An important ally

Pakistan is a friend and moreover a partner as an important ally in the War on Terror, being an integral player at the geostrategic level.. The message is warm and the intention seems nothing but positive, looking at multiple strata of cooperation and collaboration in the years to come. The press conference jointly addressed by Advisor to the Prime Minister Sartaj Aziz and British Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs William Hague in Islamabad is not merely a reiteration of the decades-long relationship the two countries share but a very positive sign of the goodwill the western friend is eager to stamp on all areas discussed between the two countries.

As Mr Hague announced, the UK is ready to provide assistance to work on areas that are of the utmost importance to Pakistan at the moment: overcome terrorism and work out a long-term solution to the years-long energy crisis. Both the issues have debilitated Pakistan at a security, human and economic level, thus making it imperative for strategies to be formulated that would halt or lessen if not work for complete eradication of the two. The UK is willing to extend assistance to enhance its trade with Pakistan from the present $ 3 billion to $ 5 billion. It is also supporting in opening new markets for Pakistan, especially in the coveted European Union (EU) where Pakistan is vying for inclusion in the GSP Plus. Different sectors will be looked into in an endeavour to identify quality products fit for the European market, and once that is set in action, exports could receive a much needed boost. Needless to say, a flourishing economy able to generate jobs would be of tremendous help in combating terrorism.

As Mr Hague suggested, the need to form a national counter-terrorism strategy is of paramount importance to Pakistan keeping in view the constant human and financial toll it has taken on the entire country for years. The earlier plan during the previous government’s tenure to set up a counter-terrorism body with EU funding and expertise stalled due to turf wars between the interior ministry and the military’s intelligence agencies. The National Counter-Terrorism Authority (NACTA) that finally saw the light of day towards the end of the previous government’s term still seems to lack teeth and direction. All state institutions, civilian and military, federal and provincial, need to be on the same page with one goal: the cessation of terrorism. The plans to boost the economy will not merely be instrumental in bringing an environment of much needed stability in the country, they will hopefully go a long way towards providing a better life to our people, a development critical for denying the terrorists fertile soil for recruitment on the basis of deprivation that propels many impressionable minds to undesirable ways of earning money, including becoming a part of militant groups.

Lauding the enormous sacrifices Pakistan has made as a frontline ally in the War on Terror, Mr Hague re-emphasised the significance of Pakistan’s role in the future shape of the region’s geo-strategic politics. The mutual mistrust between Islamabad and Kabul, with an ongoing onslaught of accusations and counter-allegations, must be re-thought as peace in the region would be a dream after the withdrawal of NATO forces from war-ravaged Afghanistan if the two neighbours do not come together on the basis of their common interests in the struggle against terrorism. The UK is facilitating Pakistan in opening a new round of talks with the government in Kabul, a process due to start with Sartaj Aziz’s visit to Kabul, after which President Hamid Karzai is to be invited to Pakistan.

The traditional good relationship between Pakistan and the UK seems poised for raising to new levels, a development based on, and that will in turn impact the areas of security, the economy, and bilateral and multilateral ties in the interests of both countries, the region, and the world. *(Courtesy: Daily Times)