Time to re-set ties with US: Bilawal
May: The US-Pakistan relationship is on the slide and a US Senate panel’s decision to fine Pakistan for sentencing Dr Shakil Afridi has further compounded this phase, says PPP chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari.
“But it is time to turn a new corner to re-establish a working relationship and political and military partnership that is the centrepiece to a stable South and Central Asia,” Bilawal Zardari said in a speech to a select gathering of US and Pakistani officials, scholars, journalists and think-tank experts.
The PPP leader noted that he was in politics because of his mother’s assassination. “I didn’t choose this life; it chose me,” he said.
Last week a tribal court in Pakistan sentenced Dr Afridi to 33 years in prison for helping the CIA trace Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden in Abbottabad. On Thursday, a US Senate panel decided to deduct $33 million from the US aid to Pakistan, one million for each year Dr Afridi will spend in jail.
Mr Bilawal Zardari said he realised that he was visiting Washington at a most difficult time in the 65-year relationship between the two countries.
“One crisis seems to compound another, deepening mistrust and exasperating a friendship that is founded on common interests and common goals and common values,” he said.
The PPP leader described the recent events that seemed to have derailed once close partnership between the US and Pakistan as “a cascade of a negative narrative”.
He noted that the relationship began to go sour with the Raymond Davis fiasco in January last year. The US raid on Osama bin Laden’s compound in Abbottabad and the deaths of 24 innocent Pakistani soldiers in Salala `without apology’ further complicated it. The Nato routes stalemate, and now the Afridi conviction increased the tensions, he said.
“And the US Senate response (to Dr Afridi’s conviction) compounds the downward cycle,” he added.
The United States and Pakistan, he stressed, stood together in a common battle against extremism and terrorism that was the defining issue of the new millennium. He pointed out to his American guests at the residence of the Pakistani ambassador that the PPP government was committed to a moderate, progressive and productive Pakistan.
“That is the Pakistan that my grandfather and mother worked and died for, and that our current government is pledged to achieve,” he said. “I dream of a Pakistan that is modern, enlightened, progressive and tolerant.”