Islamabad, 17 May 2016: Former President Pakistan and President Pakistan Peoples Party Parliamentarians Asif Ali Zardari has issued the following statement.
The struggle between Pakistan and the United States over funding for the purchase of F-16 fighter jets lays bare how far apart the two countries have grown. Our bilateral relationship has suffered tremendously over the last fifteen years. What was once a strong partnership allied against threats to the region from Russia and other non-state actors has frayed and is getting weaker.
Pakistan has emerged in the region as a strong democratic nation focused on providing safety and prosperity for its people. Our nation is young, the average age is eighteen and demographically we will grow tremendously over the next few decades. We are a growing power in the region with significant new investment coming from the east. In order for our democracy to thrive officials in government, regardless of their party persuasion must be able to demonstrate that they can provide for the safety of their people. I encourage the United States to look beyond its check list of requirements for cooperation on our security needs and instead think strategically about how it can support a democratic nation under pressure from the same terror groups that threaten regional security.
No one can argue that the Pakistani people suffer from terror activity within their own borders. Already this year there have been repeated attacks in Pakistan from Taliban and al Qaida elements looking to disrupt our civil society. The attacks at the Army Public School in Peshawar, explosion in Quetta, Bacha Khan University killing, explosions in Charsada and recent bombing in Lahore that killed 74 and injured 338 demonstrate the dimensions of this problem. We are literally fighting for our lives. If there are factions in the US congress that don’t believe we are committed to fighting terrorists they should come to Pakistan and bare witness to the violence that our people have inflicted on them from organizations.
Officials from both countries have made public statements recently that describe a relationship that is dysfunctional. The New York Times recently described that strategic interests between the countries as both troubling but necessary. Recently the comments by the US State Department can be read as supportive of Pakistan’s need for new weapon systems to step up its fight against terror. But, Congress and specifically Senator Bob Crocker, Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee remain opposed to supporting the fighter deal. This week State Department officials from the United States will be in Pakistan for meeting with our government leaders. I hope they will take this opportunity to assure us that they remain committed to supporting our security needs.
One must only look to the example set by the United States in response to the horrible attacks in NYC at the World Trade Center in 2001. With all their might they crushed the Taliban’s grip on Afghanistan. But after fifteen years the fight continues and arguably the Taliban is stronger today than it was ten years ago. It’s only together, as democratic nations we can succeed in the struggle against terror. When it comes to the safety of it’s people Pakistan speaks with one unified voice. I hope the United States can find it’s unified voice to join ours.