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Afghans in militant camps should return: Pak PM

By Staff
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Google Oneindia News

Brussels, Jan 30: Pakistan said today Kabul should take back millions of refugees from huge camps NATO sees as havens for militants fighting alliance troops in Afghanistan.

Pakistani Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz, in Brussels to meet the 26 NATO countries that have 32,000 troops deployed in Afghanistan, said Islamabad wanted to work with the alliance to realise this aim.

''We want to engage with everybody, including NATO, and work with them to remove the scourge of terrorism and improve security,'' he told sources. ''We certainly don't want to be used as a sanctuary or training ground.'' Aziz said 80,000 Pakistani troops were assigned to securing the Afghan border and his army had lost more soldiers battling militants than NATO forces in Afghanistan.

''We have repeatedly said that on the other side of the border more troops and security apparatus is needed so that if somebody tries to cross over they are dealt with,'' he said.

''This would help reduce security risks, even for Pakistan.'' Pakistan was the Taliban's main backer until the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks on US cities. It denies backing the group now.

Tomorrow, NATO Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer is expected to raise with Aziz concerns that the Taliban have been directing operations from the Pakistani city of Quetta, despite Pakistan's role as a key ally in the US-led war on terrorism.

Aziz repeated Pakistani denials of a statement by a captured Taliban spokesman who said Taliban leader Mullah Omar was living in Quetta, protected by Pakistani military intelligence.

''Pakistan does not entertain any such people in our territory,'' he said.

''WE WANT THESE CAMPS TO GO''

However, he added that 600,000 Afghans lived in and around Quetta, some of the 3 million Afghan refugees still living in Pakistan whom Islamabad would like to see go home.

''If these camps exist then there will be a reason for people to come and find a safe haven there. We want these camps to go.

We certainly do not encourage anyone to come to Pakistan to plan activities that are prejudicial to Afghanistan's security.'' NATO sees the huge refugee camps in Pakistan as breeding grounds for militants who attack NATO troops in Afghanistan.

Kabul and Islamabad have been in talks about closing them but the UN refugee agency warned last year that the economic situation for returnees was so dire, Afghanistan was not in a position to take more back.

NATO is also expected to raise with Aziz concerns about increased infiltration from the North Waziristan border region since Pakistan reached a deal with tribal leaders in September.

The U.S. military says infiltration has since soared, but Aziz rejected this. ''We do not accept that,'' he said. ''That treaty requires a total cessation of cross-border movement.'' NATO officials said the alliance was keen to involve Pakistan more to resolve the Afghan problem, but Aziz said more needed to be done on the Afghan side to improve the lives of ordinary Afghans and halt the production and traffic of drugs.

''All stakeholders, Pakistan being one of them, need to work together ... but we believe the root causes and the solution lie in Afghanistan,'' he said.

Reuters

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