WASHINGTON, July 1 (APP): The United States should bolster
its economic and security assistance for Pakistan to help the key regional
country ride out economic and terrorism problems, former speaker of the National
Assembly Syed Fakhar Imam said. In a roundtable discussion at Washington’s Atlantic
Council, the prominent PPP leader welcomed the Obama Administration-backed
Congressional move to expand socio-economic assistance for Pakistan to $ 1.5
However, Imam told the gathering of top security and
foreign policy experts that Islamabad requires more support both in economic and
security fields as it grapples with the two massive challenges simultaneously.
Pakistan has been incurring hefty losses about $ six
billion annually - due to ongoing fight against terrorism and economic downturn
and, therefore, needs about four to five billion dollars annually for budgetary
support, he pointed out.
“Pakistan needs more for budgetary support, the Friends of
Pakistan can provide assistance, the US could play a more pro-active role in
this,” he said at the discussion moderated by Shuja Nawaz, Director of the
Council’s South Asian Center. Former Pakistani ambassador to the United States,
Syeda Abida Hussain also attended the discussion.
Fakhar Imam spoke days after the U.S. Senate and House of
Representatives passed their respective versions of legislations on tripling
economic aid for Pakistan to $ 1.5 billion for each of the next five years. The
two chambers will now reconcile their versions before a final measure is sent to
President Barack Obama for his signature. Washington is also helping Pakistan
in dealing with humanitarian crisis of displaced persons.
He said the Kerry-Lugar legislation is a welcome
development, as it signals the US intent to broaden its relationship with
Pakistan to the Pakistani people in contrast with the past policy which centered
around security concerns.
In the context of dealing with insurgents in tribal areas,
the former minister said Islamabad should be provided necessary security
equipment like night vision goggles, modern communication technology,
helicopters and training to contain militancy in its troubled northwestern
He also discussed the immediate issues including
rehabilitation of the internally displaced persons of Swat and observed
addressing the question would have a bearing on the national political consensus
that currently exists in the country on getting rid of violent extremism.
“This is a very crucial question to Pakistan’s
future,” he remarked, underscoring the importance of world support and
Pakistan’s own effective response to the mammoth task to rehabilitate
millions of people displaced from Swat and other parts of Malakand division.
These people left their homes in the wake military offensive launched about two
months ago to clear the area of Taliban militants.
The politician also touched on the vital significance of
the supremacy of the parliament, mainstreaming the militancy-hit tribal areas
and participation of politicians in redressing the situation there. He said
Pakistan had agreements with the people of tribal areas and faced no serious
problems there before the pre-9/11 era.
On utilization of the U.S. socio-economic assistance under
Kerry Lugar legislation, he opined that it should be directed toward improvement
in the key education, health, population, water and agriculture sectors to the
benefit of people at local level.
In her remarks, Syeda Abida Hussain, drew attention to the
socio-economic challenges facing Pakistan. The former minister particularly
emphasized the need for Pakistan to address its burgeoning population growth.
The issue, she said, could best be approached through a
policy that takes into account a host of pertinent issues, particularly the
resources available to future generations.