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Tuesday, 27 November, 2001, 12:45 GMT
Pakistan's fear of exclusion
Street scene in Rawalpindi
Many Pakistanis are sceptical about an Afghan deal
Jill McGivering

As talks on the future of Afghanistan get under way in Bonn, Pakistan already seems uneasy about its own lack of involvement and the dominance of the Northern Alliance.

Afghanistan's neighbours will be crucial to any chance of peace - and Pakistan has good reason to want stability in the war-torn country.

The Northern Alliance should understand that it is not very easy to control all Afghanistan. If the Pashtuns are unhappy, the country will not be quiet

Bonn delegate Sayed Ishaq Guillani
Years of conflict have brought Pakistan a huge refugee problem, putting great strain on resources.

The Khyber Teaching Hospital in Peshawar is supposed to serve the local Pakistani community, but Afghan refugees have swelled the numbers and now some patients must share two to a bed.

Professor Nadeem Khawar, a consultant paediatrician, said: "Obviously it has a profound effect on our resources.

"We were already constrained. These days half of the children who arrive are Afghan refugees."


That burden is one of many reasons Pakistan wants peace in Afghanistan.

Many here are sceptical that the Northern Alliance will agree to share power after making so many military gains.

The UN deputy special representative to Afghanistan, Francesc Vendrell, insists they will.

Professor Nadeem Khawar
Professor Khawar: Resources are stretched by the refugee problem
"To say they are keen to have a new structure would be exaggerated but they understand the advantage they would have with a new structure," he said.

"I think they realise that although the international community has said that they are there for the long haul, they had better grab this opportunity and not leave it too late."

Hostility towards the Northern Alliance runs deep in Pakistan, especially among religious extremists and ethnic Pashtuns who have close ties with the Taleban.


The Pakistani Government wanted moderate Taleban included in talks - but the Northern Alliance successfully blocked that.

Marianna Baabar, diplomatic editor of the newspaper The News, said the move disappointed Pakistan.

"The Pashtuns that are in there will be people who have stayed away from Afghanistan during the Taleban era and who have been doing nothing inside Afghanistan," she said.

Sayed Ishaq Guillani is one of those Pashtun delegates.

Sayed Ishaq Guillani
Sayed Ishaq Guillani says the Pashtun voice must be heard
He says the Northern Alliance must compromise with the Pashtuns to end the civil war.

"The Northern Alliance should understand that it is not very easy to control all Afghanistan.

"Afghanistan is a big country. They should understand that if the Pashtuns are unhappy, the country will be not be quiet."

There is also a deep-seated scepticism about the West and the United States in particular.

Many Pakistanis say the international community was all too eager to ask for help when it needed it, but is now much less interested in Pakistan's needs.

On the streets of Rawalpindi, near Islamabad, people expressed the concern that their country was being sidelined.

One woman said: "Pakistan has played a pretty significant role in the whole thing so now it should be involved in whatever is happening and whatever decisions are made about Afghanistan."

Pakistan took a major political risk in abandoning the Taleban. Now it is suspicious that if Afghanistan collapses back into chaos, it may be left to bear the consequences on its own.

The BBC's Jill McGivering
"People feel the west came running to Pakistan when it needed help"
See also:

26 Nov 01 | South Asia
Analysis: Tribal voices 'left unheard'
25 Nov 01 | South Asia
Rabbani 'still Afghan president'
21 Nov 01 | South Asia
US hopeful before Afghan talks
22 Nov 01 | South Asia
Afghan women to attend talks
20 Nov 01 | South Asia
Q&A: What will Afghan talks produce?
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