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Associated Press of Pakistan

June 24, 2009

PAC 17th US-Pakistan Friendship Day at The Capitol Hill report


Pakistan Urges Robust Support For SWAT IDPs

WASHINGTON, June 24 (APP): Assuring the Pakistani-Americans of Islamabad’s firm determination to  rehabilitate displaced people of Swat, a top Pakistani diplomat has urged the community to work toward continued support for the massive endeavor.

Deputy Ambassador at the Pakistani Embassy in Washington Muhammad Aslam Khan told a gathering of the  Pakistani-Americans that the security forces have cleared Malakand of militants and soon the internally displaced  persons would start returning to their homes.

“The active Pakistani-American can contribute to the effort with both their generous donations as well as  through raising awareness among Americans about the need to support the displaced persons,” he said, praising the  dynamism of the community at an event organized by the Pakistani-American Congress.

Pakistan, Khan said, is a progressive and moderate country and the weekend World Cricket Cup victory reflects  the vibrancy of the nation and the high caliber of its sport talent.

Islamabad says it needs more than $ two billion to rehabilitate more than three million people displaced  following its offensive to clear the area of Taliban militants from Malakand region. 

Shuja Nawaz, Director of South Asia Center at Washington’s Atlantic Council, also spoke on the occasion,  emphasizing that there is no silver bullet solution to the problem of militancy.

He highlighted the importance of socio-economic uplift of the people in remote regions, particularly the  federally administered tribal areas as part of the comprehensive effort to tamp down militancy. He added the  military action could only be used as a last resort.

Dr Khawaja Ashraf, the PAC president, welcomed the participants at the dinner, marking start of the two-day  events of the umbrella organization, which also includes the 17th US-Pakistan Friendship Day at the Capitol Hill. 

The two-day annual gathering has drawn participation from eminent Pakistani-Americans from across the United  States and top American experts on South Asia.

He also introduced new PAC leaders including its president Dr Muhammad Akram, who will lead the organization  in next two years.

Two Virginia State delegates—Steve Shanon and Chapman Peterson—also participated in the opening event on  Tuesday and praised the hardworking Pakistani-American community for their contribution to economic development of  various counties of the state.

From Daily Times, Sept. 30, 2008

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Continuing US losses will lead to military strikes on Pakistan

* Jonathan Landay of McClatchy Newspapers calls situation in Pakistan more serious than that in Iran
* Expert warns that Pakistan and US are on collision course

By Khalid Hasan

WASHINGTON: If the United States forces in Afghanistan continue to suffer casualties inflicted by insurgents crossing over from Pakistan, the next administration, whether Republican or Democratic, will come under tremendous public pressure to make direct strikes on Pakistani targets, according to three South Asia experts.

The observation came at a meeting organised by Khawaja M Ashraf, president of the Pakistani-American Congress, here on Sunday. The three experts who spoke on the prevailing situation in the region were, Walter Andersen of the Johns Hopkins University, Rodney Jones, who runs a local consultancy, and Jonathan Landay of McClatchy Newspapers, who has extensive experience of travelling in and writing about the region.

Andersen said the cross-border movement of insurgents from Pakistan into Afghanistan was a major US concern. As more US troops make their way into Afghanistan from next year, there will be in increase in attacks on them from the insurgents, prompting sharp public reaction in America for strong retaliatory action. The new American policy was no longer going to be confined to hot pursuit but when so warranted, direct military strikes inside the areas from where the attacks were seen to have originated or mounted. He warned that any US president would come under enormous pressure if US troops continued to be killed by Pakistan-based insurgents and regardless of what party he belonged to, he would order strikes at Pakistan. Andersen added that there cannot be a military solution of the Afghanistan situation in the long term, while proposing a joint US-Pakistan policy to deal with the situation. More importantly, Afghanistan and Pakistan need to build a strong and co-operative relationship to meet the challenge posed by extremism. However, given the level of distrust that has marked their relationship, the new government in Pakistan will have to be willing to consider new policy options. He said India too will have to be taken on board because terrorism is affecting the entire region and requires the adoption of a regional approach.

Serious situation:

Jonathan Landay, who spent two years in the region this year, called the situation in Pakistan more serious than that in Iran. He called the Iranian government responsible and its policies logical. Iran may be pursuing nuclear weapons, he added, but Pakistan is already a nuclear state and if it unravelled, it would pose a grave danger to regional and global security. He quoted a recent observation by former Pakistan army chief Gen Mirza Aslam Beg alleging that the US and India are conspiring against Pakistan and planning to destroy it. Unfortunately, he added, Gen Beg is not alone in holding this view. Many others in Pakistan believe in this ‘risible’ notion. India, he pointed out, is spending $1 billion a year in Afghanistan to build roads and other infrastructure projects. The road it is building along the Balochistan border is being built because Pakistan will not allow Indian goods to move into Afghanistan through Pakistan. He also noted that 80 percent of the goods and equipment needed by NATO forces in Afghanistan move through Pakistan. This flow has not been disrupted because it is bringing great profit to Pakistan and its transportation sector. Landay said it should be borne in mind that New Delhi would not like to live next door to a destabilised Pakistan and that being so, it would like Pakistan to be a stable state. India is a regional power and Pakistan can profit from that. He said Pakistan should make up its mind as to what side it is on. Obviously, it cannot be an ally at the same time of the US and a guerrilla leader like Jalaluddin Haqqani. He said to stabilise the region, an international approach based on co-operation is required, accompanied by a regional security network. He said there is insurgency on both sides of the Pak-Afghan border and a ‘new Great Game’ is going on.

Collision course:

Rodney Jones, who was born before independence in what is now Pakistan, warned that Pakistan and the US are on a collision course. Turning to the region, he said there are Pashtuns living on both sides of the Pak-Afghan border, but their number is greater in Pakistan. In Afghanistan, they form 42 percent of the population, but they are ‘first among equals’. He said the Pakistan Army has been preventing the crossover of insurgents into Afghanistan at the instance of the US, but it has to view the rise of extremism as a Pakistani problem. In a question-answer session that followed the three presentations, Landay pointed out that the people in FATA are caught between the Taliban and the Pakistan Army and they are tired of it all. They will turn against the Taliban if they are sure of being backed by the Pakistani government. Andersen in reply to a question said terrorism is a Pakistani problem now and should be so viewed by the Pakistanis and dealt with accordingly




Pakistan a major issue for US media, think-tanks

By Anwar Iqbal

WASHINGTON, Oct 5: Pakistan has become a major issue in the US election and is projected here as the biggest threat to American interests across the world.

On Sunday, some US newspapers reported that an ailing US economy had given Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama an unassailable edge over John McCain and the Republican can only come back in the race if there is a a national security crisis.

Pakistan topped the list of possible scenarios for such a crisis.

“Pakistan’s new government is toppled. Al Qaeda and the Taliban, with support from elements in Pakistani intelligence and the military, get a stronger foothold in the nuclear-armed nation. India, which already accuses Pakistan of complicity with terrorist attacks on the country, initiates a cross-border attack on its longtime enemy. The regime of President Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan becomes even shakier. Chaos reigns in one of the most dangerous places on the planet.”

And it is not just the media which is ringing the alarm bells. A joint report by a dozen US think-tanks, collectively the Pakistan Policy Working Group, is equally alarming.

“Pakistan may be the single greatest challenge facing the next American president,” the report warned.

“Pakistan is suffering its greatest internal crises since partition. … We find US interests in Pakistan are more threatened now than at any time since the Taliban were driven from Afghanistan in 2001.”

One of the authors, Stephen Cohen, encouraged the US administration to attack suspected terrorist hideouts inside Fata.

Another set of US experts on Pakistan predicted an increase in US military strikes at targets inside Fata. At a recent meeting of the Pakistani-American Congress in Washington, the experts said that neither the United States nor India was interested in breaking up Pakistan.

Jonathan Landay, a veteran US journalist who has stayed engaged with Pakistan for more than 20 years, said that New Delhi would not like to live next door to a destabilised Pakistan “where non-state actors armed with nuclear weapons run amok”.

Walter Andersen of the Johns Hopkins University warned that any US president would come under enormous pressure if US troops continued to be killed by Pakistan-based insurgents and regardless of what party he belonged to, he would order strikes at Pakistan.

Rodney Jones, who runs a local consultancy, warned that Pakistan and the US were on a collision course and immediate steps were needed avoid a crash.

“As the September 19 bombing of the Marriott hotel in Islamabad demonstrates, there is little time to waste. Our options in Pakistan are diminishing rapidly,” warned the joint report.

The report noted that political developments in both Pakistan and the United States “make this an opportune moment” to recalibrate US policy.

“The upcoming US presidential election will… bring a new set of policymakers to power and a potential willingness to consider fresh approaches to managing the difficult but exceedingly important US-Pakistan relationship.”

The report by the Pakistan Policy Working Group also included recommendations for strengthening US policy towards Pakistan, urging Washington to exhibit patience with Pakistan’s new democratically elected leaders, while working to stabilise the government through economic aid and diplomacy. But at the same time, emphasise to the Pakistan government that US patience is not unlimited, and that the US is prepared to be patient only so long as the Pakistan government is achieving visible results in its efforts against the extremists in the tribal areas. Invest in US institutions and personnel in Pakistan. And increase support for civilian institutions that would provide oversight of the military and the Directorate of Inter-Services Intelligence.




Pakistani American Congress demands immediate

end to unilateral actions

WASHINGTON, Sep 29 (APP): Voicing its deep concern over recent escalation of tensions along Pak-Afghan border, Pakistani American Congress - an umbrella organization of countrywide bodies - has demanded an immediate end to unilateral actions into Pakistani territory by U.S.-led forces from across the Afghan border.

“We think direct military actions inside Pakistan will prove counterproductive and will create a bigger crisis for both the United States and Pakistan---- we demand all foreign attacks on Pakistan must be stopped now for the sake of peace,” the PAC said in statement at an event where American experts on South Asia expressed their perspectives on the situation.

Dr Khawaja Ashraf, president of the Congress that “seeks to promote US-Pakistan friendship, goodwill and understanding,” said the two countries cannot afford a new conflict while  fighting violent extremism.  “Mutual trust and close strategic partnership is needed in the Pakistan-U.S.  ties. The U.S. must appreciate that Pakistan has lost more lives in the war (on terror) than all coalition forces.”

He urged administrations in both countries to exercise restraint in order to immediately stop harmful actions. 

“The U.S.-Pakistan friendship should not be turned into a conflict which could set South Asia on fire. It will hurt the US credibility and image. Such unilateral actions will also hurt the US image as a military power and leader of the Western world. Moreover such unilateral actions are pushing the US towards isolation and inviting universal condemnation,” he said in a statement.

The Pakistani Americans, he said, should strive to “convince the U.S. Administration to halt any aggression against Pakistan and let Pakistan deal with violence its own way.”

Dr Nisar Chaudhry, an eminent Pakistani American, said the U.S. unilateral actions will jeopardize democracy in Pakistan and underscored the need for understanding the sensitivities of the people of the tribal areas.  

“In order to win this war it is crucial to have dialogue, reconciliation, education, health-care, creation of jobs, infrastructure and building of trust,” the PAC leaders said.

American journalist Jonathan Landay, who has covered Pakistan extensively, briefly looked into reasons behind extremists getting strengthened in the tribal areas. He said the region is “in the grip of a serious situation” and criticized both allies for it. He agreed that recent developments like Washington…trade;s support for US-India nuclear deal and ruling out the same for Pakistan in future creates doubts among Pakistanis that the US is playing a game and resorting tooff-again on-again relationship.

He supported a comprehensive strategy to address the problem of extremism that should include economic, democratic and security measures.

Walter Anderson, Director South Asia at Johns Hopkins University said tribesmen’s support in the fight against terrorists is an encouraging sign. He disagreed with the suggestion that the United States had failed in its fight against extremism in Afghanistan, asserting “it is a work in progress.”

Rodney Jones from Policy Architects International stressed the importance of pursuing a political process for the local people to extend governance over tribal areas.

The American experts felt if the security situation does not improve along the Afghan border and attacks on the US troops based in the country continue, the next president emerging from November elections might not change the policy of unilateral strikes against suspected hideouts on the Pakistani side of the border while the Pakistani Americans called upon the US presidential candidates to look for ways to forge peace in the region instead of making claims about their ability to fight better extremism militarily.

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Copyrighted 2008

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