Tonight I’m at the Woodrow Wilson School listening to Shah Mahmood Qureshi, Pakistan’s minister of foreign affairs. The audience was allowed to used only one entrance to the building and we all had to go through metal detectors; laptops were taken out of bags and turned on.
Anne Marie Slaughter, President of the Wilson School, introduced the US Ambassador to Pakistan, who in turn introduced minister Qureshi. He’s started his lecture talking about Mrs Bhutto’s assasination last year on December 27.
The lecture is on “Transition in Pakistan and Its Impact on Modern Terrorism.” Mr Quereshi stated that Pakistan’s new government has had to rebuild democratic institutions after the military regime. He then moved on to the subject of terrorism, which was a legacy from the Afghani-Russia war.
“No country [i.e., Pakistan] has paid a higher price from that war:” Terrorism, the heroin trade, and the influx of Afghani immigrants, of which three million still live in Pakistan. He claims there was no terrorism in the border area prior to 2001.
Some of the most prominent terrorists, including Khalid Sheik Mohammed, have been held by Pakistani authorities.
“Pakistan is a victim of terrorism” and he is bewildered that many in the US don’t understand that.
“Force is an important ingredient on fighting any insurgency, but it’s not the only ingredient… Force must be complemented by political, economic, and social elements.”
The Pakistani public sees US missions into Pakistan (even when in hot pursuit) as invasions of its sovereignty.
Tribal areas, incompetence and corruption of the Afghan government. Pakistan is doing its share of stabilizing relations with Afghanistan. “The capacity of both Pakistan & Afghanistan must be upgraded.” “There should be a matching response on the Afghan side.”
“How is a democratic Pakistan better than a totalitarian Pakistan in the war on terror?”
“A democratic system is more responsive to the real needs of people. Democracies are better at retaining and discharging the people’s trust. Only a democratic system can cure the problems Pakistan faces.”
A strong economy is a key to winning the war on terror.
Questions, mostlly asked by Pakistani Princeton students,
1. Why isn’t the Pakistani government fighting the war for hearts and minds on the tribal areas?
A: By a comprehensive strategy, and telling the people why we are fighting for us, how it’s affecting our economy, and how the interpretation of Islam is being forced upon us.
2. Very lengthy question on military budget.
A: That’s why we are rethinking our strategy and allocating more resources to the tribal area so the people are not easy prey to the tribal area.
3. Since you acknowledge that both the US have a common enemy in that area, would you support joint military action?
We feel most have originated in Afghanistan and they should concentrate in Afghanistan. Pakistani forces are capable of dealing with those in the country.
4. Another very lengthy question re: Sarah Palin’s appearance, How is the world supposed to trust the president?
The news reports are exaggerated: Palin walked into the room and paid her an innocent compliment, which was “you look better in person”. It was overplayed by the media.
5. (Unintelligible question from where I was sitting.)
A: We are learning to coexist, and when we develop political institutions and rebuild civil institutions the army will respect those institutions.
6. Iran to the west: How do you evaluate the nuclear team of India/US and Iran on the other side, and should we expect perhaps that the relationship between Pakistan and China should strenghten?
A: We want to have friendly relations with India. We have to normalize relations with India. The issue is solvable and doable.
India/US nuclear: Pakistan didn’t obstruct this deal. All we’re saying is that this should not be discriminative.
7. Student from Afghanistan, allegations by Afghan that Pakistan is not doing much in the war against terror.
A: We are willing to take on the Taliban. We’ve met with Afghanistan because we want peace. The blame game doesn’t serve either of us. Collectively we can do it, and we shall do it.