Pakistani Islamic leaders demand US ambassador's expulsion over Kashmir infiltration remarks
24 January 2003
The Hindustan Times
Islamabad: Pakistani Islamic leaders demanded that US Ambassador Nancy Powell be expelled after she said Pakistan must keep militants from infiltrating into Jammu and Kashmir.Pakistan officials also objected on Friday, but said she wouldn't be asked to leave. The Foreign Ministry did summon her, underscoring the sensitivity over perceived US slights to a key ally in the US-led global campaign against terrorism. Islamic leaders of a coalition of religious parties that govern strategic Pakistani provinces bordering Afghanistan expressed outrage at the envoy's remarks. '(The) American ambassador has no right to interfere in the internal affairs of Pakistan, and she must be asked by Pakistan government to leave,' said Abdul Ghafoor Haideri, secretary general of a pro-Taliban Islamic group, Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam. Haideri said Powell's statement shows 'America is not our friend.' Powell made her remarks on Thursday in a speech to an American Business Council luncheon in Karachi. 'Pakistan must ensure its pledges are implemented to prevent infiltration across the Line of Control and end the use of Pakistan as a platform for terrorism,' Powell said, according to a transcript given to reporters by US officials. In Washington, State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said Powell was echoing remarks by Pakistan President General Pervez Musharraf in January 2002 when he said that Pakistan would not allow its territory to be used for any terrorist activity anywhere in the world. 'And that has been a pledge that we've taken seriously and something we've continue to work with Pakistan on.' Powell is a career diplomat who arrived in Pakistan a few months ago. She had served previously in Ghana. Ranking Foreign Ministry official Aneesunddin Ahmed told Powell that Pakistan was doing all it can to stop the border crossings. Pakistan's information minister, Sheikh Rashid Ahmed, questioned the wisdom of her remarks, but said she had a right to say 'whatever she wants.' Powell also said Pakistan has been a staunch ally in the US-led global war on terrorism. However, she said Washington wanted a cease-fire along the border that divides Kashmir between nuclear-armed Pakistan and India. The controversy comes amid outrage among many Pakistanis over new US requirements for Pakistanis in the United States to be fingerprinted and photographed by immigration agents, part of a push to register men from 18 nations believed to be linked to terrorism. Many Pakistanis are also angry over US preparations to attack Iraq, a fellow Muslim nation, over allegations it is hiding weapons of mass destruction. On Friday, the Muslim day of prayer, an experimental religious theatre group staged a short play outside mosques and markets in the country accusing the United States of seeking to capture Iraqi oil resources and establish hegemony over the Middle East.'Bush is the biggest terrorist as he is attacking the Muslim countries to grab their natural resources,' the theatre group, Pattan, said in a news release.