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Sunday, June 19, 2011

‘Stable Afghanistan not worth abandoning strategic interests’

Army chief General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani has told a visiting European delegation that “Pakistan wants a stable Afghanistan but not at the cost of Pakistan,” suggesting that Islamabad wants to remain relevant in any peace initiative and is unlikely to accept a solution that would undermine its strategic interests. 
This revelation was made by German Minister for Economic Cooperation and Development Dirk Niebel, who is currently visiting Pakistan alongside his European Union counterpart. 
“We have to find a solution (to this problem) and Pakistan’s cooperation with Germany and the EU can become the basis for the stability of the region,” said Niebel. 

Niebel did not clarify what sort of endgame Germany or the EU had in mind for Afghanistan, where several European nations, including Germany, have thousands of troops stationed. 
As a US ally and a frontline state in war against terrorism, Pakistan has had to bear over 35,000 civilian and more than 5,000 military causalities, in addition to economic losses of $68 billion, according to 2011 Economic Survey of Pakistan. 
The German cabinet member appeared reluctant to commit to additional assistance for security. “We know that for our work we need a secure environment but we cannot make payments as much as you require,” he said. 
Access to EU markets 
Pakistan has been striving to get duty free access to the European markets under the Generalized System of Preference, known as GSP plus status, by 2013. The German minister said the EU has problems with Pakistan’s decision to introduce reservations in two international treaties relating to civil and political rights. 
“The president and the prime minister of Pakistan have assured the delegation that Pakistan would diminish its reservations introduced in these two conventions,” said Niebel. If Pakistan withdraws these objections, it would address one of the major conditions for duty-free access to EU markets. Islamabad has raised ‘blanket objections’ on two international treaties on political and human rights following their ratification. 
The EU believes the general and blanket nature of the reservations called into question other international obligations that Islamabad has undertaken including in terms of discrimination against women. 
Under the International Convention on Civil and Political Rights a signatory state has to report about measures adopted to give the effect to rights in the Covenant. It should also indicate the factors and difficulties affecting the implementation of those rights. Pakistan has raised objection over the reporting clause and is hesitant to report on the state of human and political rights. 
The German minister urged Pakistan to implement tax reforms. “For us as donors, a strong, big and proud country must do more than have revenues from only 1.5 million people out of a 180 million population as it is important for us to explain our taxpayers,” he added.

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