By Ali Imran
WASHINGTON, Oct 21 : Congressman Dan Burton, a longtime supporter of close US-Pakistan ties, has said Washington should foster enduring relationship with the key South Asian country, despite some current differences of opinion on some issues between the two countries.
The seasoned lawmaker argued that Washington needs to be forward-looking in formulating its foreign policy and counted a number of reasons that call for close partnership between the United States and Pakistan.
“First, they have been an ally and friend for a long time since the first Afghan war— then they are a nuclear power and important country in the region,” the co-chair of Pakistan caucus said at an event on the Capitol Hill.
Dr Nisar Chaudhry, who heads Pakistan American League and is a noted expert on US-Pakistan ties, called for greater harmony and understanding on sensitive issues between the two countries.
In his remarks, Burton also referred to importance of the relationship to Pakistan-India-US triangular context, saying any standoff between Islamabad and New Delhi getting out of control could result in regional conflagration. Therefore, the US must maintain relations in the region.
The Republican legislator, who has been a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, argued although the US and Pakistan do not see eye to eye on all issues their peace and development interests converge in many areas.
His comments came as Washington and Islamabad worked to revive their bilateral relationship in the backdrop of strained phase in relationship and differences in approach to some counterterrorism tactics along the Afghan border, including American unilateral drone strikes against suspected militant targets inside Pakistani territory.
Ambassador Marc Grossman, US Special Envoy for Pakistan and Afghanistan, met the country’s top civilian and military leaders in Islamabad and sought to allay the perception that Washington was pressuring Pakistan to launch a large military offensive against al-Qaeda linked militants reportedly hiding in North Waziristan.
Grossman’s visit took place as the Pakistani nation spoke in one voice against the militant mindset following the globally condemned Taliban attack against Malala Yousafzai, a 14-year-old girls’ rights activist, who defied parochialism in Swat and campaigned for girls’ right to an education.
President Asif Ali Zardari underscored during Grossman’s visit any largescale operation against the militants who may be holed up in mountainous tribal regions needed the backing of the people for it to be successful.
The US has been stressing the need for a Pakistani push against the Afghan Haqqani militants, who it says uses Pakistani tribal border areas as a sanctuary for attacks against American forces operating in Afghanistan.
Pakistan has also been asking both the US and Afghanistan lately to crack down on Pakistani Taliban militants operating out of Kunar and Nooristan areas, who it says, have launched terrorist attacks against Pakistani forces and civilians inside Pakistan. Mullah Fazlullah, the Swat Taliban, leader, who ordered attack against Malala Yousafzai is based in Kunar, according to US and Pakistani media reports.
In Washington, meanwhile, the State Department said Washington stands for a strong democratic Pakistan that works well with it in confronting the terror challenges facing the South Asian country.
At the moment, the two countries are trying to get the cooperative anti-terror efforts back on track, a spokesperson added at the daily briefing.
Spokesperson Victoria Nuland was asked to comment on MQM leader Altaf Hussain’s statement – in the backdrop of the Taliban attack on 14-year-old girl Malala Yousafzai in Swat – that Pakistanis have to decide whether they want their country to move forward as envisioned by founder Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah or they want Taliban’s Pakistan.
“I don’t have anything particularly innovative to say on that subject. You know where we have been, that we want to see a strong, democratic Pakistan that works well with us and with the international community in addressing the terror challenges it has; that we are reengaging after some period now in trying to get our working groups and other things back up and running to support our joint efforts to meet the terror challenge, and that is – that’s the trajectory that we’re on. But I don’t have any particular comment on that comment if that’s what you’re asking.”
Responding to another question, the spokesperson noted that President Zardari spoke out against the attack on Malala and other schoolgirls.
Nuland expressed U.S. wishes for full and speedy recovery of Malala Yousafzai, the teenaged Pakistani girls’ rights activist, who was shot in Swat by a Taliban attacker last week and is now getting specialized treatment in Britain.
“Let me, though, take this opportunity, first to commend the UAE, who transported her, and the U.K., who are treating her for those efforts, and to express our continued hopes for her full, speedy recovery.”
- Pakistani girl shot by Taliban gunmen being moved to Britain for treatment (latimesblogs.latimes.com)
- Pakistani Girl’s Shooting Galvanizes Push For Offensive On Taliban Stronghold (rferl.org)
- Fury over attack on Pakistan girl (bbc.co.uk)