US must understand nuances of situation in FATA
* Zardari tells WT ‘it’s time to engage tribal leaders’
* Says US policy strengthened extremists
By Khalid Hasan, Daily Times, May 30, 2008
WASHINGTON: The United States needs assurances that Pakistan is not handing the Taliban and related groups even greater sanctuary in the region than they already enjoy, however, it must also understand the differences between “the many actors in this very important drama,” according to an editorial in the Washington Times on Thursday.
The newspaper also carries an interview given by Asif Ali Zardari to its columnist Harlan Ullman, in which the PPP co-chairman is quoted as saying, “The Government of Pakistan will never negotiate with terrorists, but we fully intend to engage tribal leaders who have been abandoned by the previous government and have been co-opted by extremists by coercion.
“We will engage them on the condition that they yield their arms and cease their attacks on the Pakistani military and on NATO and Afghan troops in Afghanistan.
“There will be zero tolerance for terrorism anywhere. We have tried confrontation; we have tried battling them; we have also tried ignoring them. It is now time to engage them.”
Zardari said that for much too long the US viewed South Asia through “very myopic, short-term glasses.”
In the 1980s dictatorships were sustained in Pakistan under the rationale of the Cold War. In this young century, dictatorship has been sustained under the guise of the so-called war on terror.
This policy has strengthened the extremists and turned the people of Pakistan away from the US.
The US-Pakistan relationship must be more than a military marriage of convenience. It must be based on shared values and mutual respect.
On the question of the restoration of the sacked judges, Zardari told the American journalist, “Both the PPP and the PML-N want the restoration of the judiciary as it existed before emergency rule was imposed by President Pervez Musharraf.
“The PML-N wants it done by decree, and my party wants to accomplish the restoration as part of a significant judicial reform legislative package that will totally modernise and liberalise the structure of civil society in Pakistan.
“We expect that the National Assembly will consider and enact this comprehensive judicial reform package before the end of June.”
This constitutional package aims to restore the key elements of the 1973 Constitution … the power to dismiss governments was never meant to be in the hands of the president.”
As for differences that have cropped up between the PPP and its coalition partner the PML-N, Zardari said, “The coalition has some internal dissonance, but that is the nature of democratic debate.
“The PML-N is still in fundamental agreement with the major initiatives and thrusts of the government. I think people have also misunderstood the level of disagreement on the judges’ issue.”
Regarding relations with India, the PPP co-chairman said India and Pakistan were created out of the same cloth.
“We share the same language, the same food, and much of the same culture..… South Asia must become an economic condominium of open markets and open borders. The outstanding issue of Kashmir has yet to be resolved, but it is an issue that must be resolved to the satisfaction of all parties.”