WASHINGTON: Noting the Pakistani nation’s “broad consensus” on curbing violent extremism, the United States top diplomat for South Asia has reaffirmed Washington’s commitment to security and economic support for the elected government as it takes on “enormous challenges” facing the country. Richard Boucher, the Assistant Secretary of State for South Asia, welcomed tribesmen’s support for the government’s anti-terrorism efforts in tribal areas bordering Afghanistan.
Washington, he said, is committed to the Friends of Pakistan initiative launched last month on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in New York. The U.S. is working with the rich countries to come up with support for Pakistan’s commitment to development, he said while underscoring the U.S. commitment to well being of the Pakistani people..
Boucher took up the issue with the prophets of doom, painting negative scenarios for Pakistan in the face of current challenges. Pakistan is facing a lot of challenges “but that does not make Pakistan a dangerous place” because “generally, the Pakistanis are moving in a positive direction,” he noted emphatically at a briefing for Pakistani journalists.
“They face a deadly enemy and I see the Pakistani government and the society including the army cooperating (in the fight against violent extremism), not only the politicians but the whole society—there is a broad consensus in Pakistan in taking on the militants,” he remarked.
“A lot of Pakistanis are committed to democracy—there is a lot of hope,” he stated while recognizing the government’s efforts to steer Pakistan as a moderate, modern and democratic country. Citing the U.S. leaders’ meetings with President Asif Ali Zardari in New York last month, he said there is a clear resolve by Pakistan to overcome the menace of extremism.
“We were struck by their determination to tackle extremism and economic challenges. “There is a strong determination on part of the Pakistani government and the NWFP government to tackle the situation” with regard to militancy, he said in response to a question in the context of recent wave of bombings in the country.
Appreciating the tribesmen joining the fight against militants, the U.S. diplomat said: “There are a lot of people in tribal areas who want to live a decent life, they want education, health, roads infrastructure, majority of them are willing to stand up “ (despite the fact that ) several Maliks have been assassinated by the militants.
“I admire and welcome that (the tribesmen’s support) — I think the government of Pakistan is pursuing the right course,” he said reiterating Washington’s commitment to socio-economic development of the people in tribal areas. Asked about cross-border actions into Pakistani territory, Boucher declined to comment on any border military operations.
On the U.S. continued support for Pakistan, he said it is providing $ 800 million ongoing assistance in the current year and also cited the US aid in overcoming food prices during Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani’s visit and last week’s aid for people displaced as a result of situation in Bajaur tribal area.
He also vowed US assistance for modernizing Pakistan’s democratic and military institutions. On the Friends of Pakistan initiative, he said the “next meeting at Abud Dhabi- later this month or early next month” – will come up with a program to match international support for Pakistan’s commitment to development. “There will be money available because there will be a lot of donors there. But the goal is not to come with a number but a program that matches Pakistani plans with foreign support.”-APP