OTTAWA: Stéphane Dion’s musings about how NATO can help stem the flow of terrorists from Pakistan to Afghanistan has sparked a diplomatic rebuke from Pakistan’s chief envoy in Canada, who wants the Liberal Leader to personally clarify his stand.“We are dismayed at the statement of NATO intervention in Pakistan,” High Commissioner Musa Javed Chohan said in an interview.“[We are upset by] the concept of any intervention in Pakistan. …Under no circumstances will we allow any foreign forces to operate on our soil.”
Mr. Chohan was responding to comments attributed to Mr. Dion this week, which the leader’s office has subsequently clarified. Mr. Dion said in Quebec City that “if they [Pakistani leaders] are incapable of doing it themselves, it is something that we could envision with NATO forces how to help Pakistan help us bring peace to Afghanistan.” The remarks were taken by some to suggest Mr. Dion supported sending troops to the nation. Liberal defence critic Denis Coderre later clarified the remarks saying Mr. Dion was simply trying to convey that there needs to be a diplomatic solution in the region.
But Mr. Chohan said diplomacy is already taking place in the country. “The initial statement does more damage than subsequent clarifications, though we do hope that Mr. Dion would come up with a statement that this is exactly what he meant.” Mr. Chohan issued a statement in which he said Mr. Dion shows “a lack of understanding of the ground realities. We have, at the highest level, made it clear that Pakistan will not allow any foreign forces to operate within its territory under any circumstances.
“The sovereignty of the state will not be compromised at any level as the government and people of Pakistan are fully capable of handling their security matters themselves.” Liberal spokespeople pointed reporters to the party’s website yesterday, which blames the Tories for twisting Mr. Dion’s remarks.
“Contrary to the erroneous claim and distortions of Mr. Harper and the Conservatives, in a press conference in Quebec City yesterday the Liberal leader did not propose a military intervention in Pakistan. Mr. Dion obviously did not propose any sort of military intervention. Mr. Dion believes that Canada must focus our diplomatic efforts on Pakistan in order to secure the border with Afghanistan.”
Calgary Conservative MP Jason Kenney called Mr. Dion’s statement reckless. “When you talk about a NATO intervention, you are clearly and explicitly talking about a military intervention. Or perhaps he doesn’t know what NATO is.” NDP defence critic Dawn Black also noted that NATO is a military organization and called on Mr. Dion to retract his “misguided” comments.
“By proposing to send military forces into a nuclear-armed country of 165 million people, Mr. Dion has made a very risky and damaging statement,” she said. Mr. Dion is not the only politician to run into trouble over Pakistan. Several candidates for the Democratic presidential nomination in the United States earned a rebuke from Pakistan’s president, Pervez Musharraf, last week for suggesting that U.S troops should join the Pakistan army in hunting down al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden. “Any entry by the United States or coalition forces into Pakistan’s tribal areas would be resisted as a breach of Pakistan’s sovereignty,” Mr. Musharraf told a Chinese newspaper.-SANA