‘Failure is not an option’ in Pakistan’s battle against terrorism, President Asif Ali Zardari said in an op-ed piece published in Wednesday’s Wall Street Journal.
‘This is an existential battle. If we lose, so too will the world. Failure is not an option,’ the president said a day after a Mumbai-style attack on members of Sri Lanka’s cricket team in Lahore killed eight people including six Pakistani policemen and two civilians.
Tuesday’s attack, said Zardari, ‘shows once again the evil we are confronting.’ Speaking for his government, Zardari also said ‘we have not and will not negotiate with extremist Taliban and terrorists,’ adding that the recently struck deal in the troubled Swat Valley was not with the Taliban.
‘The clerics with whom we have engaged are not Taliban,’ he said, adding that Pakistan had made clear to the clerics ‘that it is their responsibility to rein in and neutralize Taliban and other insurgents’ in their area.
Zardari warned, however, that ‘our security forces will act accordingly’ if the Swat Valley authorities were unable to control the insurgents.
He also said the government would not tolerate the closure of any girl’s schools in Swat Valley, insisting that the education of young women is mandatory.
‘This is not an example of the government condoning or capitulating to extremism -- quite the opposite,’ he said in response to international criticism that the women of Swat Valley were being sacrificed for the sake of regional security.
The president praised the meeting last week in Washington of US, Pakistani and Afghanistan top officials, calling it ‘a crucial step forward in the war on terrorism and fanaticism in South and Central Asia,’ and in relations between the two neighbors.
‘By reaching agreement, we have overcome the past legacy of distrust that has characterized Pakistani-Afghan relations for decades and has complicated strategic planning and common goals.’ Zardari said such ‘straight talk’ was essential if the three countries wanted to prevail against terrorism,’Pakistan’s fight against terrorism is relentless,’ he said.
He recalled that his wife and former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto – ‘the greatest champion of democracy in my country’ -- was assassinated in December 2007 while ‘fighting for the values of liberty.’