Afghanistan and Pakistan have been deeply mired in the rise of militancy, extremism and radicalism while the rest of the world races forward with economic development, Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf told more than 600 Afghan and Pakistani tribal leaders yesterday.
Musharraf was speaking at the closing session of a four-day "peace council" aimed at finding ways to stem the rising bloodshed in the border region between Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Musharraf, who spoke in both his Urdu and English, said that while the world is "forging ahead," Pakistan and Afghanistan are confronted with a "particularly dark form" of terrorism fostered by foreign influences.
He said the Talibanization of the countries' border regions have prevented Afghanistan and Pakistan from benefiting from globalization.
"Along with Afghanistan, Pakistan has also witnessed the rise of militancy and violence attacking our society," Musharraf said. "We cannot remain mired in the past."
Musharraf was greeted by an extended standing ovation as he and Afghan President Hamid Karzai walked into the grand white tent where the meeting, or jirga, was held, a possible sign of the tribal members' appreciation for the Pakistani leader's presence.
Musharraf pulled out of speaking at the opening session because of domestic issues, instead sending Pakistani Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz.
At the opening session on Thursday, Karzai spoke passionately of the daily suffering the Afghan people endure as the Taliban attack the government, schools, foreign troops and innocent villagers. He lamented in particular the kidnapping of 23 South Koreans, including 16 women, saying such actions tarnish Afghanistan's image. Twenty-one of the hostages are still alive; two males have been killed.
"It doesn't matter if they kidnap thousands of men; they abducted women!" he said.
Referring to other attacks, he said: "They behead women in the name of the Taliban and Muslims in this country. In Helmand, one woman was nailed to a tree. In Zhari, they cut a woman in half. The same thing is happening in provinces near the Pakistan border."
The idea for the jirga was hatched almost a year ago during a White House meeting between US President George W. Bush, Musharraf and Karzai.
At the opening session, Aziz said that although Taliban militants receive support from the Pakistan side of the border, Afghanistan cannot blame Pakistan for Taliban violence.
The Taliban, ousted by US-led forces in late 2001, have stepped up attacks in the past two years. The violence has killed thousands, raising fears for Afghanistan's fledgling democracy.
US and Afghan officials say Taliban militants enjoy a safe haven in Pakistani border regions, particularly Waziristan, where Washington also fears al-Qaeda is regrouping. Pakistan says it has some 90,000 troops battling militants in the region, and that it is not a terrorist haven.