WASHINGTON, May 7: A US congressional panel was told on Wednesday that while the PPP was doing a good job in Pakistan, former prime minister Nawaz Sharif needed to be watched.
“We should applaud PPP,” Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee told the House Foreign Affairs Committee. “They are trying to work with Sharif but they are more of a problem than PPP.”
Ms Lee chairs the Pakistan Caucus on Capitol Hill and is seen in the US Congress as an authentic voice on Pakistan with close links to the establishment in Islamabad.
Reviewing the current political situation in Pakistan, Ms Lee told the panel that the “PPP wants to govern” and “we should give them the chance to do so.”
Congresswoman Lee said that she had spoken to President Pervez Musharraf who also wanted to work with the new government but “Sharif has to be watched”.
Ms Lee claimed that the PPP recognised “toppling Musharraf is not valuable” because “Musharraf has extensive experience” of dealing with terrorism.
“I see no reason in moving forward in actions against Musharraf,” she added.
The congresswoman also supported the constitutional package the PPP is working on and its efforts to engage tribal militants for seeking a negotiated settlement to insurgency in the region.
The PPP, she said, “did the right thing” in moving to restore the judges and the agreement they make with tribal militants would be different from previous deals because “the PPP is doing the negotiations from a position of power”.
The House panel held a full committee hearing on Pakistan, with a special focus on insurgency in the tribal area.
Two main witnesses — Assistant Secretary of State Richard Holbrooke and US Ambassador to UN Thomas Pickering — told the committee that the United States needed to substantially increase its aid package for the tribal region.
“We need a massive economic programme,” said Ambassador Pickering. “Not the pathetic $750 million we have promised over the next five years half of which will never leave the US.”
The witnesses described the emergence of an elected government in Pakistan as “a defining point” and urged the United States to develop a comprehensive plan to defeat violent extremism in the country with the help of democratic forces.
Mr Holbrooke, who is often tipped as the next secretary of state, said America should speak “in a clear voice “that the best thing for Pakistan is democracy.”
The US, he said, was spending billions of dollars in Afghanistan but has allocated “just a faction” of that for Fata.
Ambassador Pickering said that in the tribal area the United States might have to spend money on “things that may not pass the mustard.”
Explaining his point, he said: “It is better to spend $100,000 on renting a tribal than spending $100 million on killing him and his tribesmen.”
Responding to a question by the committee’s chairman, Congressman Howard L. Berman, Ambassador Pickering said the US should make it clear to Pakistan what sort of deal would be acceptable in Fata.
“We should not end up in a situation where we are handed over a deal and told take it or leave it,” he said.
Both witnesses urged the committee to form an oversight panel for monitoring the situation in the tribal region.
Mr Holbrooke praised the proposal to establish reconstruction opportunity zones in the region, and said that it should get “high attention” of the committee.
He told the panel that it was wrong to stereotype Pakistan as “the most dangerous nation in the world because it is not.”
Ambassador Pickering said “Pakistan needs to be encouraged to regain physical control in the Fata” but another witness, General James Jones, a former Nato chief, said while it was a good proposal “it is not so simple and easy” to achieve this goal.