November 27, 2006 3:34:26 am
Former Pakistan Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto had expressed her helplessness to crackdown on Taliban and fundamentalists in her country when she was told that her Government’s backing to them was spoiling Islamabad’s relations with Tehran, a top Iranian leader has said.
“She told me that as a woman she was unable to assert herself because she knew what they thought of women. Besides, they had a vast presence in the madrasas, and for that reason she was unable to control them,” former Iranian President Hashmir Rafsanjani told reporters. Rajsanjani, who headed the Expediency Council — a consultative body to the Iran’s supreme leader, said Afghanistan was the single biggest cause of differences between Pakistan and Iran, and the two Governments seemed to have distanced themselves.
“This is regrettable because, if handled carefully, Afghanistan had the potential to strengthen the friendship between Pakistan and Iran since both had a stake in that country’s stability,” he was quoted as saying by Pakistani daily Dawn.
He was replying to question whether Pakistan’s American connections spoiled the relations between Iran and Pakistan. Rajsanjani said Pakistan’s backing for Taliban caused the differences. Reversal of Pakistan’s policy toward the Taliban had become inevitable after 9/11, he said, adding “you could have done this without bringing the Americans in”.
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Nevertheless, Pakistan’s cooperation with the US in the war on terror had served to weaken Islamabad’s relations with Tehran, he added.
Rafsanjani said Iran believed its relations with Pakistan were more important than Tehran’s ties with Kabul. Even now the two countries had a stake in Afghanistan, since lawlessness in that country had led to a phenomenal increase in poppy cultivation and the consequent increase in drug trade, he said.
“When I was President, I was not satisfied with the level of our bilateral relations, even though the Taliban were not there on the scene. I was keen on the pipeline project materialising, and we used to call it ‘peaceline’.” He attacked the United States for pursuing policies that were “destabilising” the entire Middle East and said Washington’s policies in Afghanistan and Iran had failed, and terrorism had spread its tentacles to Somalia.
“Now the entire region from Afghanistan to Lebanon was in turmoil,” he said. The US, he said, wanted to change the Middle East’s map, but the events in Iraq and Afghanistan “and what happened last July-August in Lebanon had demonstrated clearly that America had failed in its aim”. He feared that the US would leave behind enormous problems in the Middle East, because the Americans “have proved themselves to be more destructive than the Taliban”.
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