LONDON (Reuters) - Pakistan’s top diplomat in Britain has criticized the new U.S. strategy on Afghanistan and Pakistan and defended his government’s agreement to impose Islamic law in the northwestern Swat valley.
Wajid Shamsul Hasan, Pakistan’s High Commissioner (ambassador) in London, said his personal view was that U.S. President Barack Obama’s plan for fighting Taliban insurgents in Afghanistan, which broadens the focus to Pakistan, was the “wrong strategy.”
“Pakistan is a semi-developed country and Afghanistan is not at all developed. They have never had any rule of law in their country,” he told Reuters in an interview late on Thursday.
“You can’t club the two countries (together),” he said.
Washington views Pakistan as crucial to its efforts to stabilize Afghanistan, where a Taliban insurgency has intensified. Surging militant violence in nuclear-armed Pakistan has also raised fears about its future.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton accused Pakistan’s government on Wednesday of abdicating to the Taliban by agreeing to impose Islamic law in the Swat valley and said the country now posed a “mortal threat” to the world.
Hasan said Clinton was “rather overstretching the issue.”
“We will not allow Pakistani territory to be abdicated to anybody. We will fight for every inch ... and hopefully when President Zardari goes to the United States he will take it up with Hillary Clinton because we need your (U.S.) assistance,” he said.
Pakistan’s President Asif Ali Zardari is due to discuss the new strategy with Obama and Afghan President Hamid Karzai in Washington on May 6-7.
BACK TO NORMAL
Hasan said the Swat pact -- which Zardari agreed to as part of a deal to end Taliban violence -- simply followed the traditional system of justice in the area and denied it instituted Islamic law.
“Some of these Taliban when they went on the rampage they destroyed girls’ schools and they stopped women from working, which is now not the case after the agreement. Things have become normal. Girls are going to school, women are back to work,” he said.
Pakistan had to tackle economic deprivation that fostered dissatisfaction, he said, saying it was encouraging that international donors last week pledged $5 billion in aid to Pakistan. Nevertheless, he said Pakistan needed more money.
“The best course would be to have Marshall plans for both Afghanistan and Pakistan so that Pakistan could be rebuilt,” he said, referring to the U.S. post-World War Two plan for Europe.
Hasan has been in the news in Britain in the last few weeks after police arrested 12 people, including 10 Pakistani nationals, in what British Prime Minister Gordon Brown said at the time was an operation against a “very big terrorist plot.”
Police later released all of the men, although 11 were handed over to immigration officials and face deportation on national security grounds. They are appealing.
Responding to British demands that Pakistan do more to combat terrorism, Hasan told the BBC soon after the arrests that it was the British who had to do more on student visas.
He told Reuters he believed there was an “element of over-reaction” in the police operation and said British authorities should look into fictitious educational establishments that admit overseas students.
Reporting by Adrian Croft; Editing by Janet Lawrence
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