LONDON, Oct 3: British Foreign Secretary David Miliband believes that military rule spanning over 30 out of 60 years of its existence was the root cause of Pakistan’s problems.
“My own view is that 30 out of 60 years of military rule is an important part of explaining the Pakistani problem,” observed Mr Miliband in an interview organised by the Council on Foreign Affairs during his recent visit to New York.
“And the fact that the Pakistani army is the most efficient, revered, effective institution in Pakistani society says a lot about the strength of that institution but also about the problems of the country,” he told Fareed Zakaria, Editor, Newsweek International, who conducted the interview.
A detailed account of the interview has been put out by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office website.
When asked if he felt that the current president of Pakistan had the army on board, Mr Miliband said Mr Asif Ali Zardari was a democratically elected president and that it was very important that he had the whole of the army.
“And when you referred to the armed forces, you know as well as I do that it’s important to refer to all aspects of the armed services,” added Mr Miliband perhaps to imply that the intelligence services were also needed to be brought on board.
Continuing he said President Zardari was facing a massive challenge, “and I think that the army does not want to be returning to lead the government. I’m confident that the leadership of the Pakistani army would prefer to run the armed services rather than the whole country. And I think it’s all hands to the pump, really, to support the new government.”Answering questions on Afghanistan, Mr Miliband said Britain was not trying to create a colony in Afghanistan and neither was there a military solution in Afghanistan. “That’s why, you know, you can talk about a civilian surge or a political surge in Afghanistan and the issue of governments, especially local governments but also national governments, in Afghanistan is absolutely central.”
He said coalition troops at the moment were about 40,000 and that Britain had 8,000 troops in Helmand but the key variable, according to him, was not the number of foreign troops, but the number of Afghan troops.
“The Afghan National Army now has 58,000 members. It’s pretty clean. It’s pretty effective. If I talk to our troops in Afghanistan they say if they go out with the Afghan National Army, they feel like they’re with serious and relatively safe people, people they’d want to be working with.
“So when it comes to the military side, the key variable is building up the Afghan National Army. They’ve already had a target of getting to 122,000.”
He said the military could create the space in the five population centres of Helmand. “We are supporting the Afghan National Army and creating space for civic institutions to grow. But I think it’s important that we recognise that there certainly isn’t a military, quote, unquote, ‘solution’ that comes from the imposition of foreign troops.”
He also spoke about the need to ‘forge and define a global foreign policy’ in order to meet global challenges, such as international conflict and climate change. He spoke about the importance of democracy building in Pakistan and Afghanistan, global inequality and the need for international organisations to act together to tackle shared risks.
On these issues, he said, “I would put three things at the top of our list as what could define a global agenda. I think the first thing is we have to be very clear what attitude we take towards nation-building, above all, democracy-building, because if you look at Afghanistan and Pakistan, those two countries face an enormous shared challenge of democracy-building or nation-building.
“Secondly, I think that the challenge of global inequality is something that should concern us, not just out of moral interest but also out of self interest. And I think that the debate about inequality around the world is going to be transformed over the next 20 to 30 years by climate change,
“And the third issue that I think is we need to resolve ourselves around is how we understand shared sovereignty and how collective international institutions can come together to tackle shared risks.”