KARACHI: “Our citizens, just like yours [United States], are peace-loving people, seeking nothing more than stability, freedom and hope for our children,” wrote Asif Ali Zardari in a guest post for Forbes.com.
The former president and husband of Benazir Bhutto discussed the role of billions of dollars invested by the United States in Pakistan over the course of fifteen years noted that the high price of “this investment” brought greater stability in the country and reduced threat from extremists, however, the “well of goodwill from which we [Pakistan] can draw is not endless.”
Zardari emphasised that Pakistan, which he believes remains a potential flashpoint for South Asia and the world, should carry more of its own weight while increasing military and commercial cooperation with its allies.
“The terrorists who attack our people here are the same who attack Americans and other innocents abroad,” he wrote, elaborating on how the US should continue to be Pakistan’s partner. He reasoned how the US war on terror is not just drawn from goodwill but the country’s self-interest to eliminate ideas that it disagrees with.
The Pakistani politician said that the democratic values and transparency under Nawaz Sharif’s rule has “back-slid” but the foundations built during his tenure as president yielded tangible results including but not limited to rooting out extremists’ safe havens, dismantling Al-Qaeda’s networks in the region, and seizing nearly 200 tons of improvised explosive device precursors. “These successes come at no small price. Pakistan has lost over 60,000 people, both civilian and military, as a direct result of offensives against terrorist networks.” He further stated that Pakistan has incurred over $60 billion in economic costs in the war on terror, and the cost only continues to spiral up with passing time.
“Sadly, many in Congress fail to recognise these hard-won victories, cutting off hundreds of millions of dollars in reimbursements to Pakistan under the Coalition Support Fund (CSF), a US program for costs incurred in supporting counter-terrorist operations,” Zardari wrote. Congress has also blocked sales of needed F-16s. The signal from the U.S. here is as important as the substance; there is a clear breach of faith in our partnership.
Meanwhile, extremists are slipping over the borders, undermining the whole effort and sacrifice. One must only look to recent attacks in a simmering Afghanistan to see where this trajectory leads us. Further, Pakistani civilians are war-weary and feel abandoned, their sacrifices undermined. This is perhaps the most dangerous result, as community partnerships are critical in a fight against non-state actors. To prevent unnecessary backsliding and the tragic costs that follow, we must renew our common goals and craft a streamlined strategy that galvanizes both the military and civilians in this war of ideas.
We also hope that the U.S. will continue to develop Pakistan’s economy, which is key to building public confidence in our institutions and in the promise of a better tomorrow. Indeed, Pakistan has been one of the greatest success stories in foreign aid, with in-country civilian assistance programs standing among of the most fruitful U.S. aid operations to date. Pakistan’s economy is poised for an even greater advancement in 2017. Not only have these factors helped to meet the basic needs of millions of impoverished men, women and children; they have contributed significantly to our nation’s stability and security, particularly as the employment remains steady in the face of a tremendous youth bulge.
The opportunities for partnership and collaboration beyond the military realm are boundless, holding the promise to bring the whole world forward.
Finally, we hope that the U.S. will invest its faith in us. In 2013, we witnessed our nation’s first successful democratic election, and I personally initiated the first peaceful transition of power from one elected civilian government to another.
Our citizens, just like yours, are peace-loving people, seeking nothing more than stability, freedom and hope for our children. And as the new administration considers its policy options and financial commitments abroad, Pakistan will loom large not only because of the threats we fight together, but also because of the opportunities to spread shared democratic values that we embody in standing shoulder to shoulder. From our side, my party and I will continue to push our beloved nation toward a safer, more democratic future and I hope that the promising conversations I have had with leading figures in the U.S. government herald a renewed commitment to our partnership, Zardari concluded.