WASHINGTON — Pakistani President Mohammed Zia ul Haq says the Soviet Union and its Afghan ally have suffered up to 70,000 casualties in nearly six years of war in Afghanistan and predicted Moscow would eventually conclude “there is no military solution,” The Washington Post reported today.

In an interview with the newspaper Monday, Zia also said he would not renege on his pledge to lift martial law by the end of the year.

The Pakistani leader, who is in New York for United Nations anniversary celebrations, also described relations with Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi as generally friendly but said he was worried that India might have developed “some nuclear devices for military use.”

Zia, saying “we have very close eyes” on Afghanistan, told the Post there now were about 150,000 Soviet troops in the country, well above the U.S. estimate of 115,000 to 120,000 men.

He said from 60,000 to 70,000 Soviet and Afghan government troops have been killed, wounded or fallen ill since the Soviets invaded the country in December 1979 to prop up a Marxist government.

  1. Intelligence earlier this year estimated Soviet casualties at about 9,000 dead and 16,000 wounded a tally that came before increased fighting from four Soviet offensives.

Zia said there were no reliable casualty figures for antigovernment rebels.

Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev is willing to let the military try to conquer Afghanistan, but is conscious of the propaganda loss the Soviet Union has taken throughout the world because of the invasion, said Zia, who met Gorbachey in Moscow in March.

“One day the Soviet Union will come to the conclusion that there is no military solution,” and thus a diplomatic solution must be arranged, he told the Post.

The Pakistani leader said November’s summit in Geneva, Switzerland between Gorbachev and President Reagan could have “tremendous” positive effect if Reagan tells Gorbachev the Soviets must withdraw but can leave behind a “friendly” and “nonaligned” Afghanistan where there would be no interference from other nations, the Post said.

Zia, who is to meet Gandhi Wednesday in New York, also said an Indian plutonium producing breeder reactor, which started up over the weekend, “must create a lot of fear in the region.”


He also said that Benazir Bhutto, a leading figure of the opposition Pakistan People’s Party who has been under house arrest since late August, was free to leave the country and probably would return to France by Nov. 6. She had returned to Pakistan from France to attend her brother’s funeral.

Article extracted from this publication >>  October 25, 1985