Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Daily Times Editorial Sept 27, 2012

President’s address to UNGA President Asif Ali Zardari’s expectantly awaited address to the UN General Assembly (UNGA) presented Pakistan’s case to the world community articulately, clearly, and without pulling any punches. He started by calling on the UN and world community to act against blasphemy and incitement of hatred, a reference to the recent furore over the film insulting to Prophet Mohammad (PBUH). He urged the international community not to remain silent observers and move to criminalise acts that destroy the peace of the world and endanger world security by misusing the right of freedom of expression. The president then went on to underline his oft-repeated desire for Pakistan to become the recipient of trade access and concessions, not aid. In this context, the president thanked the EU for its recognising the value of trade for Pakistan. He then went on to spell out the vision of a South Asia that becomes interconnected and the vehicle for a new regional narrative that helps bind and bring closer all the countries of the region and beyond through trade ties and economic cooperation. He mentioned the outreach to Afghanistan (the Transit Trade Agreement) and India (trade and economic cooperation) to emphasise the point. He appealed to the world to stop the refrain of ‘do more’ directed at Pakistan, arguing that this was an insult to the 7,000 soldiers and policeman and over 37,000 civilians killed in the struggle against terrorism, besides denigrating the suffering of the living. He also made a poignant reference to slain federal minister Shahbaz Bhatti and the president's friend Salmaan Taseer, Governor of Punjab, at the hands of extremists and terrorists. But he reserved his profoundest comments for Benazir Bhutto, his wife, mother of his children, and a visionary leader who had warned against the danger posed by the extremist mindset. President Zardari delineated the global challenges of poverty, injustice and climate change, amongst others, challenges that Pakistan will tackle in consonance with the global community. He supported the right of the Palestinian people to their own state and argued the case for their recognition by the UN. Pakistan’s prominent role in UN peacekeeping and its engagement with needed reform in a democratic direction for the world body found mention in the president’s address. The Kashmiri people’s inalienable right of self-determination through peaceful means was underlined. Terrorism and its nexus with the burgeoning drugs trade, which has gone up 300 percent in the last decade and funds most of the terrorist groups operating in Pakistan, Afghanistan and elsewhere was highlighted in the president’s remarks, calling on the global community for a concerted struggle against these twin menaces. While President Zardari eloquently and succinctly summed up Pakistan’s positions on the burning issues of the day, it may be politic to ask why it is that we are unable to escape the incessant drone demanding ‘do more’. The basic reason is that both in fact and in international perception, Pakistan is seen as the ‘mother’ of the Taliban against whom the ISAF forces are engaged in battle in Afghanistan. Pakistani soil continues to be used for safe havens for the Taliban and affiliated groups for their insurgency inside Afghanistan. Pakistan is therefore essentially pressed to deny these extremists and terrorists the luxury of a safe rear area to which they retreat, recuperate and relaunch their attacks inside Afghanistan. Pakistan has prevaricated for long on fulfilling this demand. Although the chorus of ‘do more’ has become more muted over time, the suspicions harboured against Pakistan as the main backer of the Taliban continue to linger. So long as Pakistan does not reconsider, if not abandon, its ‘unholy’ alliance with the Taliban extremists, it will find it heavy going in the world community and perhaps not to be able to get rid of the dreary repetition of the ‘do more’ mantra.

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