Business must help fight terrorism: Karzai

ISLAMABAD (Reuters) - Terrorism is scaring off investment in Afghanistan and Pakistan, and business communities in both countries must press their governments to eliminate it, Afghan President Hamid Karzai said on Thursday.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai (L) listens to his Pakistani counterpart Pervez Musharraf during a joint news conference in Islamabad December 26, 2007. REUTERS/Faisal Mahmood

Karzai arrived in Islamabad on Wednesday and agreed in talks with his Pakistani counterpart, Pervez Musharraf, that they would boost intelligence cooperation to meet the menace of terrorism that Musharraf said was destroying both countries.

“One major threat to the promotion of business and investment, actually to the growth of both countries, is the question of radicalism and terrorism, because it brings fear,” Karzai told a meeting of the Pakistan-Afghan Business Forum.

“Business is shy, as we all know ... and money is even shyer, even more shy. It runs away when there’s a risk, when there’s a threat, and terrorism is causing that threat,” he said.

Afghanistan is grappling with an intense Taliban insurgency while Pakistani forces are battling pro-Taliban militants in different parts of the northwest, near the Afghan border.

Suicide bombers have been striking more often in both countries, killing many hundreds of people this year.

Relations between the two countries, both important U.S. allies, have at times in recent years virtually broken down over Afghan complaints that Taliban insurgents operate from the Pakistani side of their common border.

But both Karzai and Musharraf appeared to have put resentment behind them when they held a news conference on Wednesday, both hailing ties and vowing to work together to fight terrorism.

Karzai said business had a role to play in fighting terrorism by pressing governments to act.

“It also is very much the responsibility of businesses in both countries to keep raising this concern,” Karzai said.

“Take one step in Pakistan in this direction, we will take a 100 steps with you in this direction.”

Later, Karzai held talks with Pakistani opposition leader Benazir Bhutto, who survived a suicide bomb attack in the city of Karachi in October that killed nearly 150 people.

Bhutto took time out from her campaign for a January 8 election to meet Karzai for talks that included the threat of militancy and religious schools in Pakistan that promote violence.

Bhutto has been speaking out strongly against terrorism in her campaign speeches. She has also criticized some Islamic religious schools, or madrasas, in Pakistan that she said train children as killers.

Afghan officials say some of the suicide bombers attacking in Afghanistan are trained in Pakistani religious schools along the Afghan border.

“The two agreed there is a dire need to contain terrorism,” an official of Bhutto’s party said.

Additional reporting by Sheree Sadar; writing by Robert Birsel; editing by Roger Crabb