Now Taliban Fix Eyes On Punjab
Mian Nawaz Sharif, leader of Pakistan Muslim League has for the first time confirmed that now Taliban have been extending their activities to Punjab. He feared that Punjab, the biggest province of Pakistan will be captured by Taliban. It is interesting to note that Mian Nawaz Sharif always opposed the war on terrorism declaring it the war of the United States. But now all of sudden the things have changed. There will be no denying the fact that Taliban movement has been given support from Punjab. But now after playing havoc in parts of tribal areas and North West Frontier Province of Pakistan the chickens are coming home to roost. Now it will be interesting battle in Punjab. He has given an interview to USA Today.
Pakistan's top opposition leader, former prime minister Nawaz Sharif, expressed concern Monday about a controversial peace deal with Islamist militants but backed off calls he made last month for a "revolution" to topple the government.Unable to contain an insurgency through military force, Pakistan's government agreed last week to let Taliban militants impose sharia, or Islamic law, in the northern Swat Valley region. Sharif said militants there are trying to export their particularly harsh version of sharia, in which the hands of thieves are amputated, women are forbidden from going outside, and adulterers are stoned to death.
"How do we deal with the situation in Swat?" Sharif asked in an hour-long interview with USA TODAY at his palatial home on the outskirts of this city. "They are now threatening to get out of Swat and take other areas into their custody. So we've got to avoid that situation."
Sharif, head of the conservative Pakistan Muslim League, said that he opposes attacks by airborne U.S. drones on militant hide-outs as "counterproductive" and wants to see dialogue with more moderate Islamist groups.
Sharif downplayed fears that the nuclear-armed country could be taken over by Taliban militants, who are gaining strength both in Pakistan and in neighboring Afghanistan, where they are battling U.S. and NATO troops. He said the insurgency in Swat and border areas could be defused in just two years if sufficient economic development took place.
Any deal with militants should include commitments that "democracy will not be allowed to deteriorate and the writ of the government will be honored," Sharif said, adding that women's schools and universities must be allowed to stay open.
Sharif, who served two terms as prime minister in the 1990s before he was ousted in a military coup, is in a strong political position once again after staring down his rival, President Asif Ali Zardari, last month in a confrontation over the independence of Pakistan's courts. After talking of a "prelude to revolution," Sharif escaped house arrest to lead thousands of protesters on a march toward the capital of Islamabad. The public pressure forced Zardari on March 15 to back down and reinstate judges purged by the previous, military regime.
Sharif, 59, sounded triumphant. "My eyes still can't believe what they saw on the 15th of March," he said. "For the first time in the 60-year history of this country, a day had arrived when the people actually demonstrated their strength, their power. This nation stood up for its rights — and succeeded."
Yet Sharif avoided criticizing Zardari directly during the interview and insisted that he wants to work with the ruling coalition, led by the president's Pakistan Peoples Party. Sharif still wants Zardari to give up some of his presidential powers but says the dispute should be resolved in Parliament, not on the streets.
"This country cannot afford any confrontation," Sharif said. "We're not going to put our country in jeopardy (because of desire for) power. Grabbing power at any cost is not our motto.
"Our motto is to get the country back on the rails of democracy, strengthen institutions like the judiciary and media and take necessary steps to prevent anybody from abrogating or suspending the constitution."
Sharif has never been a Washington favorite. In the 1990s, his government tested a nuclear bomb, earning economic sanctions from the Clinton administration.
Sharif said he had a good relationship with President Clinton — and is a fan of President Obama. "I have never met Obama, but I have a good impression about him," he said. "I think he's a good guy."
Since Obama took office, he said, U.S. diplomats have been reaching out to him and to other political leaders.
Democratic politicians returned to power in parliamentary elections last year, and President Pervez Musharraf resigned.
Now, Sharif said, politicians must set aside their quarrels and work together to find solutions to the Taliban insurgency and Pakistan's other pressing needs.
"This country is facing huge, huge problems — internal, external," he said. "It's very important that democracy deliver."
Most Recommended Comment
Khār, Tribal Areas, Pakistan