THE main focus of British Prime Minister David Cameron’s visit to Islamabad was on encouraging Pakistan’s new political leadership to cooperate with Afghanistan to facilitate the Doha initiative. Mr Cameron correctly observed that “a stable, prosperous, peaceful, democratic Afghanistan is in Pakistan’s interests, just as a strong, stable, peaceful, prosperous, and democratic Pakistan is in Afghanistan’s interests”. Mr Cameron also used his visit, the first by any foreign head of government since the PML-N took over last month, to remind the Pakistani leadership that the battle against terrorism “requires a tough and uncompromising security response”. It should, however, be appreciated that he also realised that several other measures were needed to boost the efforts against militancy. These included “countering extremism and radicalisation, investing in education, tackling poverty, dealing in all the issues that can fuel extremism and radicalisation”.
Mr Cameron was eager to provide technical support to Islamabad to shore up its security response to terrorism and he pledged his government’s willingness to help it in the revival of its economy; without the latter terrorism cannot be effectively combated. He vowed to revise upward the bilateral trade target from £2.5bn to £3bn by 2015 and support Pakistan’s quest for greater, duty-free market access for its goods to the European Union. Importantly, the second annual Pakistan-UK trade conference is to be held later in London where among other areas, the energy sector must get the much-needed emphasis. Pakistan’s efforts in the war against militancy cannot be overstated. Thousands of Pakistani lives have been lost and the country’s economy has been badly affected. They may not be the only factors, but a deteriorating economy and rising poverty are major contributors to the increase in radicalisation in the country. Extremism cannot be curbed through the use of force alone. The effort needs to be diversified with improvements in sectors such as education and health and with the provision of jobs. The world should realise that a stable Afghanistan needs a stable Pakistan. Mr Cameron is well-placed to drive the message home.