In the first such admission by a Pakistani head of state, President Asif Ali Zardari said militants and extremists were “deliberately created and nurtured” in the country as a policy to achieve “some short-term tactical objectives”.
“Let us be truthful to ourselves and make a candid admission of the realities,” Zardari said.
“The terrorists of today were the heroes of yesteryears until 9/11 occurred,,” Zardari told former senior civil servants at the presidency on Tuesday night. “But these militants and extremists began to haunt the country in the post-9/11 era.
Militants emerged on the national scene and challenged the state not because the civil bureaucracy was weakened and demoralised, but because they were encouraged, the Pakistani president said.
Objective political observers have been repeating for years what Zardari said, but never before has a Pakistani president endorsed such views.
Zardari’s admission came days after he said in an interview that the Pakistani Army would even target militants it had backed in the past for use as a proxy force against India.
Political observers said Zardari’s comments are in line with previous statements made in the past couple of weeks by the Pakistan president.
Defence analyst Ikram Sehgal said that Zardari has been trying to portray himself as the biggest democrat in Pakistan.
“We can see a pattern of statements emerging from the Presidency. Given the rise in political tensions, President Zardari is giving statements that he could later point to as reasons for him being removed,” said Sehgal.
However, other commentators disagree. Well-known security analyst Ayesha Siddiqa said that there was nothing new in what the President had said. “It is an open secret,” she said but added the key point was that the President claimed that the government patronage for militants no longer exists. “I am not saying that it does but what I am saying is that sitting in the public sphere we cannot make such an assertion. I am surprised how he made this claim given that we are unable to properly assess the conduct of the military.”