Taliban cannot override Pakistani state—Haqqani Tells CNN
WASHINGTON, May 9 (APP): Pakistan’s ambassador to the United States Husain Haqqani has said the Taliban are limited geographically and do not have the ability to overrun the state as he told the American viewers in a news channel interview that economic development and bolstering Islamabad’s counterinsurgency capability can effectively stem the Talibanization.
The envoy called for understanding the Taliban challenges in the right perspective and not to confuse the situation obtaining in some northwestern areas with the ability of the state to protect its strategic assets.
In an interview with the CNN, during which he also responded to emailed questions from American viewers, Haqqani ruled out the possibility of Pakistan’s nuclear assets falling into the hand of extremists.
Anybody having apprehensions in this respect should get things clarified by having a proper understanding of the situation.
“They should ask the United States intelligence services that question, and whenever that question has been asked, American intelligence and U.S military have always said that they are satisfied with the command and control system of Pakistan.”
Islamabad, he said, has a strong nuclear command and control system in place to take care of these assets.
“We tested our nuclear weapons in 1998. It has been eleven years. No nuclear materials have been leaked to any terrorist or militant group ever. And as long as Pakistan has a strong government and a strong military, there is no question whatsoever (of extremists getting access to nuclear weapons).”
He elaborated that when the Taliban capture a particular area their media images make it seem as if the Taliban are about to override a country with a million strong army.
“Americans are used to understanding wars like the II World War when you defeated Japan and the Japanese surrendered and your forces took over the country. They don’t always understand the guerilla war in which people can come out of caves, hit and run a few places, shoot up a few people, blow up others but they certainly do not have the ability to take over the Pakistani state.”
The envoy said apparently there are several thousand Taliban militants and in this context pointed out the importance of strengthening Pakistani ability to enforce and maintain security in the restive areas.
“They (militants) come out every now and then, they take some region, some village. And of course, Pakistan does not have the capacity to have reinforced military posts or police stations in every village of a country of 160 million people. Therefore, it is very easy for them to put on a show every now and then but they are not about to overrun the entire country. They are limited geographically, and when the military goes back, it fights them back.”
Haqqani said the situation in the troubled areas is not very different form what it was in Iraq in the beginning of the war when terrorists were able to hit and run but they were never able to take over Baghdad. “What Pakistan needs is the ability not only to defeat the terrorists but also to hold on to territory and make sure that the number of Taliban dwindles down and the people who join the ranks of the Taliban are fewer and fewer.”
The entire Pakistani government including its armed forces, is committed to defeat militancy, he stated.
“No one in the Pakistani army wants Pakistan to be Talibanized. They do not want Pakistan’s young women not to ever go to school. So that is not the issue here.”
He explained that when Musharraf ruled the country, he combined the offices of president and the army chief and his actions were also attributed to the military as an institution but that has changed now.
“The important thing to understand is that the Taliban derive their support from disenchantment with the United States, Westernization and globalization and the feeling of helplessness and hopelessness that the poor of Pakistan in certain areas have. If we can drain that swamp of poverty, we can deprive the Taliban of the recruits.”