ISLAMABAD: President Asif Ali Zardari on Monday said that the war in Afghanistan was destabilising Pakistan and seriously undermining its efforts to restore democratic institutions and economic prosperity.
The president told the 'The Guardian' that some US politicians showed limited understanding of the impact of American policies.
“Just as the Mexican drug war on US borders makes a difference to Texas and American society, we are talking about a war on our border, which is obviously having a huge effect,” the president said.
Reacting to a White House report, President Zardari said that some members of the Congress and the US media did not know what they were talking about when it came to Pakistan.
“The United States has been an ally of Pakistan for the last 60 years. We respect and appreciate their political system. So every time a new parliament comes in, new boys come in, new representatives come in, it takes them time to understand the international situation,” Zardari said.
He, however, made it clear that there were no short-term answers and it was very difficult to make the American taxpayer understand.
Zardari said that Pakistan had been in a state of “security alert” for several decades, and pointed that “our emphasis has been on security rather than our commerce and we need commerce for our survival.”
“We have all the gas in the world waiting to go through to markets in India and the Red Sea but it cannot be brought in until Afghanistan is settled. So Afghanistan is a growth issue for us. I think most of the time the quantification of the effect of the war is not calculated [by the US].”
He said Pakistan was a high fuel-importing country, and fuel prices were going up.
“Because of the war situation, the industry in one of our provinces has practically closed down ... When one sector is not working, there is an effect on the other sectors,” he said.
The paper, quoting senior intelligence officials, stated that the “law enforcement operations against terrorists, miscreants and militants” has cost the Pakistani economy approximately $68 bln since 2001.
More than 33,300 Pakistani civilians and military personnel have been killed or seriously injured. Last year's record-breaking floods added to the strain on the economy.
Zardari said the security situation was also undercutting efforts to strengthen democratic institutions bypassed or overturned during the military rule of his predecessor, General Pervez Musharraf.
According to 'The Guardian', Zardari, who was expected to visit Washington next month, said he would ask Obama to share drone technology with Pakistan so future attacks could be planned and directed under a “Pakistani flag”.
Zardari and other senior government officials said all parties felt a sense of growing urgency about forging an inclusive peace settlement in Afghanistan, but the process must be “Afghan-led”.
Pakistan was ready to play its part, consistent with its national interest, they said.
The paper also quoted Foreign Secretary Salman Bashir as saying; “Everybody is gradually coming round to our point of view that this requires greater diplomatic pressure. There is no military solution in Afghanistan.”