Afghan president asks Pakistan to fight extremism

Last Updated: Sun, Oct 14, 2012 07:15 hrs

Afghan President Hamid Karzai has written letters to top political and religious leaders in Pakistan, denouncing the Taliban attack on a Pakistani teenager who is promoting girls' education and asking them to help battle extremism in both countries.

Malala Yousufzai, 14, was seriously wounded when a Taliban militant shot her in the head on Oct. 9 on her way home from school. She is widely respected for being an activist for girls' education in the Swat Valley where she lives, and the rest of Pakistan. The shooting set off an international outcry against extremists.

Karzai's office said in a statement issued late Saturday that the president wrote that the attack on Yousufzai indicated that both Afghanistan and Pakistan need to take "coordinated and serious" steps to fight terrorism and extremism. Karzai wrote that he views the shooting as an attack on Afghanistan's girls as well.

"It is a deplorable event that requires serious attention," Karzai wrote.

Those upset about the shooting should not be silenced, he wrote, and both Afghans and Pakistanis need to cooperate and fight with strong resolve against terrorism and extremism so that the "children of Afghanistan and Pakistan" can be saved from oppression.

Karzai has been pushing Islamabad to take more action against militant groups that he says hide out in Pakistan and then cross into Afghanistan to conduct attacks on Afghan officials and security forces and on international forces.

The letters were sent to more than a dozen political and religious leaders, including Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari; Prime Minister Raja Pervaiz Ashraf; Nawaz Sharif, the leader of Pakistan's Muslim League Party; Qazi Hussain Ahmed, leader of the Islamist party Jamaat-e-Islami; Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain, who heads the Pakistan Muslim League-Q; and Imran Khan, a cricket star who leads the Tehreek-e-Insaf party.

Khan has been especially outspoken against U.S. drone attacks. Khan has argued in the past that Islamabad's alliance with Washington is the main reason Pakistan is facing a homegrown Taliban insurgency and that militant activity in Pakistan's tribal areas will dissipate when U.S. troops withdraw from Afghanistan. Earlier this month, Khan led a protest against U.S. drone attacks, saying that as long as they continue, anti-American sentiment in Pakistan could continue to rise.

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