With conflicts afflicting a large part of the country, economic crisis and inadequate socio-economic development, Pakistan cannot afford international isolation.
At the same time, the international community must respect Pakistan’s sovereignty while paying a dispassionate attention to the current crisis that has evolved over three decades and is the direct consequence of the US-led western war against the communist regime in Afghanistan.
These views were expressed by speakers from various countries on the concluding day of a two-day conference on “Securing a Fronline State: Alternative views on Peace and Conflict in Pakistan” organised by the Islamabad-based think tank Centre for Research and Security Studies (CRSS) and Heinrich Boll Stiftung, in media partnership with The Express Tribune on Friday.
Describing the current strained relations between Pakistan and the US, Jeffrey Laurenti — a US expert on foreign affairs — said, “They resemble a marriage that has gone bad.”
The risks of further deterioration and hostility between Pakistan and US are high until the Afghanistan conflict is resolved, Laurenti said, adding, “It is like a marriage in a traditional Catholic country where the grip of Church makes divorce nearly impossible.”
He underlined that Pakistan should wake up to the new reality that medieval fundamentalist regime in Kabul will not unlock its economic and social potential. “Islamist generals in Pakistan supported radicals in Afghanistan for two decades and its after-effects continue to haunt Pakistanis till date,” he added.
He opined that even though there is frustration among military commanders and intelligence community in Washington over the fragility of Pak-US relations, the US state department is struggling hard to fix the issue.
South Asian Studies Institute Academy of Social Sciences Head Abdul Rehman Habibzui from Kabul said that Afghanistan acknowledges strategic strengths of Pakistan and in return wants Pakistan to take into account the transit vitality of Afghanistan.
“Afghanistan can potentially link the future energy hub of the world, Central Asia, with Pakistan and other regions,” said Habibzai, adding that “unfortunately” Afghans do not have a positive view of Pakistan due its involvement in Afghanistan.
Taking into account this changing reality Pakistan should restructure its policy towards Afghanistan based on mutual respect and dignity, Habibzai said. However, Afghanistan should also ensure that its land may not be used for subversive activities against Pakistan. “We need to live like twin brothers,” Habibzai remarked.
Dr Smruti S Pattanaik from New Delhi emphasised on normalisation of relations between Pakistan and India, adding that even the challenge of terrorism provides the opportunity to cooperate with each other. “Pakistan’s help to India in Mumbai attacks is a case in point,” he said.
“Pakistan and India can carve out space to realign their interests in Afghanistan, since both states believe in the country’s peaceful and prosperous future,” Pattanaik added.
Dr Mariam Abour Zahab from Paris, a scholar on sectarianism in Southern Punjab, noted that sectarian militant organisations have always resurface with new names after they were banned by the government, adding that they are a major threat to the region’s security due to their nexus with jihadists.
In his concluding remarks, CRSS Executive Director Imtiaz Gul said that Pakistan should look afresh at its socio-economic, political and security policies and there is a thumping need for revaluation of its policies in the context of emerging global realities.
“Critical inward-looking is the only panacea for daunting internal and external challenges faced by Pakistan today,” he said.
Journalist and columnist Ejaz Haider, veteran human rights activist IA Rehman, a research fellow from Vienna Dr Thomas K Gugler, Dr Younas Samad from Bradford University in UK, former ambassador Ayaz Wazir and BHS Country Director Britta Petterson also spoke at the occasion.
Published in The Express Tribune, December 10th, 2011.
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