Taliban could spread into India, Persian Gulf, says Pakistan


Islamabad : Pakistan has warned that the Taliban could spread beyond its borders to neighbouring India and as far as the Persian Gulf, unless it receives international aid to help battle militancy on its soil, the Online news agency reported Monday.

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Pakistan would need up to $2.5 billion in emergency aid and for long-term reconstruction of the Swat Valley and the neighbouring region, once the fighting between government troops and militants, now in its final stage, ended, Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi said in an interview with the Financial Times.

Pakistan has earmarked Rs.50 billion ($625 million) in its annual budget to help the displaced people in Swat.

Western diplomats have warned that a failure to quickly help the victims of Swat could provoke unrest in parts of the country.

“They (Islamic militants) have a global agenda, they have a regional agenda (and) they are not confined to Pakistan. They could go to the (Persian) Gulf, they could go to India, they can go anywhere,” Qureshi said. “There is a collective interest and there has to be a collective realisation that this is not Pakistan’s problem. It’s a larger problem.”

The US has begun lobbying the governments of oil-rich countries of the Gulf Co-operation Council (GCC) to be more generous in helping Pakistan deal with the fallout of the offensive in the Swat Valley.

The GCC share close business and military ties with Pakistan and is home to a large expatriate Pakistani community.

Qureshi said the US efforts for GCC aid were only meant to “complement” Pakistan’s own recent contacts with the GCC countries for help. “They (the US) are trying to help in whatever way they can, but Pakistan has independent relations (with the GCC),” he added.

A GCC diplomat in Islamabad told the Financial Times that Pakistan needed to “revive closer relations” with the region “which have been neglected in the war on terror”.

“Pakistan has an important role in our region but that role has to be built up very slowly through further effort,” the diplomat said.

Pakistan has announced a budget at the weekend for the next financial year aimed at reviving a moribund economy battered by the global economic crisis and the Taliban insurgency.

The budget was partly driven by conditions sought by the International Monetary Fund (IMF), which agreed a $7.6 billion loan late last year, thereby preventing a default on foreign debt payments.

“We are facing huge expenditures to get rid of militancy,” said Hina Rabbani Khar, minister of state for finance in her budget speech. “Our armed forces are in the forefront in the war against terrorism and militancy. Our western border is facing the most uncertain situation.”

Defence spending rose by a little more than 15 percent, partly because of military campaigns against the Taliban. In the financial year ending this month, economic growth is expected to slide to two percent.

The government expects the economy to grow by 3.3 percent next year. Development spending is expected to rise by more than 17 percent to Rs.646 billion ($8 billion) in the next financial year.