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

Ebola Death Toll Nears 5,000 as Virus Advances

West Africa bears heaviest burden; Mali toddler’s death raises new fears More

Jordan’s Battle With Islamic State Militants Carries Domestic Risks

Despite Western concerns that IS militants are preparing a Jordanian offensive, analysts call the kingdom's solid intel a strong deterrent More

Asian-Americans Assume Office in Record Numbers

Steadily deepening engagement in local politics pays off for politicians like Chinese-American Judy Chu 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.
Talks to Resume on Winter Gas for Ukrainei
X
Al Pessin
October 25, 2014 4:21 PM
Ukrainian and Russian officials will meet again next week in an effort to settle their dispute over natural gas supplies that threatens to leave Ukraine short of heating fuel for the coming winter. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London the dispute is complex, and has both economic and geopolitical dimensions.
Video

Video Talks to Resume on Winter Gas for Ukraine

Ukrainian and Russian officials will meet again next week in an effort to settle their dispute over natural gas supplies that threatens to leave Ukraine short of heating fuel for the coming winter. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London the dispute is complex, and has both economic and geopolitical dimensions.
Video

Video Smugglers Offer Cheap Passage From Turkey to Syria

Smugglers in Turkey offer a relatively cheap passage across the border into Syria. Ankara has stepped up efforts to stem the flow of foreign fighters who want to join Islamic State militants fighting for control of the Syrian border city of Kobani. But porous borders and border guards who can be bribed make illegal border crossings quite easy. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Comanche Chief Quanah Parker’s Century-Old House Falling Apart

One of the most fascinating people in U.S. history was Quanah Parker, the last chief of the American Indian tribe, the Comanche. He was the son of a Comanche warrior and a white woman who had been captured by the Indians. Parker was a fierce warrior until 1875 when he led his people to Fort Sill, Oklahoma, and took on a new, peaceful life. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Cache, Oklahoma, Quanah’s image remains strong among his people, but part of his heritage is in danger of disappearing.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rules

European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video Kobani Refugees Welcome, Turkey Criticizes, US Airdrop

Residents of Kobani in northern Syria have welcomed the airdrop of weapons, ammunition and medicine to Kurdish militia who are resisting the seizure of their city by Islamic State militants. The Turkish government, however, has criticized the operation. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from southeastern Turkey, across the border from Kobani.
Video

Video US ‘Death Cafes’ Put Focus on the Finale

In contemporary America, death usually is a topic to be avoided. But the growing “death café” movement encourages people to discuss their fears and desires about their final moments. VOA’s Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Ebola Orphanage Opens in Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone's first Ebola orphanage has opened in the Kailahun district. Hundreds of children orphaned since the beginning of the Ebola outbreak face stigma and rejection with nobody to care for them. Adam Bailes reports for VOA about a new interim care center that's aimed at helping the growing number of children affected by Ebola.

All About America

AppleAndroid