Pakistan hits back at Karzai for provocative remarks

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{image-pakistan flag_16062008.jpg}Islamabad, Jun 16: Pakistan has strongly reacted to Afghan President Hamid Karzai's threat to send troops on its soil to kill Taliban militants.

''We neither interfere in other countries' internal affairs nor will we allow anyone to interfere in ours,'' Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani told a TV channel last night. Reiterating that the country would not tolerate any violation of its sovereignty, Mr Gilani said, ''Such statements will not help in the normalisation of relations between the two countries and will hurt the sentiments of the people on both sides of the border.'' Stressing that Pakistan wanted friendly ties with Afghanistan, he said such statements would harm the relations between the two countries.

Afghan ambassador to Pakistan Anwar Anwarzai was summoned to foreign office today and a strong protest was lodged over Karzai's statement. However, the foreign ministry did not give further details.

''It is regrettable that such a statement was made at a time when the two sides had agreed to close the ranks in the fight against terrorism,'' Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mehmud Qureshi said and added that Pakistan shall defend its territorial sovereignty.

''The only way to win the war against terrorism and extremism is by showing full respect to the territorial sovereignty and non interference in each other, internal affairs, and since the two countries were faced with a common enemy, it was all the more necessary that Afghanistan refrained from making irresponsible threatening statements, he added.

The Foreign Office also issued a strong statement, saying security forces in Afghanistan could take any action against militants in their country but not on Pakistani territory.

''Any statement that negated this basic principle and did not respect Pakistan' s territorial sovereignty will not help in the war on terrorism and will be counterproductive. Pakistan will defend its territorial sovereignty,'' the Dawn quoted Foreign Office spokesman Mohammad Sadiq as saying.

He hoped that Mr Karzai's remarks would not reignite a blame game by Afghanistan.

The spokesman said the Afghan national army, the UN-mandated ISAF and the US-led forces could take whatever action they wanted against terrorists on the Afghan side.

''However, on the Pakistani side, only Pakistani troops can take action,'' he added.

Mr Karzai had said yesterday at a press conference on the grounds of his fortified presidential palace that Afghanistan had the right to self-defence. ''As militants cross over from Pakistan to come and kill Afghan and coalition troops, it exactly gives us the right to do the same,'' he added.

Mr Karzai warned Pakistan-based Taliban leader Baitullah Mehsud that Afghan forces would target him on his home turf. ''Baitullah Mehsud should know that we will go after him now and hit him in his house,'' he said.


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