Getting at the root of the problem

Dawn today reports about US special envoy Richard Holbrooke’s comments after his recent trip to South Asia. To a group in Washington, Mr. Holbrooke said that Pakistan has largley taken control of the threat from militants and that the greater concern to the US currently is Pakistan’s economy and energy. This is good news, and promising for a better and more productive relationship with the US, but also for getting at the root of the problem in the country.

According to the American envoy, “my greatest concern is to help the Pakistanis with their economic and energy problems.” When asked about Pakistan’s efforts to combat terrorism he replied, “I think they’re on the right track.”

It’s encouraging to see that the Americans are recognizing the many sacrifices made by Pakistan, as well as the continued success that we’ve had in fighting the Taliban in our country. There had been some concern that the Americans expectations were out of touch with reality. Certainly some questionable statements had been made by American representatives. But it’s been clear for some time now that the Americans are trying to improve the relations and show greater appreciation for our efforts.

It is also encouraging that the Americans recognize that, in order to get to the root of the problem in Pakistan, we need to be able to improve our economy and, along with it, our energy capacity.

Consider what Mr. Holbrooke said:

Mr Holbrooke noted that Islamabad had continued its operations against the militants in the face of some pressing economic, water and energy problems.

“This is a very important sequence of events, and we hope it will continue. I don’t want to draw any strategic conclusions from it. I just want to express my appreciation to the Pakistani government and its army for what it’s doing,” he said referring to a series of actions against the Taliban militants.

“The Pakistanis are doing these things in the face of enormous, overwhelming economic problems. They’re doing it in the face of water and energy problems,” he said.

Greater investment in economic development and energy capacity would have two important benefits. First, obviously it would help to stabilize the nation. Most of us are not actually trying to gain any power. We just want to have a good job and be able to raise our families in peace. We want to be able to enjoy some time at home without having to worry that the power will cut out. And we want our children to be able to go to school without fear. This is where the second benefit comes. Improving the economy will allow for more resources to be put towards security so that we can finish this terrible war for good and move on.

That the Americans are talking about improving our economy and energy is important also because it shows that they are not considering us as short term friends only when we are needed. Actually, if they are making long term investments in Pakistan, it will be that we have a long-term relationship which can bring additional benefits over time to both security and economy.

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