Taliban and extremists alien to the spirit of Jinnah: Holbrooke

French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner, right, at a press conference with the U.S. special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, Richard Holbrooke, left, in Paris on Sept. 2, 2009. Holbrooke and 26 other international envoys face a touchy task in meetings Wednesday in Paris: how to rescue their costly effort to rebuild Afghanistan, after elections marred by alleged fraud and amid mounting bloodshed.  

There is a growing recognition among the people of Pakistan that the Taliban and other extremists in the country are alien to the spirit of the founder of the country Muhammad Ali Jinnah, special US envoy to Pakistan and Afghanistan, Richard Holbrooke, has said.

“There seems to be a growing recognition that the Taliban and other miscreants, to use the Pakistanis’ own word for this, are a threat to the entire country and are alien to the spirit of Muhammad Ali Jinnah and the founders of Pakistan,” Mr. Holbrooke said at a press conference after the meeting of Friends of Democratic Pakistan at the UN headquarters in New York on Thursday.

“And so we feel — and as Secretary (of State Hillary) Clinton gets ready for her trip to Pakistan, we are shifting our focus towards helping Pakistan with the energy crisis, which is, of course, at the top of the minds of most Pakistanis,” he said.

“We think we’ve come quite a way, but we recognise that Pakistani public opinion on the United States is still surprisingly low given the tremendous effort the United States is making to lead in the international coalition in support of Pakistan,” he said.

Observing that Pakistan and Afghanistan are interconnected in a way where progress in one requires progress in the other, Mr. Holbrooke said: “At the same time, Pakistan is a huge and important country in its own right with many other issues — the world’s second largest Muslim nation, Karachi the world’s largest Muslim city, less — four to eight hours of electricity a day. These are serious problems, and they contribute to instability“.

If Afghanistan were not a problem, if there was complete peace and harmony in Afghanistan, we would still be focusing heavily on helping Pakistan and its people, he insisted.

Recapping the events of the year, Mr. Holbrooke said: “We think we’ve come a long way, and I think that the government of Pakistan would agree with that. In March, we weathered a major — “we” — I should be more specific.

In March, Pakistan weathered a major political confrontation between the two leading political figures. Now they are working more closely together. There’s a coalition government in the Punjab. The chief justice is back“.

Then there was the Swat affair, he said. “The army rallied and pushed them out of most of Swat. There was a huge refugee flow of 2.5 million people.

Ninety per cent of the Swat refugees have gone home, a lesser number in Bajaur, and Mohmand district agencies, but still, over 70 per cent. And the army has — now has the backing of the Pakistani people,” Mr. Holbrooke said.

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