Given the recent tensions and a spate of hostile statements from senior American officials against Pakistan, Ms. Khar indeed has a tough task on her shoulders to convey the Pakistani viewpoint. She, nonetheless, is trying to put up a brave front in various bilateral meetings in her bid to lobby for Pakistan and is being sought after by the media as well (thankfully it is not about her Birkin bag this time round).
Despite her hectic schedule, she managed to spare time to talk one-on-one with Dunya News about the US accusations against Pakistan of aiding Haqqani network, Pakistan s frustration with the US and her interaction with other foreign leaders during the UN session amongst other related issues.
Question: The narrative in United States about Pakistan seems to be turning hostile. Following Admiral Mike Mullen and Secretary Defense Leon Panetta yesterday, White House has also openly accused Pakistan of having links with militant organisations. What s your reaction to that?
Answer: Look Pakistan s stance has always been that we don t want to do diplomacy through public statements and media and we have been consistent with it. And we have given the same message to US during our engagements, which they have reciprocated. Despite that, if there s a tendency from them to overlook all the commitments which have been made, and to overlook the pre-requisites and the norms of a decent relationship, Pakistan would still choose to do what it thinks is in its interest. And we think that as a responsible and mature country, it is neither in our interest nor it is our policy to run our foreign policy through public statements. In our deep and intensive engagement with US, in which we have always addressed their issues and concerns. And we have repeatedly stated this that if you ll continue this (aggressive) trend, then we ll have the right to choose or exercise, you know, our options. Because it is important for them to be able to address our concerns and it is important that the US does not seem to want to aggressively, or on purpose, want to alienate the people of Pakistan who are the ones who have sacrificed.
Question: At the moment, the biggest threat to the deep engagement between Pakistan and US, which you just referred to, is Haqqani network and other terrorist organizations targeted by the Americans. It has reached a point where the US is asking Pakistan that it would take action on its own against these groups if Pakistan does not act?
Answer: Well, they might be saying it but when they interact with us and say something, that s more important instead of doing it through public statements and media. We have said it quite often that terrorist organizations and terrorist elements in all their forms are not something that we want to support or that we are supporting. Any allegations that are made on the state of Pakistan are taken very very seriously, and we expect serious answers from them (US) and we are looking for these answers from them. This has been conveyed to them unequivocally. I wanted to be very clear that this has been conveyed to them in the terms that I am saying, if not worse, because we have been very mature. I think our maturity should not be taken for granted.
Question: Do you think that the United States at this point is even discrediting the sacrifices given by Pakistan in the war against terror and is trying to pressurize and marginalize Pakistan unduly?
Answer: I have even used the word “alienation”, which is stronger than marginalizing, and I hope this is not a policy decision. I have so far not been told that it is and have been told categorically that it is not a policy decision; it is not their intention etc etc. If the impression that comes through time and time again that if is almost a policy decision, and if the same policy (towards Pakistan) continues, it will not be in the interest of the US.
Question: Does the Pakistan government or the Foreign Office intend to formally lodge a protest with US on such statements and direct accusations?
Answer: See I have said earlier and I ll repeat that we don t do our diplomacy through public statements and media. This is our strength and not our weakness and should not be considered our weakness at all. Because we are engaging with them (US) in a mature manner, have been doing it, and want that they do the same. The messages we needed to convey to them have been conveyed in unequivocal terms.
Question: Lastly, you have said that Pakistan has the right to exercise its options, if US resorts to taking more unilateral actions like the Abbottabad raid in the Pakistani territory, which it has been threatening between the lines for a while, then what kind of option does Pakistan have?
Answer: Pakistan has said that very clearly that there are certain red lines which have to be respected and we have said this categorically. Your top leadership, including President and Prime Minister, conveyed this to the US team that visited Islamabad after the US raid and even the parliament raised its concern loud and clear. If the US will not take all this into account, and even decides to ignore the Pakistani parliament s resolution to take such a course of action, I would not like to engage in such a possibility right now; in line with our policy of not doing diplomacy through the media.
Question: You are attending the UN session in New York at such a crucial juncture and holding several bilateral meetings on the sidelines as well, how difficult it is to lobby for Pakistan when such statements are coming from the US administration?
Answers: It rather seems quite easy for me and I sometimes feel quite surprised because each country, Europeans, UK, Japan, Canadians, Bahrain, Italian and so many other foreign ministers, whom we have been meeting, all of them have said that they understand and they recognize Pakistan s (problems and) sacrifices in this war. So I want to tell you that Pakistan is not isolated at this point, the entire world is standing besides Pakistan. These statements are only coming from one country (US) which are counter-productive, and if these continue, we will all be losers.
Thank you very much for talking to Dunya News.
Amir Khan, the new sensation in the boxing world, has achieved several noteworthy feats at a young age of 25. He was the youngest British boxer to compete in Olympics in 2004 at the age of 17. Currently, he is the world champion in light welterweight category. His parents migrated to Britain from a small village near the town of Kahuta in Rawapindi district. Although born and raised in Britain, he is very deeply attached to his Pakistani and Muslim links. Amir was recently in United States on an invitation of US government to recognize his contributions, along with a group of 10 Muslim-American athletes, in promoting peace and harmony through sports. He took out time to speak exclusively with Dunya News about his biggest inspirations in life and how sports can be used to bring people together.
Question: You are a Muslim as well as of Pakistani origin where millions of youngsters idealize you. How difficult it was for you initially to achieve success in a challenging mainstream sport like boxing?
Answer: It has been very hard journey for me and it’s very hard for everyone. If you want to be successful in sport and you are young too, you need to try twice as hard. When I was 17 years of age, England did not want to send me to Olympic games, and I had a chance to go via Pakistan. But then England kind of said to me, look, we want you to go through us and we apologize. To be honest with you, I think now I see it quite different because you don’t really see the racism, you don’t really see the stereotypes and everything in sports. Sport is brilliant because everyone is treated equally and that s the way it should be.
Question: You are a Pakistani-Muslim youth icon known and admired allover the world at a time when there are a lot of misconceptions about Pakistan as well as Islamic religion. How these misgivings can be removed in your opinion?
Answer: There are a handful of bad people around but there are a lot of good people and I think sports breaks that barrier. Sport in a way brings everyone together. If you look at any of my fights and the crowd, you ll see English, Americans, Pakistanis, Indian, you ll see everyone watching me and supporting me., even though I might be fighting a British boxer. I think more sporting events around the world will break the racial barriers. There are 10 other Muslim athletes with me here including those of Pakistani origin and that s good because we promoting this sport for Pakistan and for the Muslims. I think we need more such events to promote sports.
Question: You are obviously very deeply tied to your oots and your religion and you recently performed Umrah as well. What role does religion play in your success as a professional sportsman?
Answer: Definitely, faith is a big thing in my career. That s the reason that has got me so far. All my success comes from Allah, who has put me in this position. I have to work hard and I always thank Allah for all the success. I went to perform Umrah recently with my whole family and my brother Haroon Khan, who is also a boxer and will be representing Pakistan in the next Olympics in 2012. Both of us always pray before the fight and faith is very close to our hearts. We believe in it big time because it keeps my feet on the ground. You have your own natural talent but you also need the divine blessings to achieve success. Without believing in religion, it is easy to get bigheaded but faith has kept me really down to earth.
Question: Amir, you are also involved in a lot of charity work. What s the motivation behind that?
Answer: That s one thing which I love doing to help the less fortunate people and that s the reason I do a lot of charity work for poor people like Pakistan earthquake and floods, Tsunami and my next project is to get involved in the charity work in the horn of Africa who are suffering without food, shelter and clothing. The message it gives to others is that the people who don t have food at the end of the day also deserve attention of others who are in a position to do so.
Question: What message you want to give to your fans in Pakistan?
Answer: My message to all my fans is that my next trip will be to Pakistan very soon and I look forward to see all my fan-base there like elsewhere in the world. Another message I want to send across to young kids out there is that if you want to achieve something in life, you have to work hard towards it. You might not achieve it in one year and may have to work for five years but as long as you keep working hard and pray to Allah, I am sure you ll be able to achieve it one day.
Thank You Mr. Amir Khan For Speaking To Dunya News.
Thank you. I Really Appreciate The Opportunity.
This demand was made during the bilateral foreign ministers meeting in New York on the sidelines of UN General Assembly.
Following the three and a half hours exhaustive meeting, a senior US state department official said that full range of issues were discussed and “counterterrorism remained the first and last most important agenda-item”. “Haqqani network s involvement in attack on the US Embassy in Kabul was discussed and secretary Clinton s message was clear that something had to be done against Haqqani network”.
Khar condemned the attack and said that terrorism is also a threat for Pakistan,he said adding that “Pakistan was looking into ways to take such an action”. While describing the meeting as candid and substantial, he said that both Secretary Clinton and Minister Khar have a good relationship ever since they met in Bali earlier this year and agreed to continue the meaningful dialogue. “Secretary Clinton wanted to sit with Pakistani foreign minister Khar for a lengthy duration to discuss issues in detail.”We wanted to listen viewpoint of Pakistan and hoped that they will listen to ours”, he informed.
Regarding other issues discussed during the meeting, he said that Afghan-led reconciliation effort with Taliban was also discussed with an agreement that there can t be a stable Pakistan without a stable Pakistan. Lashkar-e-Taiba s presence in Pakistan, threat coming from Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan and safe heavens in Pakistan were also discussed and both sides pondered upon actions to encounter this problem that Pakistan and US can take jointly. “We must remember that thousands of Pakistani lives have been lost in this war”, he recalled.
On a question regarding US Ambassador to Pakistan Cameron Munter s statement yesterday about having evidence of Pakistan s links to Kabul attacks, the US official said that this was not raised in the meeting by Pakistan. On another query regarding the meeting of Army Chief Gen. Ashfaq Pervez Kayani and US Admiral Mike Mullen in Spain on Saturday, he said “both Clinton and Khar had been debriefed by their military leadership about what was discussed between Gen Kayani and Admiral Mullen”.
The official, talking about broad range of cooperation between both countries, said that Pakistani delegation raised the issue of support for Pakistani economy and US market access, upon which Clinton shared her vision about silk route for promotion of regional trade. “If we can figure out a problem together and then work on it jointly, that ll be good”, he said adding that both sides committed to working on such issues jointly in future. “We understand that there is work to do on US image in Pakistan and hope that Pakistanis appreciate the positive contribution of US for food-relief”. He hinted that the ongoing strategic dialogue on counterterrorism and energy will benefit Pakistan.
In response to questions from the pakistani media after the meeting, foreign minister Hina Rabbi Khar hailed the meeting as “positive and constructive”. On the issues raised by US, she declined to answer the specific points but stressed that “there is complete convergence on strategic issues between both countries”. “I don t want to counter anything that US has said”, she responded when asked about specific US demand of action against Haqqani network. “It is not a uni-dimentional relationship and we have conveyed it to US”.
Another high-rankinfg Pakistani official, giving a background briefing to media, said that “all common interests were discussed with candour and we discussed how we can move to the next level in this relationship. Pakistan, US, Afghanistan and other world powers have to be on the same page for counterterrorism and a lot of time was spent discussing issues pertaining to reconciliation process with Taliban”, he observed. “There are differing viewpoints on recent attacks in Kabul. We don t have to agree on everything and Pakistan s position was made clear”, he informed.
“Given complexity of issues, such interaction is important and Pakistan wants to pursue this relationship further”, he asserted. “We have to see how we can further build on it, share common goals on stability, peace and counterterrorism”, he went on to add. “Our concerns on unilateral actions like drone strikes was also conveyed and need for coordination and joint action was stressed”, he revealed adding that “Pakistan has asked for more details on US demand for action against Haqqani network”.
“We also want clarity whether priority in Afghanistan is of military strategy or civilian strategy and there are issues of attacks on Pakistan from other side of the border while talking of safe heavens”, the official noted while conceding that discussion with US authorities did take place on regional security, Haqqani network, Kabul attack and cooperation at bilateral level etc. “We do not see that this should be an event driven relationship and are focussing on dynamics of startegic relationship where US wants to go and where Pakistan wants to go. If some events take place which Pakistan has nothing to do with, we should work on it because our interests converge on many counts”, he said while referring to the recent tension between both countries following attack on US embassy in Kabul allegedly by Haqqani network on September 13.
“We have condemned the Kabul attacks and violence is no solution, there should be de-escalation”, he emphasised adding that Pakistan has suffered a lot in the war against terror already and did not need to mention again how much of a victim it had been of terrorism during the previous years. “This was a constructive and substantial meeting overall and we welcome this opportunity”, he said while hoping that these discussions will continue in future too.
Earlier, Pakistani delegation arrived at the Waldorf-Astoria hotel for a meeting with US secretary of state, Hillary Clinton. The US special envoy for Pakistan and Afghanistan, Mark Grossman and US ambassador to Pakistan Cameron Munter were part of the US delegation while foreign secretary, Salman Bashir and Pakistani ambassador to US, Husain Haqqani consisted the Pakistani delegation chaired by Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar. The meeting was originally scheduled for two hours but went-on for three and a half hours amidst tight security arrangements on the floor where the meeting was being held and around the hotel.
A United States delegation is travelling to Pakistan for high-level meetings to discuss promotion of trade and investment in the country and greater market access for
products in US, Dunya News has learnt.
The first round of the two-day meetings will be held in Islamabad on September 20th between government officials of both countries while the second round will be on September 21st when the visiting delegation will travel to Lahore for meetings with the private sector, including leading textile groups.
The meeting is being held under the Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA) between both countries since 2003 for the promotion of bilateral trade and investment flows. The US Assistant Trade Representative for South Asia, Michael Deleney will be leading the six-member delegation while Secretary Commerce, Zafar Mahmood will lead the Pakistani side.
During the parleys, the Pakistani delegation will be pushing for greater market access for the local textile products in US markets, which has been a long-standing demand of Pakistan since deciding to become an ally with US in the ‘war on terror”, sources informed Dunya News.
Pakistan will also urge US to expedite the bill for creation of Reconstruction Opportunity Zones (RoZs) in tribal areas of Pakistan, which is still stuck in Congress for inexplicable reasons, the sources revealed. The promotion of trade in non-traditional sectors like jems & jewelry, leather and surgical instruments etc will also be discussed under the GSP programme of US government.
The US Generalised System of Preference (GSP) is a programme designed to promote economic growth in the developing countries by providing preferential duty-free entry for a range of 4800 products from 129 designated countries.
Pakistani manufacturers have so far not focused on the benefits of GSP programme and 80 percent of the country’s exports to US consist of textile products, which have a higher tariff regime. Improvement in design structures and capacity building of Pakistani professionals is also on the agenda and US has agreed to extend help in these areas.
However, the US has concerns on the situation vis-à-vis intellectual property rights in Pakistan and has been urging the local authorities to take concrete steps for curbing piracy. The issue will again be discussed during the forthcoming meeting, the sources pointed out.
The US delegation is also expected to raise enforcement and implementation of Afghan transit trade, though this is not part of agenda for bilateral discussions. “This is something that the US is strongly interested in to promote regional trade and bolster Afghan economy in wake of the withdrawal from that country”, sources stated.
Pakistan, on the other hand, will be pursuing US informally to use its influence and lobby for getting due concessions from European Union (EU) for waivers in the WTO for the Pakistani products and manufacturers that can provide a much needed boost to the Pakistani exports.
The meetings are also expected to finalise a supporting track of private sector advisory panel (PSAP) to follow-up on these plans and to move the scope of these meetings beyond just governmental level. The first meeting of this private sector body is likely to take place in Pakistan in November this year, but an alternate destination could also be considered in case of any security concerns at that time.
The meeting comes at a crucial time for Pakistan when its economy is reeling from the impact of devastating floods for two consecutive years and the ongoing war on terror. Although the Pak-US relations on defence and political fronts are far quite strained at the moment, but the US has shown a commitment to continue with the civilian assistance to Pakistan.
“We would like to enhance trade opportunities and gain leverage from US on this count so that the dependency on aid is minimized “, the source said adding “trade-not-aid has been the demand of Pakistan and should define the relationship of both countries, particularly the seriousness of US towards Pakistan, in future”.
The bilateral meeting is supposed to be held at least once a year on alternate basis in each country and the last one was held in Washington, DC in April 2010. The US provided support in four categories to Pakistan after last year’s meetings including training of professionals in commercial skills and judicial enforcement of intellectual property rights as well as exhibitions of surgical instruments and general jewelry.