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Pakistan reiterates charge against Indian consulates

By B. Muralidhar Reddy

ISLAMABAD Sept. 14. Pakistan has once again alleged that India is using its consulates in Afghanistan for `terrorist activities' inside Pakistan and it has taken its friends in the region and the international community into confidence on the subject.

The Pakistan Interior Minister, Faisal Saleh Hayat, told correspondents at his office that Islamabad had taken up the issue with the Karzai Government in Afghanistan and "cautioned" New Delhi.

He neither named the countries that Pakistan had kept posted about developments on this count nor elaborated on whether it had provided any proof to substantiate its charges.

Alleged anti-Pakistan activities by Indian consulates in Afghanistan, particularly the ones close to the Pakistan border, has been the constant theme of Islamabad since the blast at a Quetta mosque over two months ago that claimed more than 50 lives.

Initially, the Pakistan Prime Minister, Mir Zafarullah Khan Jamali, said the involvement of India in the incident could not be ruled out. However, he went back on the allegation after the local police claimed to have detained activists of a banned sectarian outfit in connection with the tragedy.

The decision of the Karzai administration to permit India to open consulates in Kandahar and Jalalabad has been one of the major irritants between Islamabad and Kabul in recent months. Categorical assurances by Kabul that it would not allow any anti-Pakistan activities from its soil have failed to satisfy Pakistan.

Islamabad is convinced that New Delhi is taking full advantage of its closeness to several functionaries of the Northern Alliance in the Karzai Government and establishing a solid network throughout the length and breadth of the country. As it is, Pakistan is peeved over the loss of the so-called "strategic depth" in Afghanistan after the collapse of the Taliban regime and the Indian "stranglehold" on the country is too much for it to stomach.

Much to the annoyance of the Afghanistan President, Hamid Karzai, senior functionaries of the Pakistan Government have repeatedly been saying that the writ of the present regime is confined to Kabul and warlords ruled the rest of the country.

They believe that India has a much better equation with warlords and hence want the international peace keeping force to be expanded to the whole of Afghanistan.

Mr. Hayat alleged that the Indian intelligence agency, RAW, was engaged in anti-Pakistan activities from Indian consulates in Kandahar, Herat and Jalalabad. "We have taken up the matter with the Afghan administration, and also cautioned the Indian Government on this."

He claimed that the Indian consulates at these places were not working in accordance with diplomatic norms and RAW had set up camps in Afghanistan for launching terrorist operations in Pakistan.

"We have got confirmed information that RAW is carrying out its activities from these consulates; the RAW activities are at a peak at these places."

The Minister reiterated that increased cooperation between anti-terror allies was required to hunt down Osama-bin-Laden and his aides for whom "suspected sanctuaries and time and space" were shrinking with every passing day.

Speaking after signing an agreement for furthering bilateral cooperation against terrorism with his Sri Lankan counterpart, he said that Pakistan was not bothered by recent comments of Al-Qaeda activists against its leadership.

"We are firm in our resolve and we will continue to support the international fight against terrorism."

He told a questioner that the Pak-Afghan border in the tribal region was "wide and inhospitable" and Pakistan needed greater technical assistance from its allies against terrorism.

"This is an ongoing process, the area is so wide and inhospitable it cannot be scoured in a week or even a month. The forces of Pakistan, Afghanistan, and the ISAF should coordinate and make concerted efforts — it would require enormous resources, advanced intelligence gathering and information sharing."

Pakistan and Afghanistan have a 2500-km long border in the treacherous region and "sealing every inch of the border is very difficult," he said.

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