| Pakistani and Afghan elders at the Kabul jirga. (Reuters)
Kabul, Aug. 12 (AP): Afghanistan and Pakistan must work together to fight a rise in hate and extremism that has held the two countries back while the rest of the world races forward with economic development, Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf told more than 600 Afghan and Pakistani tribal leaders today.
Musharraf spoke at the closing session of a four-day “peace council” aimed at finding ways to stem the rising bloodshed in Afghanistan and Pakistan’s border region.
He said Pakistan and Afghanistan are confronted with a “particularly dark form” of terrorism and that he had “no doubt” that Taliban militants find support in Pakistan and cross over into Afghanistan.
But he said the two countries, as “true Muslims”, must isolate die-hard militants and “win the hearts and minds” of the people.
“Our societies face a great danger in the shape of fringe groups, a small minority that preaches hate, violence and backwardness.
“These forces are disrupting peace and harmony in our societies, impeding our progress and development and maligning Islam, our noble faith of peace, tolerance and compassion,” he said. “We must rescue our societies from this new danger and work together to effectively defeat the forces of extremism and terrorism.”
Musharraf was greeted by an extended standing ovation as he and Afghan President Hamid Karzai walked into the grand, white tent hosting the meeting, or jirga. The Pakistani President had pulled out of speaking at the opening session on Thursday because of domestic issues, instead sending Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz.
Karzai, who spoke briefly today following a longer address on Thursday, predicted that the jirga would have a “positive result”.
“Afghanistan has confidence in its neighbouring country,” Karzai said. “I’m praying that both countries have peace and prosperity.”
The idea for the jirga was hatched almost a year ago during a White House meeting between US President George W. Bush, Musharraf and Karzai.
The Taliban, ousted by US-led forces in late 2001, have stepped up attacks in the past two years. The violence has killed thousands, raising fears for Afghanistan’s fledgling democracy.
Refuting allegations from some Afghan officials that Pakistan tries to undermine progress in Afghanistan, Musharraf said Pakistan wanted to see a strong, peaceful and stable Afghanistan.
“It is therefore painful for us to hear allegations that we are deliberately causing disturbance or violence in your country. We do not have such a policy and we will never have such a short-sighted and disastrous policy,” he said.
A joint declaration backed by all the participants said that terrorism is a common threat to both countries and that the fight against terrorism should continue to be an integral part of their national policies.