News / Asia

Pakistan: Stronger Ties With US Would Help Afghan Peace Efforts

Pakistan's Minister of Planning and Development Ahsan Iqbal, with U.S. Ambassador Richard Olson, July 9, 2013. File photo provided by Pakistan's Press Information Department.
Pakistan's Minister of Planning and Development Ahsan Iqbal, with U.S. Ambassador Richard Olson, July 9, 2013. File photo provided by Pakistan's Press Information Department.
Ayaz Gul
Pakistan’s new government, headed by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, says it seeks deepened economic, trade and political ties with the United States despite differences over how to conduct joint anti-terror efforts. Ahead of an expected visit by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, a key member of Pakistan's cabinet tells VOA that close cooperation is also vital for a smooth security transition and stability in neighboring Afghanistan after most American troops leave that country by the end of next year.

Pakistan has been a vital partner in the U.S.-led war against terrorism but its role has always been marred by controversies mainly because of allegations Islamabad never broke ties with the Islamist Taliban leading the insurgency in Afghanistan.

However, Islamabad and Washington have come closer in recent months in a bid to jump-start long-awaited peace talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban. The efforts faced major setbacks in recent weeks but officials in Islamabad expect that Kerry's visit might resurrect the Afghan reconciliation process. It came to a halt because of President Hamid Karzai’s objections to the opening of a Taliban office in Qatar in June.

In a wide-ranging interview, Pakistan's minister for planning and development, Ahsan Iqbal, told VOA that as Afghanistan's immediate neighbor, his country will be the first to suffer in the absence of a smooth security and political transition. He noted the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan in the 1980s and subsequent civil war in the 1990s caused up to four million Afghans to seek refuge in Pakistan. He said about three million refugees still live in the country, a strain on the national economy, while the dislocated population is also partly blamed for the rise in militancy on both sides of the border.

“Therefore, we need to work very closely. We need to have great cooperation between United States, other NATO countries and Pakistan so that we can manage this transition in a peaceful manner," said Iqbal. "My greatest worry is not just 2014, but post-2014 because in the last 10 years there was a big war economy which was constructed in Afghanistan and, as the [foreign] forces and the military withdraws from Afghanistan, this war economy will collapse and this is going to cause many dislocations. Now again, if there is an influx of Afghan refugees or unemployed Afghan youth who come to Pakistan, we would have very serious implications," said the minister.

Pakistan sees ties as critical

Iqbal said strong ties with the United States, particularly in economy, energy and trade, are critical for Pakistan. He said there are a number of U.S.-funded projects in place as part of efforts to help Pakistan overcome its energy and power crisis. But the Pakistani minister dismissed suggestions that the recent warming of his country’s traditionally strong ties with neighboring China are meant to move away from the relationship with the United States.

“There are some areas in which cooperation of U.S. is not substitutable. For example, [the] United States is a major export market for Pakistan's textile sector, and we would like to develop it further," he said. "Similarly, the opportunity of learning in the universities of [the] U.S. is also second to none. We would like more and more of our young boys and girls to have access to higher education in [the] U.S. Similarly, we think that in attracting foreign investment [the] United States has been a major investor in Pakistan and we would like to promote our trade as well as investment of [the] United States in Pakistan.”

Officials in Pakistan hope Kerry's visit will boost efforts to revive a bilateral strategic dialogue that has seen intermittent suspensions since 2006. The process suffered major blows when the U.S. military unilaterally acted to track down and kill Osama bin Laden deep inside Pakistan two years ago. A few months later an American airstrike mistakenly killed two dozen Pakistani soldiers on the Afghan border, further straining relations.

The United States began the wide-ranging strategic dialogue in 2006 to help Pakistan overcome financial losses it was suffering because of its participation in the war on terror. The dialogue seeks close cooperation in a range of fields including economy, trade, energy, defense, security, counterterrorism, education and agriculture.

Islamabad estimates that more than 40,000 Pakistanis, including security force members, have died because of a militant backlash to the country’s decision to join the U.S.-led anti-terrorism campaign. Also, it contends, the nation's economy has suffered multi-billion-dollar losses due to rising insecurity.

You May Like

Video Drug Use Rises in Afghanistan

Ninety percent of world’s heroin comes from Afghanistan More

Here's Your Chance to Live in a Deserted Shopping Mall

About one-third of the 1200 enclosed malls in the US are dead or dying. Here's what's being done with them. More

Video NASA: Big Antarctica Ice Shelf Is Disintegrating

US space agency’s new study indicates Larsen B shelf could break up in just a few years More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Poverty, Ignorance Force Underage Girls Into Marriagei
X
May 21, 2015 4:14 AM
The recent marriage of a 17-year old Chechen girl to a local police chief who was 30 years older and already had a wife caused an outcry in Russia and beyond. The bride was reportedly forced to marry and her parents were intimidated into giving their consent. The union spotlighted yet again the plight of many underage girls in developing countries. Zlatica Hoke reports poverty, ignorance and fear are behind the practice, especially in Asia and Africa.
Video

Video Poverty, Ignorance Force Underage Girls Into Marriage

The recent marriage of a 17-year old Chechen girl to a local police chief who was 30 years older and already had a wife caused an outcry in Russia and beyond. The bride was reportedly forced to marry and her parents were intimidated into giving their consent. The union spotlighted yet again the plight of many underage girls in developing countries. Zlatica Hoke reports poverty, ignorance and fear are behind the practice, especially in Asia and Africa.
Video

Video South Korea Marks Gwangju Uprising Anniversary

South Korea this week marked the 35th anniversary of a protest that turned deadly. The Gwangju Uprising is credited with starting the country’s democratic revolution after it was violently quelled by South Korea’s former military rulers. But as Jason Strother reports, some observers worry that democracy has recently been eroded.
Video

Video California’s Water System Not Created To Handle Current Drought

The drought in California is moving into its fourth year. While the state's governor is mandating a reduction in urban water use, most of the water used in California is for agriculture. But both city dwellers and farmers are feeling the impact of the drought. Some experts say the state’s water system was not created to handle long periods of drought. Elizabeth Lee reports from Ventura County, an agricultural region just northwest of Los Angeles.
Video

Video How to Clone a Mammoth: The Science of De-Extinction

An international team of scientists has sequenced the complete genome of the woolly mammoth. Led by the Swedish Museum of Natural History in Stockholm, the work opens the door to recreate the huge herbivore, which last roamed the Earth 4,000 years ago. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble considers the science of de-extinction and its place on the planet
Video

Video Blind Boy Defines His Life with Music

Cole Moran was born blind. He also has cognitive delays and other birth defects. He has to learn everything by ear. Nevertheless, the 12-year-old has had an insatiable love for music since he was born. VOA’s June Soh introduces us to the young phenomenal harmonica player.
Video

Video Women to March for Peace Between Koreas

Prominent female activists from around the world plan to march through the demilitarized zone dividing North and South Korea to call for peace between the two neighbors, divided for more than 60 years. The event, taking place May 24, marks the International Women's Day for Peace and Disarmament and has been approved by both Koreas. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Drug Use Rises in Afghanistan Following Record High Poppy Crops

Afghanistan has seen record high poppy crops during the last few years - and the result has been an alarming rise in illegal drug use and addiction in the war-torn country. VOA's Ayesha Tanzeem has this report from Kabul.
Video

Video America’s Front Lawn Gets Overhaul

America’s front yard is getting a much-needed overhaul. Almost two kilometers of lawn stretch from the U.S. Capitol to the Washington Monument. But the expanse of grass known as the National Mall has taken a beating over the years. Now workers are in the middle of restoring the lush, green carpet that fronts some of Washington’s best-known sights. VOA’s Steve Baragona took a look.

VOA Blogs