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Canada considering end to ban on military exports to Pakistan

From Wednesday's Globe and Mail

Ottawa — Pakistan has asked Canada to lift an 11-year ban on military exports to the South Asian country as it steps up a fight at home against the Taliban, Defence Minister Peter MacKay said yesterday.

“We're contemplating that,” Mr. MacKay said in an interview after meeting Pakistan's top leaders in Islamabad. “Clearly, disengagement did not work.”

Canada prohibited military exports to Pakistan in May, 1998, after the country's first nuclear weapons test.

Mr. MacKay also said that he and Pakistani defence officials agreed to resume a co-operation deal, the Military Training Assistance Program. This will eventually allow Islamabad's senior military officers access to Canadian military training courses.

Pakistan appears finally to have steeled itself for a sustained battle against Taliban forces in its Swat Valley and other areas, the defence minister said.

A heavy military offensive aimed at expelling Taliban forces from a stronghold in the Swat has forced an estimated 1.5 million people from their homes. But Mr. MacKay said Pakistan did not request the help of the Canadian Forces, disaster assistance response team, known as DART.

A spokesman for Pakistan's foreign ministry, Abdul Basit, said on Monday that his country would ask for the DART, which is designed to swoop into places that have suffered major disasters to provide medical aid and purify water.

Mr. MacKay said that although Mr. Basit was in many of his meetings with Pakistani leaders, no one asked for the disaster team; he said he suspects that is because the most pressing need is for housing, not water.

He said he got a sense that Pakistan's public and leaders are rallying behind a sustained effort to fight the Taliban inside the country – noting that he arrived in Islamabad at 4 a.m. to see a newspaper headline that read: “The Nation Speaks with One Voice: Crush Them.”

Pakistan has launched operations to fight Taliban insurgents before, but it has repeatedly returned to a more ambivalent stand, backing away in key areas and seeking to make internal peace deals with insurgents and pro-Taliban tribal leaders.

Canada has pledged $5-million in aid for Swat refugees, on top of a recent $3.5-million – but Pakistani legislators recently asked western nations for a far larger, “Marshall Plan” type of aid package.

Naela Chohan, Pakistan's deputy high commissioner in Canada, said it's only fair that Ottawa lift the ban on military exports given that in 2003, it ended a ban on military exports to India that was imposed in response to nuclear weapons testing.

Ms. Chohan said it was “discriminatory” to maintain the ban on Pakistan-bound exports

The prohibition stayed in place during president Pervez Musharraf's term in office. The former military man, who came to power in a 1999 coup, resigned in 2008.

Ms. Chohan said Pakistan needs help to strength its defence forces to fight terrorism.

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