Press Statement at the Conclusion of the Conference and Resolution
Two-Day International Conference co-organised by Centre for Research and Security Studies, Islamabad and Heinrich Boell Stiftung, Germany
Islamabad: (Friday, December 09, 2011): Pakistan can no longer afford to continue with its decades’ long policy of hostile relations with its neighbours at the cost of good relations in economic, trade, and cultural milieus. Time has reached where Pakistan will have to choose to live amicably with its neighbours or continue its journey on the path to international isolation and ultimate self-destruction. Pakistan has scores of internal security issues on the hand and therefore it should shun the policy of pursuing its external security goals which are in no way real and proximate. These views were expressed by different speakers on the second day of a two day international seminar “Securing a Frontline State: Alternative Views on Peace and Conflict in Pakistan”, jointly organized by Heinrich Boll Stiftung, Pakistan, and Center for Research and Security Studies, Islamabad, in media partnership with Express Tribune, Pakistan at Marriott Hotel, Islamabad.
Mr. Jeffrey Laurenti, a US based scholar on foreign affairs, underlined that Pakistan should awaken to the new reality that medieval fundamentalist regime in Kabul will not unlock economic and social potential of that state. “For two decades Islamist generals in Pakistan supported radicals in Afghanistan and the legacy continues to haunt Pakistan even today”, he noted. He emphasized that Pakistan will find it utmost difficult to carry on past policies of double dealing, especially when America is one side and radical Taliban are taking on it on the other side. “It is not an issue for any government to deal with”, he observed. Astoundingly noting the fact that there are few countries in the world where US war is more popular than Pakistan and it is despite the fact that US is the major economic and military backer of Pakistan at a time when Pakistan is facing stern economic challenges. He suggested that though relations between two countries are at the lowest ebb in recent times yet there is space for readjustment and convergence of interests. He said that Pakistan and US cannot afford to have enmity and especially in the context of Afghanistan, where both need each other badly. He noted that though there is frustration among military commanders and intelligence community in Washington over the fragility of Pak-US marriage, yet State Department is struggling hard to fix the issue.
Highlighting the importance of Pakistan-Afghanistan relations for both the states and the region, Mr. Abdul Rahman Habibzui from Kabul noted: “Afghanistan acknowledges strategic strengths of Pakistan and in return wants Pakistan to take into account the transit vitality of Afghanistan.” He explained that Afghanistan can potentially link the future energy hub of the world, Central Asia with Pakistan and extra-region. He suggested that due to interdependence both the states should live like “twin brothers”. Noting a sobering fact, he said that unfortunately young Afghans don’t have favorable views for Pakistan due its involvement in Afghanistan. He said that Pakistan should take into account this changing reality and should restructure its policy towards Afghanistan based on mutual respect and dignity. “On the contrary, Afghanistan should also ensure that its land may not be used for subversive activities against Pakistan”, he stressed.
Delineating upon the state of relations between India and Pakistan, Dr. Smruti S. Pattanaik from New Delhi lamented that Pakistan and India share history of distrust. She emphasized: “Good relation between these two neighbors are central to peace and prosperity in the region and extra-region.” She said that there is need for continued efforts on the part of both countries to normalize relations and they should not let the terrorism overshadow their mutual relations. He narrated that in the past when there was a blast in India, it blamed Pakistani involvement but this trend is changing rapidly. “Challenges of terrorism also provide opportunity to cooperate and Pakistani help in Mumbai attacks is a case in point” she underlined. She said that Pakistan and India can carve out space to realign their interests in Afghanistan, since both the states are agree on having a peaceful and prosperous Afghanistan. Counting the human cost of continued Pak-India hostility, renowned human rights activist Mr. I. A. Rahman noted that inhuman cost of this conflict is absolutely insignificant in comparison to human cost. He lamented that it is a strange fact that hostility between Pak-India dates back to their pre-independence era and it is indefatigably there despite the passage of 64 years. And thus “Pak-India relations are victim of history”, he observed. He suggested that both the countries can solve their bilateral relations once they will start living like good neighbours, but we cannot achieve normalcy despite we are interlocked in animosity just because dispute are there.
Underlining the threat posed by sectarian violence to Pakistani security, Dr Mariam Abou Zahab said that due to nexus between sectarian terrorists and global jihadists, the sectarian terrorists have become more lethal and dangerous in post-Taliban era. She observed that she is visiting Pakistan since 1973 and today she can expertly illustrate that the issue of sectarian violence in Pakistan has changed for the worst. She warned that sectarian terrorists have the potential to destabilize the whole region. She noted that though Pakistani government banned sectarian groups in the past but these are still operating in the country with impunity. Dr. Thomas K. Gugler, a research fellow hailing from Vienna noted that Lashkar-i-Taiba (LeT) is the ticking time bomb of South Asia due to its relations with Al-Qaeda and outreach. He said that it is the Pakistani intelligence agency ISI who created LeT, but now it has become global in scope and conduct.
In his concluding remarks, executive director, CRSS, Mr. Imtiaz Gul underlined that Pakistanis should look afresh at their socio-economic, political and security policies and there is thumping need for re-evaluation of our policies in the context of emerging global realities. “Critical inward-looking is the only panacea for daunting internal and external challenges faced by Pakistan today”, he stressed. The resolution read out at the conclusion of two day proceedings underscored that human security is the sole guarantor of state security. Participants of the seminar were generally agreed with the speakers about the nature and scale of challenges faced by Pakistan due to its ill-conceived policies in the past three decades. They were of the view that Pakistan should opt for closer relations with its neighbours and it should not let the past ruin the future of its coming generations, rather should choose to seize emerging opportunities in the region.
The conference also adopted a unanimous resolution, identifying the problems that Pakistan faces, and also underlining the need to address them in an all-inclusive and comprehensive way. (See the Resolution).
Britta Petersen, the country director for the Heinrich Boell Stiftung, also assured her organisation’s full support to initiatives such as the conference at Islamabad and said the HBS would be happy to support any endeavour that helps in finding lasting solutions to Pakistan’s problems.
“Securing a Frontline State: Alternative Views on Peace and Conflict in Pakistan” 8th-9th December 2011, Islamabad
We, the participants of the conference, noted that
a) the ongoing conflicts in large parts of the country such as FATA and Balochistan and other parts of the country pose a serious threat to Pakistan as a whole. The underlying factors which have led to the current religious militancy remain largely unaddressed;
b) the prevalent crisis of human security is the direct outcome of the over emphasis on conventional notions of security, an over-centralized state structures where the balance of civil-military relations is still heavily tilted in favour of the armed forces. The predominance of the Pakistani military in foreign and security policy has proven highly problematic and entailed extremely debilitating consequences;
c) the failure to address pressing human security issues (education, health, food, shelter, unemployment) has exacerbated the security situation in the conventional sense. The inability and incompetence of a mighty bureaucracy is also a major factor in poor governance and lack of development;
d) the current security discourse in Pakistan is marked by an adversarial relationship with India, an increasingly difficult partnership with the US and an ambivalent policy on Afghanistan;
e) a nuclear South Asia remains a grave global concern because a nuclear confrontation between India and Pakistan could potentially wipe out large parts of both countries and make them uninhabitable for human beings. The presence of nuclear weapons therefore demands that both countries stop the nuclear arms race and work out Confidence Building Measures which would exclude the possibility of the use of nuclear weapons in case of any conflict;
f) as a result of the global climate change, deforestation and other human interventions, large parts of the country have become prone to natural disasters as witnessed during the massive floods of 2010 and 2011. Many parts of the country are already food insecure and water-deficient. Pakistan is among those countries which will be most affected by these long-term changes. Women at large continue to be among the worst affected by conflict and disaster, and remain the most vulnerable segment of the society;
g) inadequate education opportunities, coupled with tiered education system in the country continues not only to be a source of poverty and low-productivity. The energy crisis in Pakistan has become a huge burden for the vast majority of Pakistanis and heavily taxing the local economy.
We, the participants of the conference, therefore, agree that
i. Pakistan’s multiple socio-economic and security crises – factors that fuel uncertainty and instability as well as undermine economic progress – demand a comprehensive analysis of security environment. The international community needs to analyze and understand Pakistan’s security environment more broadly than traditional civil-military relations and needs further to look at internal reasons of the crisis;
ii. while external factors do impact the internal security situation, the primary onus lies on Pakistan’s ruling elite – both military and civilian – to address fundamentals of good governance, accountability and transparency;
iii. unless security and well-being of over 180 million Pakistanis are placed at the centre of policy planning, the state of Pakistan will continue reeling under political and economic crisis;
iv. the international community must also pay a dispassionate attention to the context of Pakistan’s current crisis that has evolved over three decades and is the direct consequence of the US-led western Jihad, facilitated by Pakistan’s military ruler General Ziaul Haq, against the former Soviet Union;
v. the sovereignty of Pakistan as well as that of its neighbouring states need to be respected by all nations. Regional, multi-lateral security mechanisms need to be developed in order to improve cooperation in counter-terrorism, narcotics, and neutralise all those non-state actors that try to use the territory of a particular country to plan and execute terrorist activities against another country;
vi. conclusive legal action needs to be taken against all armed and unarmed groups who are the source of this radicalization and responsible for preaching hatred and intolerance. Likewise they also undermine the authority of the state and thus are a direct threat to democracy in Pakistan;
vii. radicalisation of thought cannot be corrected through constitutional means alone. Urgent constitutional and administrative corrective measures are therefore required to control the radicalisation of thought. Formal registration of all types of education and compliance with consensus curricula must be made compulsory;
viii. Pakistan must seek solutions to a galloping population already burdened with an enormous youth bulge;
ix. Pakistan must reform and mainstream standardized school syllabus to eliminate contents that give birth to, and promote a jihadi obscurantist mindset, hate speech, and intolerance;
x. Pakistan must work for grassroots political-social-economic empowerment, devolution in its true sense to improve service delivery, reduce poverty and address unemployment, disguised unemployment that also sits at the heart of underdevelopment;
xi. Pakistan must urgently prioritize education and invest more and more resources in primary education. In order to diffuse and neutralize these threats, it is necessary to address the root-causes of these threats and address people’s grievances;
xii. a new legitimacy based on principles of inclusion and dynamic federalism i.e. representation through elections to the national and provincial parliaments, transparency, human rights as enshrined in the constitution should be built in order to constitutionally integrate the FATA into the mainstream;
xiii. since climate change knows no borders, cooperation with neighbouring countries in order to find solutions to this common challenge is necessary;
xiv. women issues must become part of the mainstream discourse as an essential element of policy planning to ensure equal political rights and their participation in national development. The perspective of women (gender mainstreaming) must become an essential part of all policy-planning;
xv. Democratic consolidation requires an urgent realignment of civil-military relationship and a more comprehensive security strategy to ensure civilian supremacy and effective crisis management;
xvi. since the state of Pakistan manifestly lacks the capacity and resources required to carry out the tasks expected from it, there is an urgent need to develop mutually complimentary initiatives by the state and civil society organizations;
xvii. while welcoming Pakistan’s decision to accord the Most Favoured Nation (MFN) status to India, the participants urge the government of Pakistan to open and facilitate all trade passing through Pakistan. Free trade can serve as a catalyst for economic progress and peace in the region.