democracy in our country and undermine the reconstruction efforts now under way there."

Jawad says that along with the newly adopted constitution and the free and democratic elections scheduled for this summer to establish a representative government, the Ulema Council declaration makes clear that Afghanistan is emerging as a model for Muslim countries, showing how to create a civil society, assuring personal freedoms and good governance, within the cultural embrace of traditional values and institutions. "We welcome the declaration of the Ulema Council," Jawad says. "It shows the progress and commitment of our government leaders and the people who want to live free and in a safe environment without fear of their government or tyrannical leadership."

Muslim scholars and leaders in Washington, Iraq and Iran tell Insight that until the great strides exhibited by the Afghan people are appreciated and emulated in other conflict zones of the region, terrorists will likely continue to operate there. "If the religious leaders in Iraq were to issue such a declaration [as adopted by the Afghan Ulema Council] the road to peace and stability would come much faster there," a high-ranking Middle Eastern diplomat agrees.

"The people of Iraq need to have just such support from their various clerical and religious leaders, but they are not yet getting it. We need to hear from these clerics so that the people will have confidence to stand up to the extremists and terrorists," said a Washington observer involved in the rebuilding program in Iraq.

The Afghan Ulema Council also called on international peacekeeping forces to work closely with Afghan authorities and to afford detainees treatment in accord with Islamic Sharia (Koranic laws) and Muslim culture, as well as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights - which the Afghan constitution has adopted to encode its policy.

"The Ulema Council of Afghanistan denounces terrorism in any form, under any name and committed in any part of the world. We consider terrorism contradictory to the principles of Islam and humanity, and call on the international community to confront terrorism in all its forms, including state-sponsored," says the 13-point declaration.

Ambassador Jawad observes, "These are very strong words, and this is an extremely important development not just for Afghans but for all Muslims who want to live in a free society." Then he says firmly, "This shows how it can be done."

Paul M. Rodriguez is the managing editor of Insight.


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