Prime Minister’s address at United States Institute of Peace, Washington, D.C., on Pakistan’s Vision for Regional Peace and Development

October 22, 2013

Congressman Jim Marshall, President USIP,

Mr. Stephen Hadley,

Distinguished Guests,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

 

I am honoured to speak at this prestigious Forum, on “Pakistan’s Vision for Regional Peace and Development”.

We appreciate USIP’s noble mission of promoting peace and understanding amongst nations and I deeply value your kind invitation.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I have come here as the elected leader of Pakistan, a land of ancient civilizations and rich cultural traditions, but a state still young and aspiring to be a modern, moderate and progressive country of 180 million enterprising, hardworking people, dreaming of a better tomorrow, in a rapidly changing world.

They also yearn for peace, security and well-being that have eluded them for the past many decades.

It is their hopes and aspirations that I have come here to voice before this learned gathering.

 

Ladies and Gentlemen,

This has been a momentous year in our history. Not only have we had a free, fair and transparent general elections, but a peaceful, dignified transfer of power from one elected government to another.

Also an elected President succeeded another elected President, in a graceful ceremony that the entire nation witnessed, with a sense of deep satisfaction.

These events would, of course, be of a routine nature to you, but for us they represent a remarkable transformation of our democratic culture, signifying political maturity not only for the electorate, but for the mainstream parties as well. They will surely strengthen the democratic institutions and the rule of law in Pakistan.

 

Ladies and Gentlemen,

We view the mandate given to our Party as a trust of the nation, which we shall endeavour to protect and promote in a manner that strengthens the democratic institutions and enhances the welfare of the people.

 

This is a new and confident Pakistan, but I am not oblivious of the daunting challenges that we have inherited.

 

My government is fully aware of the enormous economic and security challenges that face us today. We are also conscious that people of Pakistan have high expectations from us, given the fact that in our earlier aborted terms in office, we introduced many far-reaching reforms to liberalize the economy, strengthen the private sector, facilitate foreign investment and create a business-friendly climate in the country. These enabled us to complete major infrastructure projects, such as modern motorways, ports, airports and dams.

We intend to resume our journey where it was interrupted by the military coup in October 1999, both in terms of reforms at home and a new direction in our foreign policy. We want to create a society based on social justice and well-being of all our people, without any discrimination.

 

Ladies and Gentlemen,

We also recognize that the realization of this ambitious agenda requires internal peace and security, as well as peace and stability in the neighbourhood, which is why we are determined to transform our relations with friends around the world, but more importantly, with our immediate neighbours.

 

I am however, aware that the greatest challenge to Pakistan comes from terrorism and extremism. But Pakistan is neither a source of, nor the epicentre of terrorism, as is sometimes alleged.

In fact, Pakistan itself has been a major victim of this scourge, for over a decade.

Pakistan’s sacrifices in the struggle against terrorism and extremism are well-known.

We have faced hundreds of suicide attacks in the past decade, losing over 7000 of our brave soldiers, security personnel and policemen, while our civilian casualties exceed 40,000. Our sacrifices are immeasurable, both in terms of the loss of human lives and the damage caused to our infrastructure.

My government is firmly resolved to bringing this cycle of bloodshed and violence to an end, but it cannot be done over-night, nor can it be done by unleashing senseless force against our citizens, without first making every effort to bring the misguided and confused elements of society,back to the mainstream. We also have to ensure that the political parties and civic society are on the same page, so as to create the enabling environment necessary to tackle this menace.

It was to this end that in an extraordinary expression of national unity and cohesion, the All Parties Conference (APC) underlined the imperative need of giving peace a chance.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

My government is also determined to address the challenge posed by a weak economy, while recognizing the urgency of focusing on the energy sector, which has hampered our national growth and created huge social unrest.

Major reforms have already been introduced to ensure sound macro-economic policies to reduce budgetary deficits, ensure balance of payment, curb inflationary pressure and reduce the country’s dependence on foreign loans and assistance. We are also engaged in efforts to bring half a million new taxpayers into the tax net. These measures should enhance the tax to GDP ratio from the current low of 9 percent to 15 percent by 2018.

 

It has also been decided to privatise the major State-Owned Enterprises, including entities such as the national airlines, the steel mill and the national oil and gas companies.

 

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Turning to foreign relations, I wish to state that we firmly believe that a peaceful, stable and united Afghanistan is in Pakistan’s vital interest.

Our efforts are, therefore, focused on helping the stabilization of Afghanistan, which is going through a vitally important phase, with security and political transition underway. Pakistan wishes these landmark transitions to be completed peacefully and smoothly.

 

We also wish the international community to remain engaged in supporting Afghanistan’s reconstruction and economic development. We hope for an Afghanistan that is firmly on the path of stability and prosperity.

As an essential element of our policy, we strongly support an inclusive, Afghan-led and Afghan-owned peace and reconciliation process. During President Karzai’s recent visit to Pakistan, we reaffirmed our solidarity with Afghanistan and its people.

 

I also assured President Karzai that we wish neither to interfere in Afghanistan’s internal affairs, nor do we have any favourites. In fact, it is our earnest hope to see the Afghans themselves unite for peace, prosperity and development of their country.

Simultaneously, we are making efforts to upgrade our bilateral relations with Afghanistan, in all spheres. My own vision is that it should be defined by a strong trade and economic partnership.

 

In addition to hosting millions of Afghan refugees for decades, Pakistan is extending assistance worth more than 450 million dollars for Afghanistan’s reconstruction and capacity-building, with special focus on infrastructure, health and education sectors.

We have also decided to extend the Karachi-Peshawar highway up to Kabul. This is our modest contribution to bringing Afghanistan into the regional economic hub.

 

We believe that we can work with Afghanistan for enhanced regional and economic cooperation that would establish and reinforce regional trade, energy and communication corridors.

The two countries are participating in mega energy projects, namely Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) and Central Asia-South Asia Electricity Transmission and Trade Project (CASA-1000). This would undoubtedly help strengthen efforts for peace and stability and advance our common objectives of progress and prosperity.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Our other important neighbour is India, with which we share a common history, as well as a common destiny. Our past and our future are inter-twined. Pakistan is happy to see the people of India live in peace and security.

 

The people of Pakistan want to resolve all outstanding issues with India, through dialogue and negotiations.

 

We are confident that there are areas where we can make quick progress. We also wish to put ourselves on the path for normalizing trade relations with India.

 

My meeting with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh last month in New York reflected this desire; and I am confident that we can overcome challenges and find solutions to all issues, as long as we stay engaged. In any case, we do not want isolated incidents to interrupt our dialogue.

 

Our message is simple. Future prosperity and economic development in South Asia depend on peace and security in the region. Therefore, all of us have a stake in working for these noble objectives, for our own sake, as well as for the sake of our future generations. It is about time that the two sides addressed their bilateral issues with utmost seriousness, in order to avail themselves of the historic opportunity of devoting their energies and resources, to development and betterment of their teeming millions.

May I add here, that had our two countries not wasted their precious   resourcesin a never-ending arms race, we would not only have avoided the futile conflicts, but also emerged as stable and prosperous nations.

 

I wish to assure this august audience that Pakistan desires to live in peace with its neighbour. We would not be found wanting in walking the extra mile.

Our dream is to realize the potential of mutually beneficial economic cooperation, at the bilateral level, as well as at the broader regional level, under SAARC.

 

Even more promising are the prospects of inter-regional cooperation. As a populous, energy-deficit but technologically advanced fast-growing region, South Asia stands to benefit tremendously from the energy rich Central Asia and West Asia. There is a huge potential for inter-regional trade, transit and connectivity.

Pakistan provides Central Asia with the shortest access to the warm waters of the Arabian Sea.

 

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Contrary to the common perception, Pakistan-US relations have stood the test of time. Despite the occasional hiccups, the solid foundations of this vital relationship have always weathered the occasional storm and turbulence.

 

As democracy takes roots in Pakistan, there is scope for building a strong and stable partnership between the two countries. They should be based on mutual interest and mutual respect, as so clearly articulated by President Obama, in his Cairo speech.

 

Our two countries share perceptions and interests on a wide range of issues. These include Afghanistan, peace and stability in South Asia and in the Middle East, as well as extremism and terrorism.

 

Moreover, despite the planned drawdown, there would be continuing need for close cooperation between our two countries, especially on Afghanistan. Other key issues of mutual concern include terrorism, the UN reform, international economic cooperation and environment.

Pakistan appreciates the constructive role the US has historically played in defusing tensions between Pakistan and India.

With its growing influence in India, the US now has the capacity to do more, to help the two sides resolve their core disputes, including Kashmir,and in promoting a culture of cooperation.

There is, however, the matter of drone strikes, which have deeply disturbed and agitated our people. In my very first statement to Parliament, I had reiterated our strong commitment to ensuring an end to the drone attacks.

More recently our political parties, in a national conference, had declared that the “use of drones is not only a continued violation of our territorial integrity, but also detrimental to our resolve and efforts at eliminating terrorism from our country”. This issue has become a major irritant in our bilateral relationship as well. I would, therefore, stress the need for an end to drone attacks.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is my endeavour to approach this important relationship with an open and fresh mind, leaving behind the baggage of “trust deficit” and “mutual suspicions”. Instead, cooperation in key areas including trade, investment, energy, technology, education and agriculture under the rubric of Strategic Dialogue, should be the main plank of our partnership.

As large democracies, there should be greater interaction between our two countries, not only at the parliamentary level, but through exchange of businessmen, students, opinion makers and tourism, asthese would help remove many of our misperceptions.

 

Moreover, the traditionally strong ties at the military level should be reinvigorated.

The vibrant community of Pakistani Americans is playing an important role in bringing our two nations closer. I am thankful to them, as they constitute a permanent link between our two countries, that can and should play an important role in eliminating the negative perceptions.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

As a responsible nuclear power and a major developing country, Pakistan is destined to play a key role in regional stability and world peace and security.

 

Pakistan remains fully alive to protecting its sovereignty, territorial integrity and independence. Without engaging in an arms race, Pakistan will maintain credible minimum deterrence to ensure regional security and stability. We would nevertheless, consistently pursue the goals of disarmament, on a non-discriminatory basis.

It is our hope that the United States would follow an even-handed and non-discriminatory approach, in fields like civil nuclear cooperation.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

As you would be aware, Pakistan is a country blessed with enormous human and material resources. It is strategically located at the cross-roads of the vast regions of South and East Asia on one side, and Central and West Asia on the other.

 

Pakistan is a natural land bridge connecting these vast regions, and thus has the potential of becoming a hub of transit and trade among these regions.

 

With a vibrant civil society, a critical media, an independent judiciary, a huge reservoir of educated young population and the phenomenal expansion of IT network, Pakistan is emerging as a modern, knowledge-based society.

 

With fast developing physical infrastructure, abundant skilled labour and attractive investment incentives, Pakistan is poised to attract its due share from the process of globalization.

 

The historic democratic transition after the May 11 elections has been hailed by the international community. It has also instilled confidence among the investor community, within the country and abroad.

 

I avail myself of this opportunity to invite the US private sector to join us, in efforts for sustained economic growth and development.

 

The revival of the economy is the key to progress across the entire spectrum of the challenges that we are facing today, from terrorism and extremism to development of the social sector. It is also an essential pre-requisite for strengthening democracy and the rule of law. This is what we have learnt from our own experience.

And this is what I recall President Franklin Roosevelt emphasizing in one of his speeches: “True individual freedom cannot exist without economic security and independence. People who are hungry and out of job are the stuff of which dictatorships are made”.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am aware of the fact that the driving motivation of the Founding Fathers of this great nation was their intense desire to live in a country where religious freedom and economic opportunities would be available to all. Our Founding Fathers too, sought to establish a homeland with similar goals. There is therefore, a natural affinity between our peoples, the overwhelming majority of whom believe in the same just and merciful God, which reminds me of Jesus Christ’s Sermon on the Mount, when he had declared; “Blessed are the peacemakers”. Some six centuries later, when the Holy Quran was revealed to our Holy Prophet Mohammad (PBUH), we were reminded of the eternal truth: “We made you into nations and tribes, so that you may know each other. Verily, the most honoured of you in the sight of God is he who is most righteous of you”. Let us therefore, endeavour to know each other better, so that we can all make our modest contribution to making the world a better place.

I thank you.