By M. Ziauddin
Dawn, February 16, 2007
LONDON, Feb15: The Afghan President Hamid Karzai appeared to be bending backwards as he tried to avoid making his usual allegations against Pakistan at the joint press conference that he and British Prime Minister Tony Blair addressed here late Wednesday evening.
He seemed determined not to say anything against Pakistan on the British soil and to every question on the subject of cross-border militancy he responded by referring to what he said a sharp decline in such activities since September last and added that things had immensely improved “and I hope they would continue to improve and both Pakistan and Afghanistan would be able to jointly defeat terrorism with the help of friends like the UK and the US”.
He said that increased cooperation with Pakistan was vital to halting Taliban fighters passing through the porous border with Afghanistan.
Mr Blair said that the neighbours must work together to defeat those on “whichever side of the border, trying to create the circumstances of terror, in order to stop progress.”
Contrary to media reports it seemed as if the British prime minister instead of being persuaded by Karzai to intensify pressure on Pakistan over what the latter calls the cross-border militant activities from across the border had got the Afghan president to agree to stop attacking Islamabad and make conciliatory gestures instead.
At the joint press conference Mr Blair was asked about reports that Britain was now thinking of giving up the control of southern Afghanistan to Pakistan.
Mr Blair dismissed the reports as rumours and said that the UK had been asking Pakistan to close down the possibility of any support coming over the border for the Taliban and Al Qaeda in Afghanistan, “because it is our troops who are facing the brunt of the militancy”.
He said Britain was determined to help Afghanistan bring its southern part completely under the control of Kabul.