WASHINGTON: At the Heritage Foundation at her keynote address on Countering Pakistan’s Extremist Threat, the former Federal Minister for Information and Broadcasting Ms Sherry Rehman said that there is little point in demonising Pakistan, which is under pressure from unique internal and regional challenges. “Mixed messages are unhelpful, but addressing Islamabad’s economic and security challenges as part of a broader yet urgent reform process is more effective,” said Ms Sherry Rehman to a forum of national security experts in Washington DC.
Ms Rehman pointed out that Pakistan’s elected government links the country’s future to the resolution of security and economic challenges. “The democratic government in Pakistan is committed to building bridges with its neighbours in the region, as well as to building a broad coalition against militancy and terrorism. It is clear that the security establishment in Pakistan is also alert to the clear and present danger posed to Pakistan by non-state actors.”
Ms Rehman stressed the need to address the existential regional concerns of Pakistan’s security institutions, while also addressing their capacity gaps to enable the country to confront the challenge of terrorism. She also said that urgent strategies are needed to minimise damage to locals when military operations are undertaken, as well as to translate battleground gains into a sustainable and state-controlled peace.
“The regional environment is key to stability in Pakistan, which remains contingent on strategic policy particularly if big ticket items like the status of the Durand Line as a strongly patrolled border between Afghanistan and Pakistan are not addressed realistically. The same needs to be done with India, which has still not resumed a composite dialogue process with Pakistan, after the Mumbai attacks. A history of conflict with India has left many suspicions on both sides, but Pakistan’s own security concerns, especially with respect to Kashmir need to be put on the table by all players if chronic trust deficits are to go down.”
Ms Sherry Rehman also said that while the Kerry-Lugar bill is seen as a welcome development and as a shift towards investing in democracy, the conditionalities on the House PEACE Act 2009 are counterproductive and cannot possibly pass through any test of compliance.
“There is an across-the-board reaction in Pakistan to the predatory US footprint of aerial attacks, and the utility of such a process needs to be reviewed if the US wants to be seen as a partner in the battle against extremism. Right now many Pakistanis see the US working on a dual track, partnering for narrow strategic goals while casting the same partner as a “target” in terms of disregarding invasions of territorial integrity. The same applies to coercive diplomacy, and the racial profiling of Pakistanis at airports and immigration points. This trust and perception gap at the public level has to be bridged if we are to all work for converging strategic goals.”