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Pakistan Worried about Assistance to Afghan Opposition - 2001-09-25


Pakistan is expressing concern about the impact of military assistance from other countries to opposition forces in Afghanistan. Russian leaders say they are ready to arm opponents of Afghanistan's ruling Taleban movement, which is believed to be sheltering alleged terrorist Osama bin Laden.

Members of the anti-Taleban Northern Alliance based in northern Afghanistan have offered to help the United States if it decides to attack alleged terrorist targets in Taleban-controlled areas. On Monday, the United States reportedly welcomed a decision by Russian President Vladimir Putin that his country would expand its military assistance to the Afghan opposition.

Pakistan's Foreign Minister Abdus Sattar told a news conference that these reports have worried his government. "We fear that any such decision on the part of foreign powers to give assistance to one side or the other in Afghanistan is a recipe for great suffering for the people of Afghanistan," he said.

Mr. Sattar did not specifically mention Russia's reported support for the opposition Northern Alliance but he did say any foreign intervention in Afghanistan should take into account the fact that Afghans have never accepted a government imposed on them against their wishes. "I think it is very important for the world at large to understand Afghanistan," he said. "The people of Afghanistan are fiercely protective of their independence. They have never acquiesced in a proxy government imposed upon them from the outside. And this factor should be born in mind also for the future. Those who intervened in Afghanistan and tried to plant their own preferred leaders on Afghanistan paid a very high price for that blunder."

Pakistan has emerged as the critical player in the U.S. led anti-terrorism effort because it borders Afghanistan and because of its close ties with the ruling Taleban movement. Pakistan leader General Pervez Musharraf has promised "full support" for the U.S. campaign to get Osama bin Laden, who is reported to be hiding in Taleban-controlled areas. However, Pakistan does not want to see a hostile government installed in Kabul, particularly the Northern Alliance that accuses Islamabad of supporting the Taleban military campaign in Afghanistan.

A spokesman for the Afghan opposition, Abdullah Abdullah, told VOA that their offer of assistance to the United States is meant to rid Afghanistan of what he calls terrorist forces. "We have been in the forefront of struggle against terrorism and we have been a victim of terrorist actions," he said. "And recently we lost one of our heroes in a terrorist action. So there is no question of relying or not relying on us. It is Taleban which has provided this opportunity for the terrorist networks in Afghanistan not only to be able to terrorize our nation but also to commit criminal acts against the people all over the world."

Mr. Abdullah was referring to the assassination of a main leader of Afghan opposition forces, Ahmad Shah Masood, earlier this month. The opposition blamed the Taleban and Osama bin Laden for masterminding the killing.

Analysts say the loss of the charismatic opposition leader will complicate any effort to use the opposition as a force against the Taleban, which controls most of the war-shattered country.