| Pervez Musharraf speaks to military officers in Islamabad. (AFP)
Islamabad, Feb. 12 (Reuters): Pakistan acknowledged today that suspected al Qaida and Taliban militants might be using its territory to launch attacks inside Afghanistan.
Speaking to military officers in Islamabad, President Pervez Musharraf said Pakistan was trying to stem “whatever” was crossing from its soil into its western neighbour.
“On the western border, certainly everything is not happening from Pakistan but certainly something is happening from Pakistan,” he said.
“Let us not bluff ourselves... whatever is happening from Pakistan must be stopped. That is what we are trying to do,” he added. It was Pakistan’s most explicit admission yet that Islamic militants were crossing from its territory to Afghanistan to wage a jihad, or holy war, on foreign forces there. Pakistan, a staunch ally in the US “war on terror”, has come under intense pressure from the US to rein in Islamic militants who mount attacks inside Afghanistan from the relative safety of Pakistani territory.
Western diplomats say Pakistan appears to be slightly happier to rein in the Taliban it once sponsored since a new Afghan constitution was drawn up last year that cemented the rights of Pashtuns, Islamabad’s traditional allies in Afghanistan.
A large number of al Qaida and Taliban militants are thought to be hiding in Pakistan’s rugged tribal region which borders Afghanistan.
Afghan officials say fugitive guerrillas have intensified attacks inside Afghanistan in recent months. More than 550 people have been killed in violence since early August, mostly in southern and eastern areas bordering Pakistan.
Al Qaida mastermind Osama bin Laden, accused of coordinating the September 11, 2001 attacks on the US, could be hiding along the porous Afghan-Pakistan frontier, American and Pakistani military officials say.
Pakistani foreign minister Khursheed Mehmood Kasuri said today that Pakistan was extending full cooperation to the US in the hunt for the world’s most wanted man.
“Where he is hiding is the $25 million question,” he told reporters in Warsaw, referring to Washington’s reward for information that leads to the capture of bin Laden.
“There is a feeling he is hiding somewhere (near the) Afghan-Pakistani border. There is full cooperation between us and the US in all operations,” he added. The US military has announced it will launch a spring offensive against Islamic rebels in Afghanistan in what could be part of a concerted effort to find bin Laden.
Pakistan has said it would not allow American forces on to its territory during the search, despite a US newspaper report in January that US troops would cross into Pakistan as part of the operation.
A Pakistani journalist detained in December while helping two French reporters was formally charged today after a probe into allegations he hired local Pashtun tribesmen to act as Taliban militants.