Sunday, 14 June 2009

London, June 14: Pakistan's cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan has expressed fear that the ongoing military operation against the Taliban in Swat could backfire and fuel extremism and terror attacks in the country.

'Pakistan is on a suicidal course,' said Khan, the chairman of the Pakistan Tehreek Insaf (PTI) party was quoted by Online news agency Sunday.

He criticised the Pakistani government for luanching an all-out war against the Taliban in the northwest on the advice of the United States.

Talking to the Sunday Times, Khan pointed out that the launch of the operation coincided with President Asif Ali Zardari's visit to Washington in late April, after which the US agreed a five-year deal worth dollar 1.5 billion (pound 910m) a year.

'Was this operation to save the people of Swat or to get dollars from the Americans?' he asked.

'Only 10 days earlier, Parliament had passed a resolution endorsing a peace deal in Swat with the Taliban. Why was there no discussion? A military operation should have been the last resort.'

'I'm not pro-Taliban,' he said. 'But my point is: shouldn't we have looked at other options? How do you justify using heavy artillery, helicopter gunships and F-16 fighter-jets in civilian areas? Who in the world does this? Meanwhile all the top Taliban leadership have escaped. It's so inhuman, what they have done; it will backfire.'

His comments came a day after Zardari pledged to continued the military operation against the Taliban until the end.

In a late-night TV address to the nation, Zardari said: 'We are fighting a war for our sovereignty...We will continue this war until the end, and we will win it at any cost.'

'We are waging war against those suspected extremists who want to impose their agenda on us through use of force', the president asserted, adding 'the so-called Taliban are actually against the dissemination of knowledge and pursuit of education as they have torn down many schools and colleges'.

The former cricket captain insisted that Pakistan would never contain extremism as long as American troops remained across the border in Afghanistan. 'Hatred of America is much more than of the Taliban,' he said.

'How do we look after these refugees?' Khan asked. 'Already you see the anger. This is a very sorry chapter in Pakistan's history. 'I have never been so depressed in my life,' he added.