NEW YORK - Pakistan does not disagree what the deadly drone attacks inside the Pakistani territory were trying to achieve, but opposes the way they are being conducted, Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar said Thursday.
Speaking at the Asia Society in New York, she called the strategy “illegal, unlawful and counterproductive” as well as short-sighted. Asked why polls find that anti-American sentiment in Pakistan is among the world’s highest, she answered with one word: “Drones.”
“What the drones are trying to achieve, we may not disagree. We do not disagree. If they’re going for terrorists... But we have to find ways which are lawful, which are legal... The use of unilateral strikes on Pakistani territory is illegal.”
According to Hina, Pakistan’s government needs to build popular support for its own efforts to crush armed militant groups, but this is impossible as long as the war is viewed as US interference.
“As the drones fly over the territory of Pakistan, it becomes an American war and the whole logic of this being our fight, in our own interest, is immediately put aside and again it is a war imposed on us,” she said. Ignoring Pakistani opposition to the drones, she said, is “about choosing to win the battle at the cost of the war. These are battles. You get one terrorist, two terrorists, fine. But are you winning the war?”
She expressed optimism about resolving the long-running sore in US-Pakistani relations, saying, “We are closer to finding ways and means than we were before.” But she rejected frequently voiced complaints from US lawmakers and commentators that Pakistan is a threat to US security and a hotbed of bombers.
According to Hina, religious violence has deep roots and Pakistan is not to blame alone for the presence of militants on its territory. “It is time to say that we all made mistakes,” she said.
“When we were dealing with the Soviet Union’s invasion of Afghanistan, your country (US), together with mine, decided to arm terrorists, and at that time we called them Mujahideen… After that, your country moved away... (But) we don’t blame anybody.”
The foreign minister said she was “embarrassed” by the violence occurring on “Muslim streets” in reaction to the controversial movie uploaded to YouTube entitled Innocence of Muslims. “We do not condone violence,” she said. “That is not what Islam teaches us.”
But, the foreign minister added, “If something is sensitive to the Muslims and you can’t really understand it, maybe you need to show some respect for that sensitivity and try to have a deeper debate to see what are the best ways to handle it.”
About the bounty offer by Pakistan’s Railway Minister, the foreign minister that the government and his own party – the ANP – have completely disassociated from the statements made by him. “The views expressed by him were his own,” she said.
The foreign minister also said that India and Pakistan should find the trust and courage to resolve their differences, including Kashmir, to disarm the naysayers that have divided the entire region for the last few decades.
“If we are not able to find the trust and courage to resolve these issues, we will not be able to disarm the naysayers that have divided the entire region for the last few decades,” she said.
Hina Khar, who is in New York for the 67th session on UN General Assembly, said, “Kashmir continues to be an issue that stokes anger and discontent among young people in the region and we think a resolution to it is urgent and important.”
“Kashmiris should get the same rights that are afforded and awarded to other people in the world,” she said. Pakistan has its position on Kashmir and it believes that the Security Council resolution should be followed. She said other territorial disputes with India like Sir Creek and Siachen also need to be solved.
Her comments came a day after President Asif Ali Zardari said Kashmir remains a symbol of failure of the UN system and Pakistan’s principled position on territorial disputes remains a bedrock of its foreign policy.
“Kashmir remains a symbol of failures, rather than strengths of the UN system,” Zardari said in his 20-minute speech at the UN General Assembly here. “We feel that resolution of these issues can only be arrived in an environment of cooperation,” he said.
Hina said that if India and Pakistan are not able to find the trust to resolve the issues among them, the two countries will not be to disarm those on both sides of the border who have created hostilities and animosity in the brains and minds of the children of the two countries against each other.
She said Pakistan does not want to develop into a country that in the future is defined as being a country that is against another nation. “The question is whether we wait to resolve all these complex issues before talking to our Indian friends about all the other areas in which we can make progress, whether we strengthen our hands as we build the trust to resolve these issues or do we continue to create war mongering and hostility,” she said.
Hina noted that the two countries have not achieved anything in the last 60 years of war mongering. “Six decades have taught us that war is not the answer. There are no military solutions. We should at least give six years to the trust building environment which will enable us us to try and solve these important issues,” she said.
Stressing that it was high time to “turn the equation around”, she said Pakistan has turned to the vast and untapped potential of trade and people to people contact to help build trust and elevate the level of confidence that we have in each other “so that tomorrow when we have better trust we will be able to discuss the more difficult issues more frankly and candidly with a view to raising solutions.”
“We decided that instead of being problem perpetrators we will be problem solvers,” she said adding that “along the way and every step we have invited our Indian friends to meet us in this journey at least half the way”.