WASHINGTON: Pakistan’s new envoy in Washington, Aizaz Ahmed Chaudhary, has said there’s no desire in the United States to declare Pakistan a state sponsor of terrorism as both countries want to continue their longstanding relationship.
But former president Asif Ali Zardari saw a clear breach of faith in the US-Pakistan partnership and urged Pakistan to carry more of its own weight while increasing military and commercial cooperation with its allies.
Talking to Pakistani journalists at the embassy on Friday afternoon, Ambassador Chaudhary emphasised the need for re-establishing a multilateral forum, like the Quadrilateral Coordination Group, for reviving the Afghan peace talks.
In a piece he wrote for the Forbes magazine, Mr Zardari noted that the United States had invested billions of dollars in Pakistan since 9/11 attacks, which brought greater stability in the country but the “well of goodwill from which we [Pakistan] can draw is not endless”.
Responding to a question at his briefing, Mr Chaudhary said there’s “a tiny minority” in Washington, which keeps raising this issue of declaring Pakistan a state sponsor of terrorism “but the bulk of American polity sees Pakistan as a partner in the war against terrorism”.
Mr Zardari also saw a common ground and urged the United States to “continue to be Pakistan’s partner” as “the terrorists who attack our people are the same who attack Americans and other innocents,” he wrote. Ambassador Chaudhary and Mr Zardari both emphasised the historic nature of a multifaceted relationship between the US and Pakistan and both also hoped that the new administration in Washington would strengthen this partnership.
Mr Chaudhary linked this desire to recent developments in Pakistan, and pointed out that the country was on the verge of an economic take-off and it was in the interest of both countries to forge a closer relationship.
He noted that Pakistan had eliminated almost all terrorist safe havens from Fata [Federally Administered Tribal Areas], an achievement also appreciated by the US lawmakers and generals who have visited the area. The military operation in the area allowed more than 90 per cent of the internally displaced people to return home, he said.
Mr Chaudhary spoke about the Taliban terrorists slipping over to Afghanistan during Operation Zarb-i-Azb and how they keep coming back to Pakistan to attack schools, hospitals and shrines.
He described the temporary closure of Pak-Afghan border as part of a concerted plan for stopping the cross-border attacks. “This is border management, necessary to combat terrorists, not border closure,” he said and invited Afghanistan to jointly manage this border to stop cross-border attacks.
He referred to a recent meeting between Adviser on Foreign Affairs and Afghan National Security Adviser in London, which, he hoped, would lead to closer coordination between the governments in Islamabad and Kabul.
Mr Chaudhary said that Pakistan was well on its way to a future of peace and prosperity. “An improved security situation and the economic reforms have led to a revival of the economy which is now growing at the rate of 4.7pc. And all economic indicators are pointing upwards,” he said.
Published in Dawn, March 19th, 2017