Pakistan civilian leadership support vital for war on terrorism, says US analyst

November 14th, 2007 - 2:07 am ICT by admin  
Washington, Oct 12 (ANI): Civilian leadership in Pakistan is the key to bridging the gap with the public in the war against terrorism, according to a top US diplomatic analyst.

Lisa Curtis, the Senior Research Fellow at the Asia Studies Centre of the Heritage Foundation in Washington, says that prolonged military rule in Pakistan has spread frustration among its people, who, by and large, have a moderate outlook and want to be a part of the global community.

Curtis said in an interview to Asian News International: “Right now, the frustration is stemming from the lack of democracy and the frustration with military rule, and that gets mixed up with the fight against extremism in a negative way.”

“The frustration with Musharraf (President Pervez Musharraf) leads to frustration with the US, which means they don’t support the fight against terrorism. So, I do think a civilian leader could possibly bridge that gap and get support from the Pakistani people on this”, Curtis added.

The United States needs to reach out to Pakistan’s civilian leaders and promote fair elections in that key US ally to build support for fighting terrorism.

US ally Musharraf, who took power in a coup in 1999, won re-election last week in a result whose legality is being weighed by Pakistan’s top court this week.

Doubts over the final outcome have added to uncertainty in Pakistan entering a transition period from military to civilian rule, which will culminate in a national election due by mid-January.

The peace process between India and Pakistan, which had seen tremendous progress during Musharraf’s rule, Curtis says, should not be greatly affected as a strong foundation had already been laid by the Pakistani military ruler.

“As far as a new civilian leader and whether they’ll be able to continue that, I think there are a couple of things that are in favour that bodes well and that is the people of Pakistan and the people of India have become invested in this process. They are very much supportive. So, you have broad public support for continuing it and you have people to people exchanges that have been going on very well. . So there are a lot of things in place already,” Curtis said.

Meanwhile, with regard to militancy in the tribal areas, Curtis said that while Pakistan’s military has gone back on the offensive in the area, there still had to be greater coordination between Pakistan and the NATO and the US forces, to combat the insurgents.

“So, certainly the Pakistan military is taking action in these (tribal) areas. But when you talk about the cross border movement then yes, I think there does need to be greater coordination between the NATO forces and the Pakistan government because there are a lot of disconnects in terms of what exactly is happening at the border and of course as you know NATO forces and US forces cannot cross the border in these areas. They can chase the insurgents up to the border of Pakistan but they are not allowed to cross over. So, then it falls to Pakistan to take care of the insurgents on their side of the border,” Curtis said.

Violence has surged in the Waziristan region since militants scrapped a peace deal with authorities in July.

Attacks by suicide bombers have become commonplace, especially after the army stormed the Lal Masjid , a mosque in Islamabad in July to crush an armed student movement.

Sick of being on the receiving end, the Pakistan army lashed back last weekend, unleashing fighter jets, helicopter gunships, artillery and ground troops on militants.

Hitherto, the army had exercised more restraint because it did not want to be seen as fighting its own people — an accusation that is already sapping morale.

While on India’s relation with Afghanistan, Curtis said that the close ties the two countries have, are causing tension in Pakistan.

“Certainly India has a positive role to play in Afghanistan. It’s the world’s largest democracy. It can help, it can be an example as Afghanistan itself is trying to develop into a democracy. But at the same time I think the US needs to understand the insecurities in Pakistan about its regional position. Afghanistan on one side, India on the other side and if those two governments are extremely close there’s a certain insecurity in Pakistan. So what I think that means is the US take more proactive roles in encouraging better relations between Pakistan and Afghanistan largely like it has between India and Pakistan,” Curtis said.

Afghanistan’s infrastructure is largely in shambles after decades of war and occupation, despite billions of dollars spent by donors since US-led forces overthrew the Taliban’s radical Islamic government in 2001.

Lying between the untapped reserves of energy-rich Central Asia and energy-starved India and Pakistan, Afghanistan also has big copper reserves, precious gems, coal and iron deposits.

But corruption and red tape are rife, and fighting which has killed almost 3,700 people so far this year, poses a major threat to investment and projects to rebuild roads and power lines.

In some parts of the country, especially the Taliban’s southern heartland, reconstruction and development have slowed to a crawl or stopped altogether. (ANI)

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