Developing democracy in Pakistan is the only way the country will know peace and security, the Pakistani ambassador to the United States said at an Elliott School event Thursday evening.
More than 200 students and faculty members filled the Harry Harding Auditorium for a discussion sponsored by the Elliott School’s Ambassadors Forum to address the “challenges facing Pakistan.” Ambassador Husain Haqqani, who also appeared at GW in February, spoke of several concerns facing Pakistan, like intolerant, idealist extremists, the nation’s socio-economic weaknesses and the importance of strengthening Pakistan’s democracy.
“Only a democratic Pakistan will secure Pakistan,” Haqqani said. “Democracy brings a certain level of political maturity and debate; I must say, the debate is not fully yet settled.”
Pakistan needs to develop its economy, Haqqani said, so that it can provide services to all Pakistanis in order to combat terrorist organizations’ recruitment efforts that offer benefits to members. But the government cannot afford such expensive social programs alone, he said.
Haqqani discussed the significance of establishing relations between the United States and Pakistan, comparing their current relationship to a yo-yo. The ambassador said many Pakistanis feel that the United States’ efforts in the region are temporary and superficial.
To reduce the anti-American sentiment, the United States needs to clarify its intentions in the region so Pakistanis can be certain the U.S. will continue to be an ally, Haqqani said.
“Pakistanis view the United States as a conspiring friend,” Haqqani said. “Americans must understand Pakistan’s sensitivity in terms of trust.”
Terrorism was a central theme in the discussion.
“Pakistan is the victim of terrorism,” he said. “To be able to fight terrorism, Pakistan needs a certain level of development; to be able to get there, we need to get to the terrorists first.”
Thursday, in the most recent U.S. demonstration that it will continue to support Pakistan – especially in non-military efforts – President Barack Obama signed a bill providing $7.5 billion dollars in aid to Pakistan over the next five years.
Haqqani said the money would be spent for development in education, health care and women empowerment programs.
“Pakistan has a need for bringing greater literacy, and operate in modern economic terms,” he said.
Although the discussion was directed towards Pakistan’s issues, Haqqani did discuss Pakistan’s strengths. He described Pakistan as being at a “crossroads of opportunity” because of its geographic location amid three regions – Central Asia, South Asia and the Middle East.