A Conversation with Hina Rabbani Khar
During her upcoming visit to Washington, please join Pakistani foreign minister Hina Rabbani Khar for a discussion of U.S.-Pakistan relations. Foreign Minister Khar will focus on the bilateral relationship beyond national security concerns.
**Please note the special timing.**
MADELEINE ALBRIGHT: Good morning, everybody. Thank you very much for being here, and I can only assure you that we're going to provide you with a fascinating discussion.
I also want to welcome the Council on Foreign Relations members from around the nation and the world who are participating in this meeting via teleconference. On a housekeeping note, please completely turn off -- not just vibrate, as I tend to do myself with my cell phone -- to avoid any interference with the sound system. And then also please, as a reminder, just to tell you this meeting is on the record.
Now with all that out of the way, let me say that how really, really pleased I am to introduce this woman foreign minister. I just have to tell you, when I arrived in New York as our ambassador to the United Nations, at that time there were 183 countries in the U.N. It was one of the first times that I didn't have to cook lunch myself and so I asked my assistant to invite all the women permanent representatives to lunch. And I thought that there would be a lot of people there. When I got there, there were six other women.
Because I'm an American, I formed a caucus and we called ourselves the G-7 -- (laughter) -- and we did in fact work together very closely. And when I became secretary of state I created a group of foreign ministers. And so at that time there were, like, 14 of us. Now there are many, many more. And so I am very, very happy to be able to welcome a woman who is part of that group.
Hina Rabbani Khar is a powerful example of why having more women in senior government positions is so key. As the first woman Pakistan foreign minister, she has joined Benazir Bhutto in blazing a historic path for women in Pakistan, and she is taking her country's toughest challenges at a time of great upheaval and uncertainty for much of the world.
In a year steeped in heated political rhetoric, Minister Khar has continued to stress the critical role that dialogue and diplomacy can play in resolving regional and global problems, a sentiment, I think, that many of us wholeheartedly share. We're very fortunate to have this chance to hear from her concerning her perspective on Pakistan-U.S. relations and other topics that may be on our minds. So please join me in greeting our distinguished foreign minister friend, Hina Rabbani Khar. (Applause.)
FOREIGN MINISTER HINA RABBANI KHAR: (In Arabic.) Good morning and asalaam aleikum to everyone. Let me just say that it is truly a matter of privilege and pleasure for me to be here. And for Madam Albright, for you to be chairing it is of course a matter of honor for me. And let me acknowledge the role that the CFR plays in the foreign policy dynamics of your country. We hope that Pakistan will also have emerging institutions which can guide us as we move forward.
Ladies and gentlemen, I would like to take the opportunity today to be able to have a frank and honest discussion because, Madam Albright, I think increasingly one is finding out that in our days now almost everything is on the record. So even when you're off the record, you're pretty much on the record. (Laughter.)
But as we move forward and we talk about Pakistan-U.S. relations, whether it's beyond security or the new dynamics of it and the emerging dynamics of it and what we are able to achieve together, I think it is important to first talk about Pakistan itself because I have often said in the last two days that as foreign minister of Pakistan I find myself talking more about what Pakistan is not about rather than what Pakistan is about.
And I find myself doing that because I think there are misperceptions about Pakistan, about Pakistan's intent, about Pakistan's policy dynamic, about how Pakistan perceives or what Pakistan perceives to be in its national interest. The misperception in that runs supreme. It is -- the misperception so much clouds our real intent and our real intentions and our real goals and objectives within the region and within Pakistan that sometimes it seems as if Pakistan is quite literally on a suicidal track, if you were to believe all the misperceptions about Pakistan which are given to it.
Now, in order to talk about Pakistan, the potential in Pakistan-U.S. relations, as I said I think it is important to look at what Pakistan is today, and even more importantly, what future Pakistan is marching towards. And again, I think I often say that what looks chaotic to the foreign eye is actually a lot of good happening within Pakistan, a lot of institution-building happening in Pakistan, a lot of democracy finding real roots in Pakistan and democracy starting to deliver.
And I know this question is often asked, how is democracy delivering in Pakistan, so let me come straight to that. This will, inshallah, in the next few months be the first transfer of power from a civilian government to a civilian government, under an election which is held after the 20th amendment to the constitution, which empowered and made more independent the election commission of Pakistan. This in itself is going to hopefully create the irreversibility of democracy in Pakistan, and therefore I no more -- I no longer talk about civilian governments in Pakistan because there are only one type of government which are going to be there in Pakistan.
And what has democracy been able to achieve? Ladies and gentlemen, in a house which had a bare majority when it elected its first prime minister, we have been able to go through three two-third-majority-requiring constitutional amendments. And one of which we are particularly proud of is the 18th amendment to the constitution, which brought the 1973 constitution, which came under Zulfikar Ali Bhutto. And why was it important? Because it was a consensus constitution in Pakistan which brought that back.
Within that constitution another change was also made, that not only was it required for all children to go to school but it was now the responsibility of the state that all girl and boy children must be educated. So this is why we have our brawls outside of the parliament, the political parties in Pakistan, but when it comes to matters of national interest the political parties in Pakistan today have matured to come together and strive for a future that is better.
What this amendment of the constitution will also do will correct a lot of historic wrongs that happened within Pakistan. Pakistan was conceived to be a federation, with the provinces having resources and responsibilities. Over time, with 30-odd years under dictatorial regimes, we found more and more centralization of power and resources within the center. I'm proud to say today that we have decentralized that, and therefore I don't fear for the future of our children any more because the resources today are where the responsibility to teach them and to feed them and to clothe them and to give them health facilities is.
Also, in all of this chaos, so to speak, Pakistan is marching forward with institution-building like never before. And I think an excellent example of that is the free and independent judiciary which sometimes, you know, there is not very helpful in the sense that we are proud of the fact that despite the many challenges that some of these issues, you know, are faced with, the government is faced with, the government has marched on this track to ensure that we have a free, independent judicial system in Pakistan.
We also have one of the most interesting and one of the most free media in -- anywhere in the world. With 60 channels that are talking mostly about what government has not been able to do, rather than what government has been able to do, I think that also creates a lot of hope for the future.
I'm now going to talk about the two things which define what democracy has been able to do in Pakistan more than anything else, and the two areas in which I think the results are already there. One of those areas is the ownership of our fight against terrorism. I don't know how many of you know, but before this government came into power in 2008, the perception in Pakistan, whether you read the, you know, the electronic media or the print media or spoke to people, was this was the Western world's war which was imposed on Pakistan and that Pakistan was fighting somebody else's war.
It was this government, under the leadership of President Zardari, which came in and gave ownership to that war and gave ownership to that fight, because this was a fight for the future of our children, certainly with a future of stability and peace in the region, but for the future of our children. This was a fight which was killing our children. This was a fight which was killing our soldiers.
I don't know how many of you know, but in the last 10 years Pakistan has lost more than 40,000 people altogether, 40,000 lives in this fight against terrorism. In the last five years only we've had almost 352 suicide bomb attacks from 2007 to 2012 inside Pakistan's territory. And allow me to share with you that pre-9/11 we only had one suicide bomb attack inside Pakistani territory. Allow me to share with you that the economic losses have been colossal, in tens of billions of dollars. The estimates are ranging between $75 (billion) to $100 billion.
And in all of this, what is most at risk is a way of life. What is most at risk is the type of society that we want to build. And the biggest fight I think that all of us collectively must continue to fight is to fight the mindset which is prevalent amongst those who try to destroy us. And in saying this, let me say that when we talk about the threat and the dangers and the challenges that Pakistan faces, maybe -- and certainly a lot of other countries in the region face also -- but the challenges that Pakistan faces today have their genesis in some historical realities, as you said, Madame Albright, in the unintended consequences of the decisions that we take many, many years back.
So therefore, ladies and gentlemen, Pakistan is very, very aware of the decision-making of today in how we manage our foreign policy, how we manage our territory to have consequences for the future. And allow me to share with you that what is happening in Pakistan today in some ways is a hangover or a leftover from what happened in our region many, many years back, almost three decades back.
The arms and the ammunition -- first of all, let's just talk about what happened over there. We know that during the Afghan war in the Soviet era we all collectively -- at least this country and mine, at least your country and mine -- collectively chose to harness religious and what was then the jihadi ideology to fight the Soviets in Afghanistan as an instrument of war. We did that collectively, but it was done on our soil. The arms and ammunition, the training that was given was meant for a purpose.
As the U.S. -- as the strategy succeeded in Afghanistan, we declared victory and we moved on. Some of us were able to move on; the others, like Pakistan, were left over with the mindset, with the training, with the arms, with the ammunition, with the bombs, with the (Kalashnikovs ?), with the narcotics trade, and still today after three decades we are still suffering from each one of those. We are suffering the consequences of each one of those. And to me the biggest challenge in all of this is the mindset that it inculcated, how it has destroyed our society, how it faces us as the biggest challenge that we have to face.
Ladies and gentlemen, in this, from the lessons that we have learned from the past I think it is important to apply some of those lessons as we look at the future. As we look at the challenges that we face within the region, Pakistan has grave concerns over what is going to happen in the future. We are -- again, I think because I am going to go and talk a bit about our relations with Afghanistan and how we view Afghanistan, and later maybe about our relations with Afghanistan, allow me to say what we do not want for Afghanistan. Because as I said, it is not important for me to say what we do want for Afghanistan.
But what is it that we do not want, which is particularly -- which is typically ascribed to Pakistan? Ladies and gentlemen, first of all let me say that it is not by -- it is not ambition but anxiety which drives our interest in Afghanistan. Allow me to say that we have no favorites in terms of ethnicities, in terms of groups. Pakistan today is on a track to develop relations with Afghanistan as a sovereign equal, and this to me is a big achievement of the democratic government in Pakistan.
Pakistan today fears for instability in Afghanistan because instability from Afghanistan permeates through the 2,000-plus kilometer border that we have with Afghanistan directly into Pakistan's territory, as it has for the last three decades. There are 53,000 people which cross the Pakistan-Afghan border every day. So you can imagine the permeation and the instantaneous effects of any instability in Afghanistan.
Allow me to say that we seek no strategic depth in Afghanistan. Allow me to categorically say that. The only strategic depth that we seek with Afghanistan is friendly; not even will we seek relations with Afghanistan which are based on a stable -- on the principle of stable, peaceful Afghanistan, a sovereign Afghanistan, an independent Afghanistan.
We have no intention nor any national interest to impose any type of government in Afghanistan. It is for the Afghans to do so. Why all of this is ascribed to Pakistan typically is because, as I said before, because of the hangover of the past. And I think it is important that we are able to unload the past and move into the future because I fear that if we are not able to do that, we will see ourselves inadvertently repeating the same mistakes. It will be the consequences of not realizing reality as it existed.
Now if we look at -- since I was talking about the ownership of the war on terrorism, and if we look at the challenges that Pakistan faces today, very strongly because by no means we can underestimate them, we are of course very, very concerned about the state because we know that the entry goals in Afghanistan were very, very different from what is appearing to be now the transition goals. What we want from the world, what we want from the 49 nations which are operating in Afghanistan is that there is no security vacuum left behind as we go through an exit.
Ladies and gentlemen, for us a few barometers by which we would look at what is happening in Afghanistan are the following. One, until about 2007 we saw a stream, a small stream but a stream of more than 5 million Afghan refugees that live in Pakistan going back into Afghanistan. Since then, especially since 2009, we almost see a reverse trend back. That to me does not bear a lot of confidence. That to me does not look like we are achieving the goals that we set out for ourselves collectively.
Recently the incidents that we've had of green-on-blue attacks and the decision not to go through joint training, these are all huge concerns for Pakistan. These are huge concerns because we will not be able to change our location. We will not be able to change our geography. Because we must make sure that the security situation in Afghanistan is good enough for us to be able to build a peaceful and stable neighborhood.
Recently the third barometer, recently from the area of -- (inaudible) -- there has been infiltration in Pakistan territory where hundreds and two hundreds of militants come inside Pakistan territory, and as recently as three weeks back they beheaded, slaughtered 70 of our soldiers. All of these are not signs which inspire a lot of confidence in the security situation in Afghanistan, and we fear that through the long border we will have to face more challenges in the future.
As we move forward, it is important that we are able to get out of the trust deficit mantra because, as I say, I have said what is in Pakistan's national interest and I have said what is not in Pakistan's national interest. And allow me to say that what I consider today to be the primary goal national interest of Pakistan is a peaceful and stable -- not necessarily even friendly -- but a peaceful and stable Afghanistan. Because we know from history that until and unless there is peace and stability in Afghanistan, we will not be able to find our peace and stability. And we will not be able to grow economically the way we wish. We will not be able to achieve the social goals for our children that we wish to achieve. So it is -- we consider it to be in our core national interest to have a peaceful, stable Afghanistan and it is time that we put all our energy together to be able to achieve those ends.
What is the best possible scenario that we can think of in 2014? The best possible scenario that we can think of for 2014 is that as elections take place and as transition takes place in Afghanistan, all Afghan groups are able to demonstrate their strength, their will through the election process, not through violence. And that is a future that we must be working toward. That is the immediate short-term future that we must be working toward.
I'm just going to end by talking a bit about how democracy has delivered within the region. I talked to you about our relations with Afghanistan. Our relations with Afghanistan have not been easy. I'm the first one to admit them. But I want you to consider on what Pakistan is trying to do with Afghanistan. When President Zardari was elected as president, he only invited one foreigner to his inaugural, and that foreigner happened to be President Karzai.
In doing that he was sending an important message. He was sending a message of respect, a message of treating each other as sovereign equals. And he was sending another very important message, that to Pakistan today the most important capital in the world is possibly not Washington, D.C. or London or Berlin. It is Kabul, because it is in Kabul that our future is interlinked.
We have suffered through 30 years of instability and we have seen the negative externality of combat. We hope to suffer from the positive externality or benefit from the positive externally, from pace and stability in Afghanistan in the next three decades. So we have a real interest in ensuring that there is stability in Afghanistan.
The other area that I want you to concentrate on is what Pakistan is trying to achieve within the region, what type of relations it is pursuing within the region. Because one thing that is clear to us is that we will not be able to see peace within if we do not find peace on our boundaries, on our borders with our neighbors.
And therefore, ladies and gentlemen, the change in mindset of approach to a neighbor which which we've had a particularly hostile relation, for almost 65 years of our history we have built on the hostile, negative narrative with India and they have done the same with Pakistan. We've all done a fantastic -- both the countries, done a fantastic job at it. And we have our issues with India, serious issues. The core issue of Jammu and Kashmir is a serious problem. It is not a figment of anyone's imagination. The disputes, the territorial disputes on Siachen, on -- (inaudible) -- Creek are also serious problems.
However, what is the way to be able to solve those problems? Is it through wars? Is it through creating a narrative of more hostility and animosity and filling the minds of our next generation with the same narrative that we did of the previous generation? I think the answer to that is a clear and simple no. The way to solve these issues is by building trust, is by changing the mindset. Is by building enough trust to be able to sit across the negotiating table and talk through these issues and find lasting solutions.
And I will not underestimate the importance of finding lasting solutions because until and unless we are able to find lasting solutions to these issues that we have in India, we will not be able to disarm the nay-sayers.
So in the last four years what you have seen is this government pursuing single-mindedly a track of reaching out to our east, meaning India, to our west, to Afghanistan, to treating each other as sovereign equals with respect. And in doing that, the best message that we sent India's way is changing a decision that we had taken and stuck to for almost 40 years. We said we will not normalize trade with India. And this government was able to send a message that we will normalize trade with India.
We will normalize trade with India because it is important for the economic integration and trade and investment in each other's countries, but even more importantly it is important because we have to invest in building stakeholders in each other's future, because we have to start looking at ourselves from a regional lens and not separate lenses, and it is no mystery and it is not unknown to any one of us that it is regions which have emerged -- whether you look at ASEAN, whether you look at the European Union, whether you look at South America -- it is regions which have emerged economically and otherwise.
So let's just, you know, go to what we feel is important as we move forward within our relations with the U.S. A lot is said about what doesn't work with Pakistan-U.S. relations. I think a lot less is said about what has worked for 60 years. A lot less is said about the fact that the U.S., for instance, happens to be an investor in the future of Pakistan. The alma mater where I come from, Lahore University of Management Sciences, which I'm proud to have been a student of, had contributions from USAID. And believe me, I went to your colleges also. LUMS is actually almost better.
So what you helped us create is sometimes better than some of your own colleges, and that is the type of contribution that we want, which is sustainable, which is there to stay, which is there to be taken on by Pakistani institutions.
As we move forward we must also understand that, you know, at least for Pakistan's sake we are a country with -- you happen to be our largest trading partner. You almost happen to be the largest investors in Pakistan. There are many things which unite us. There are many things in which we are stakeholders in each other's future. But most importantly, I think without any doubt what we can achieve together within the region I feel we have not done justice to. I feel that we have let the talk of trust deficit overwhelm us. I feel we have not given ourselves a chance.
Allow me to say that if the stated objective of the United States of America for their troop presence in Afghanistan is peace and stability in Afghanistan, then you are pursuing the national interest of Pakistan, because the stated and the known unknown objective of Pakistan within the region is also peace and stability.
Why I talked about the regional approach was to give you confidence that we are actually walking the talk of pursuing that, that you must not look at us from a 30-year-old lens. That you must look at us from the lens of today, and the lens of today tells you clearly that the future that Pakistan wants for itself is that of peace and stability. And until and when we have a peaceful, stable region I think everything else, Madame Albright, will follow.
So as we march on on a track with the U.S., I think we need some -- we need to send each other messages, and one of the main purpose of my trip here is to send that message loud and clear, that we are keen to work together to ensure that in Afghanistan we are able to achieve together long, sustainable peace -- let's admit it -- that we were not able to achieve 30 years back.
So let's work together. Let's put our energies together. Let's put our resources together. Let's not waste time in blaming each other. Let's find time to sit together and work through this together because, as I said, this is something which is of primary national interest.
So in this relation I think what do the Pakistani people look for? The Pakistani people, before anything else, look for respect, look to be treated as a sovereign equal. And this is the respect that we are striving to ensure is clearly demonstrated in our relations with Afghanistan also. We might be the biggest country, we might be the more resourceful country, we might be the country with better institutions, but we must -- for Pakistan I'm speaking -- treat Afghanistan as a sovereign equal. And that is what will inspire confidence in the Afghans. That is what will give us our strategic depth in Afghanistan.
So in the same way when you look at Pakistan-U.S. relations, I think it is important that we are able to inspire confidence amongst Pakistanis. And one thing that does come in the way of us being able to inspire confidence in Pakistanis is the use of unilateral strikes such as drone strikes. Because what that does is, being illegal, being counter-productive -- most importantly what it does is that it makes it again your war and not our war.
It is important that this remain something that the Pakistanis are striving for for their own future, and that the Pakistanis should be allowed to look at it that way. We expect from the U.S. a deeper understanding of Pakistan's priorities, Pakistan's concerns, Pakistan's constraints also because I think sometimes we are given an overload of capacity. We are expected to achieve on our side what 49 other countries cannot achieve on the other side. So how big do you think we are, or how resourceful do you think we are?
And most importantly, I think we have of course always been very grateful for the very strong message that came from the American people when you supported the democracy in Pakistan by again, Senator Kerry, Secretary Clinton of course had a huge role to play in it. The KLB was important, the Kerry-Lugar bill was an important milestone. It sent a clear message that the U.S. wants to build long-sustainable relations.
We also feel that a clearer message still would be recognizing that Pakistan is a country which has gone through many, many challenges and therefore a preferential market access for Pakistani products into U.S. markets. What that will do is that it will build new stakeholders in Pakistan. What that will do is that it will immediately give the people who today use violence as means of expressing themselves, it will give them an alternative. Really, at the end of the day it is all about providing alternatives in the type of region that I come from.
So with those words let me just say that I hope we have a more interesting discussion still, and it's been a pleasure, and we hope that the biggest challenge in front of us today is what we can achieve together in Afghanistan. And as we strive towards that, I think in building these relations we hope that Afghanistan will not be left in a security -- with a security vacuum. (Applause.)
ALBRIGHT: Well, thank you very, very much for that very clear and full statement.
I am not a journalist. I actually had the same job you have. And I know what it's like to come to another country and be subjected to an elite opinion-maker audience. And so I -- what I want to get at are some of the questions of what it's like to actually carry out foreign policy for your country.
But I can't resist -- you made a lot of news yesterday. And among the things you talked about was the fact that you revealed that there soon would be confidential talks with the United States in Afghanistan. So could you tell us what you're going to talk about in these confidential talks? (Laughter.)
KHAR: As I said, nothing nowadays is off the record.
KHAR: But, you know, as I said, I think -- I think we are truly -- I'm glad that I'm here when I am. I wouldn't have wanted to be in Washington in the last -- before we were able to move back on rebuilding the relations.
So I feel that today we are in some ways at a turning point. I think we have all learned our lessons of trying to do in Afghanistan what we think we could achieve. I think it is important that we are able to put our energies together, as I said, in the talks and move to see what we can achieve together in Afghanistan. And for that, we already have a system by which Afghanistan, Pakistan and U.S., a core group -- in the form of a core group at the level of the foreign secretaries -- meet. And they talk about whatever areas and whatever parts to follow in order to achieve peace and stability. For that, of course, reconciliation is a major element of that.
So we feel that with -- ties with the U.S. on a positive trajectory, that we have been able to build enough confidence in each other to start those serious discussions.
And Madam Albright, the concerns that we have, of course, are the type that I talked about, that we may leave behind a security vacuum, which will come back to haunt us as the one we left behind three decades back is still haunting Pakistan.
So it's important that as we look towards 2014 we are able to build an environment whereby all of one people feel they can express themselves through the political process. And that is what we will do whatever we can to assist our Afghan brothers and sisters.
ALBRIGHT: And are they going to begin now the talks or --
KHAR: I think in some ways, you know, this was already a work in progress, but we have a much bigger opportunity today than we had, you know, a few months back to be able to move on this track.
ALBRIGHT: By the way, I'm going to ask a few questions and then turn it all over to you. Let me just say this. I think that -- first of all, I am among those Americans who recognize the fact that more Pakistanis have died from terrorism than Americans have died or other parts of the world.
The question, I think, that people have is why is Pakistan not fighting terrorism more strongly. Where do we diverge on the methods for dealing with terrorists? And why are -- why do we misunderstand each other so much? Because I think we do. I think one of the issues, from my perspective, is that you said it was very important for respect. And yet the sense in following events in Pakistan and some of the statements is that you see yourself as a victim, a country that's a victim. And I just wondered where that difference comes and whether it is because we see different methods of fighting terrorism.
KHAR: OK. First of all, why Pakistan has not done enough is a question that surprises me. And I think this is where the genesis or the start of the difference of viewing what we have done for each other comes from. You know, I said -- I should have said this from the podium also. When I said that this government was able to take ownership of the fight against terrorism, one thing that I forgot to share with you was that when this government came into power, the total area of FATA that was under government's control was 37 percent. Today it is 86 percent.
We had to do two major military operations and many, many other operations that continue to happen in Pakistan outside of the headlines that make it to the -- in Washington Post or New York Times. They continue to happen in Pakistan as we speak, to ensure that we have more and more area which is completely and directly under our control. We feel that the fight we have fought together against al-Qaida has been relatively successful. We feel that we have worked together to get many al-Qaida operators outside -- out of Pakistan.
So these are things that we have been able to achieve. But however, unfortunately, these are things which are not acknowledged very often. And we are continuing to find ways and means of improving our capacity to be able to deal with this menace as we speak. And for -- in Pakistan's case, I think mostly it is a matter of capacity more than intent. The intent is clearly there. And that's why my surprise -- because the intent is demonstrated from the fact that who did 6,000 of our soldiers die fighting against if they were not fighting the terrorists? If we were not doing enough, then how did 6,000 of our soldiers die fighting -- for what cause were they fighting?
So really I think what is -- what is -- what is sometimes incorrectly perceived is this over-projection of capacity on Pakistan's part to be able to do everything at the same time. If in the last four years we have been able to achieve what we have against terrorism, I think that is clearly a very, very good starting point. And there is clearly more to be done, but more to be done on two tracks. One is certainly the operations that you'll have -- you'll do, you know, whether at the law enforcement agency level or any other level.
But the other important one is also be able to change the mindset. And for that, the increasing divide between the West and the East has to stop. And we, therefore, feel that we are doing our part in being able to project that within Pakistan also.
Then you talked about why the misunderstanding. So I think some of the answers to that I've already given.
Madam Albright, I'm -- it's interesting that you talk about a choice between being the victim and deserving respect. So when the United States went through 9/11, the United States was a victim of terrorism. Your people suffered. Your people died. You were a victim. But you still deserved respect. Pakistan wants exactly the same thing.
Thirty-three thousand of our civilians have died. More than 6,000 of our law enforcement agency police, military have died, have sacrificed their lives willingly -- civilians unwillingly, of course -- people like myself who are indeed from the elite of Pakistan -- our lifestyles have changed. Imagine what it is for the less-privileged in Pakistan. The way we have been able to conduct our lives has changed. Imagine what it is for the less privileged. Imagine what it is for the houses of the 6,000 soldiers who have died. You think any country -- so we say that ask of us not what you are not willing to give to everyone. And look at it as a collective effort. Look at it as a collective responsibility. When you look at it as a collective responsibility, you are able to understand each other's capacity issues and enhance each other's capacity rather than blaming each other.
I think we have lost more at the hands of the -- you know, the trust deficit, quite frankly speaking, and doubting each other's intentions than we have at the hands of anything else. So, as I said, we are the victims. We don't want to play the victim. We don't want to be the victims in the future. So for that, we need to work together. And I think despite suffering from this very, very big menace, we certainly do deserve respect for each other's sacrifices and respect for the future that we're trying to build together.
ALBRIGHT: Let me ask to elaborate a little bit, because I kind of meant more victim in terms of not having control over your own policy. And one of the things that -- when I was secretary, I obviously had to consult with the national security adviser, the Pentagon, the secretary of Treasury -- it's a decision-making process -- but ultimately one is part of the decision-making process.
I wondered -- for instance, you as foreign minister -- how does it work within your decision-making process so that you are able to feel that Pakistan is a partner in a lot of these discussions so that in fact not -- certainly you are a victim of terrorism, but I kind of meant victim of other countries telling you what to do in your foreign policy and national security policy.
And then one addendum to that would be is, we can sit here -- or you will be meeting with Secretary Clinton, and you can work out all kinds of things that you might have in common, but there are events that happen that are difficult to absorb. What is the mechanism, or can we all think about developing a mechanism that deals with the crisis that makes -- that brings questions into the decision-making process and also allows us to have that phone call, to say, OK, we really do trust each other?
KHAR: OK. First of all, the decision-making process you talked about -- and you talked about how as secretary you had to consult and get inputs -- I think it's pretty much the same. So this -- if you were alluding to the military in Pakistan, allow me to say this -- and I'm saying this on the record, off the record -- and I would say this, as I said, on the record and off the record -- the military in Pakistan has no more a role than the Pentagon in the U.S. I don't know what that means now. I don't know you would --
ALBRIGHT: We can talk about that sometime. (Laughter.)
KHAR: Yes. So allow me to say this with full confidence, that the military in Pakistan has as much a role and plays as much a role in the decision-making process as the Pentagon -- I would think maybe a little less. And interestingly, in the last few years, if you look at what this democratic government was able to do with the military -- they're part of the executive, so we must not be able to look at them -- I think, again, this is a hangover of the past, and I don't blame anyone. I don't blame our people. I don't blame your people. If Pakistan was under dictatorial regime for 30-plus years, for 36 years of our history, of course people are going to ask those questions.
But the military operation, for instance, that we were able to do in Malakand, in Swat area of Pakistan, which was able to achieve rich dividends, was done under the guidance of the political leadership. It required for the prime minister at that time to call in an all-parties conference, consult all political leaders, create the space. That is the way it is done in any other country. And therefore, we feel that it is important that everybody takes care of their sphere of responsibility -- the United States its own, we ours.
And I'm glad you alluded to the question of respect vis-a-vis the conduct of foreign relations. Madam Albright, as -- having served as secretary of state, I think you're right on spot. We must all be seen to be pursuing our own national agenda and our own national interest. And then the convergence comes. If we can demonstrate that to the people of Pakistan, which I'm quite sure is the case, we would have won this battle and we would not be talking about the challenges to the relations between U.S. and Pakistan.
So when I said from the podium that if stability and peace in Afghanistan is your interest and the reason for your presence in Afghanistan, then I see a complete convergence of our national interest, because stability and peace in Afghanistan is clearly a core national interest for Pakistan also.
Then you talked about developing a mechanism and clarity on that and if there are any incidents. I think what requires for that is greater confidence, and I think we are building on the greater confidence, because there are many mechanisms that exist at various levels, but sometimes -- I'm going to steal your phrase again -- the unintended consequences of the decisions that we make and the decisions that we do not make.
For instance, allow me to share with you, I think it did not have a very good effect on the Pakistani side -- (inaudible) -- inspire a lot of confidence and mutual respect when we lost 24 soldiers, and it took a while before we were able to, you know, say, let's move on. It's just things like that which leave lasting impressions. And I remember at that time I used to also say, I do not fear for today; I fear for what we are doing for tomorrow.
So I think if we have that -- the other thing that I would like to talk about is -- because you talked about what would it take -- I think what it would take, certainly in the case of Afghanistan -- though I don't like U.S.-Pakistan relations only to be looked at through the Afghan lens, but it is true that today the biggest task that we have to achieve together is to work together within the Afghan context. And what will clearly inspire a lot of trust and confidence is the clarity on what we wish to achieve in Afghanistan, because, as I said, the entry goals in Afghanistan are very different than the goals that we seem to be talking about today. I think we need complete clarity on what is it that we wish to achieve in the next 14, 18 months, and then work backwards from it. I'm quite sure we will be able to achieve much more that way.
ALBRIGHT: All right. Let me turn to the audience and -- can you please rise and tell me your -- identify yourself?
QUESTIONER: My name is Peter Baumbusch -- my name is Peter Baumbusch. I am a lawyer in Washington.
I'd like to quickly raise three subjects, which I think are on most people's minds.
The Taliban -- there's a suggestion, at least by reading the newspapers, that official sources in Pakistan support the Taliban against U.S. interest. I'm not sure that's true. I'd love your comment.
Second, the Haqqani network -- the same thing; either it is supported or condoned, its leaders live in Pakistan without reprisal or problem, they are killing U.S. soldiers -- that's the perception. What is the policy with respect to that?
Third, drone strikes. I understand the concern of the Pakistanis that American drone strikes are a difficulty for Pakistan. They take away sovereignty and so forth -- sovereignty. But understand, from the United States' perspective, they have actually been quite --
ALBRIGHT: You've asked three difficult questions to --
QUESTIONER: -- OK -- very effective. And I'd be interested in your comments.
Thank you very much.
KHAR: OK. I think your first two questions are the same, because you talked about the Taliban and the Haqqani Network, and there can be many other entities, but they're all the same. If there are any Afghan nationals who are living in Pakistan -- we have 3 (million) -- 5 million all together -- I'm just trying to give you a perspective -- we have 5 million Afghan nationals who live inside Pakistan. So we are asked to be responsible for the activities of some of them. We have no wherewithal to be responsible -- or we have no capacity to be responsible for the activities of 5 million of them, because there are many, many challenges on this track that we already suffer from.
But allow me to share this with you clearly and categorically, that Pakistan -- like any intelligence agency -- let's be honest with it -- CIA, any intelligence agency -- to maintain contact -- CIA has many contacts with many of these groups also. So to maintain contact versus having control -- that's not a very thin line. But unfortunately, it is always misunderstood and misperceived. If we have any contacts with any entities, our message to those entities is always -- is, be part of the political process.
And as far as the bigger question of Afghan presence -- or presence of Afghan nationals in Pakistan is concerned, I think we need to find serious answers to that, because we will be very happy to look for border controls, for biometric system, for ensuring that as 53,000 people cross the border in and out every day we can have -- and I'll take just one minute to give you one example.
I have -- I don't have very good memories of my last visit to the United States -- actually, the visit before last -- because as I arrived, we had a statement -- as I arrived with -- (inaudible) -- just two days after I had a very extensive and good meeting with Secretary Clinton, we had a statement by Admiral Mullen that the Haqqani Network is a veritable arm of the United States (sic). And do you know what inspired that statement?
KHAR: ISAF --
ALBRIGHT: (Off mic) --
KHAR: -- or maybe -- OK. That was a -- that was not a Freudian slip. (Laughter.)
OK. So what inspired that statement was we were indeed -- intelligence was shared with us that there was a truck, which was carrying some ammo, which was crossing the border and going into -- and targeting Kabul. Our intelligence -- that information was shared with us, and we were asked to apprehend it. And this was about a 50-kilometer or so area, where -- within Pakistan.
So we were unable to apprehend it -- as I said, an overestimation of capacity. However, my question is that, when it crossed the Pakistani border and traveled 300 kilometers inside of one territory, were the Pakistanis responsible for that? So how does the onus of all the responsibility come to us?
So, as I said, I think more trust, more realization of serious capacity issues, of serious constraints and working together will obviously help us move forward. So we hold no grief -- we hold no love for any of the entities that you mentioned, anyone -- any entity, whatever name it carries -- any entity which uses violence as a means to kill Afghans is as much a threat to Pakistan's security, is a threat to Pakistan's national interest, as those which choose to use violence against our people. And believe me, you know, from -- within these groups, the -- they're very, very -- it gets very murky as to where the goals and objectives of one group ends and the other begins.
So we have absolutely no aspiration to -- and we (are not besotted ?) by any one of them.
The question of drone strikes is an important one. And the U.S. claim on that, of course, is that they're more effective and accurate than anything than else. I do not disagree with that maybe they might be more accurate, they might be more efficient. But we have to see whether our goal and objective in all of this fight and all of this war is to win the battle or concentrate on winning the war. Our claim is that we have to win the war, because we have suffered from the consequences of what we did three decades back, and we are still suffering from it today. And this is just a reemergence of a past mistake. We don't want the same thing to happen in the future also.
So therefore, when drone strikes are used, the message that is sent to the Pakistani people is that of United States unilateralism, which is not what it should be and which is what -- not what it is, which is not the partnership that we are trying to build. And I'm very confident today that as we engage with the United States on this issue and on others we will be able to find solutions, because I think the missing link was to just -- as I said, just -- let's give ourselves a window of confidence and trust and see what we can achieve. I am very confident, if we are able to give ourselves that window, we will be very unhappy with the lost opportunity of the last many months.
ALBRIGHT: Yes, sir.
QUESTIONER: Thank you. My name is Mike Haltzel. I'm at Johns Hopkins SAIS.
Madame Minister, we've been talking a lot about trust and respect and creating environments and capacities. We all know that a vulgar anti-Islamic trailer was made in California several -- whenever it was, a few months ago -- and aired, and it's -- we all know the ramifications around the globe.
I understand that your government gave a holiday today to people, saying that it was a way to enhance security. Some people think it may have the opposite effect.
Let me ask this question. You studied in the United States, you lived in the United States; I daresay I suspect you know that the U.S. government is not anti-Islam. The president, the secretary of state have put ads on your television, saying that. Wouldn't it be a good idea for your president, your prime minister, or even you to go on television -- you have a lot more credibility than we do with your own people -- and say, the United States is an important country with which we differ on many issues; they have a different culture; they have a First Amendment; it may be difficult for us to understand, but we can assure you they are not anti-Muslim? Would that not help? Is that possible? Wouldn't that create the kind of mutual trust and respect that you're talking about?
KHAR: I think, to be quite honest, there are two different things, unfortunately, which are getting mixed up in this particular -- you know, in this particular problem. There is one -- let's admit it -- and I think that this is where we have to have a deeper understanding of each other's cultures, each other's religions. First of all, Islam is a religion of peace. So this jihadi mindset, which is imposed on Islam -- let me reject it completely.
Allow me to say also that in Islam, desecration of any religion -- of any religious figure, even those of Christianity, even that of Jesus, and certainly that of Prophet Muhammad is considered to be wrong.
So I think we need to develop more understanding in understanding each other's sensitivities. I am, of course, happy to -- and I know that many of my other colleagues in Pakistan government have already done so -- I was just watching, you know, Information Minister Kaira, who was saying exactly what you asked us to say, and I'm happy to say that President -- that President Obama's words, timely words, Secretary Clinton's timely words on this are very, very appreciated. And they've said that this is disgusting and that the U.S. government by no means supports anything like this.
And it is for that reason that in Pakistan you did not see a reaction in the first week. But there will always be forces who will use these opportunities to get their own designs. And in -- again, I think you need to trust us with that. In declaring it a holiday, we think we were able to manage it better than if it had not. If it had not been declared a holiday, the schoolchildren, the office-goers would have all been at risk. People would have had more of an opportunity to congregate. The type of security measures that the government was able to take by putting in strong, you know -- all sorts of things in front of -- diplomatic missions, et cetera, we think we have been able to protect our -- and that is our responsibility to do so.
So, again, let us -- you know, allow us the privilege of knowing how to deal with a situation as it arises. But I think what is important is that on -- we don't misinterpret this to be entirely anti-Americanism. This is against one person. This is against what he did. And I think -- I have no qualms in saying this, exactly what you said, that the United States government's response on this has been very good. The United States government, the president, Secretary Clinton's -- Senator Kerry, as he met me yesterday, gave a very strong statement about this, that all of you, the government feels this is disgusting, that it is not something that you in any way -- so there's some deeper issues, but what was required immediately management. And believe me, we are trying to manage it.
QUESTIONER: Thank you. Barbara Slavin from the Atlantic Council and from Al-Monitor.com. Thank you very much for this opportunity.
You talked about the 24 soldiers that were killed, but you didn't mention Osama bin Laden. And many in this country still want to see a full investigation, to understand how it was that he lived all that time in Abbottabad without your government, apparently, knowing about his presence.
In terms of restoring trust, what are you doing on this front? And also, yes, you say that these demonstrations are against an individual who made a film and not anti-American, but what can you do to help Americans feel that they can participate and help Pakistan when there is a real security threat to many of them if they try to go out in Pakistani society?
KHAR: OK. First of all, on Osama bin Laden, as you know, we have had an independent commission, which was set up, which is investigating this matter. And it is surprising, because even though today's in the age of -- information age and information travels very quickly, but what makes headlines here typically -- what makes headlines in Pakistan typically do not make headlines -- (inaudible). For instance, when Osama bin Laden -- it was found that he was living in that compound, the reaction from Pakistani society was even more hostile than maybe yours. They were even more shocked at it than you.
However, from your intelligence reports -- because you know a lot of intelligence was gathered from here -- it is now clear that Pakistani state or any organ of the state had no knowledge of it. However, we are awaiting the report of the independent commission. And why we have not said or done anything on it is because I think we need to give that process time. That report is going to be out in October. And once that report is out, then we will see, obviously, what needs to be done about it. And we are -- we have not -- why don't we continue to talk about it? Because I think we need to give that independent commission the time to be able to deal with it.
ALBRIGHT: I have to ask here -- the treatment of the doctor, I think, is something --
KHAR: Yeah, I know.
ALBRIGHT: -- that is of great concern to many Americans.
KHAR: Yes. OK. First of all, again, I think there's a serious communication gap and a difference of how we view one people or the other. Osama bin Laden was no hero for Pakistan. Osama bin Laden -- first let me talk about -- because I think it is generally believed that we don't want to talk about Osama bin Laden because we had -- we almost were harboring him. And we -- he was an enemy to us. He killed -- because of his actions and because of his organizations, more Pakistanis lost their lives than maybe 20 other single organization. We -- as I said before, many al-Qaida operatives we have been able to go against very, very effectively. So he was no hero to Pakistan.
In the same way, we feel Dr. Shakil Afridi should be no hero to the Americans. And let me build a case for that. First of all, it is now well known -- and I'm sure your own information will corroborate that -- that Dr. Shakil Afridi did not know the herculean task that he was trying to do. He did know that he was going after Osama bin Laden. He was a man who was up for hire by anybody who was willing to pay him, and that included Islamic organizations, terrorist organizations, which were using him to move and work against your and our interests. So he was no hero.
What we have to do right now is to await the legal process to take its full course. And as people who believe in the rule of law, I think we should allow the process -- he does have many, you know, ways where he can go back and take those decisions back -- you know, appeal processes -- he has many appeal processes.
Lastly, I am very, very concerned about what this one man could do to the future of polio and children in Pakistan. His activity has ensured that today caregivers and people who want to work for polio are not welcomed. This was a huge battle of 20 years that we had to fight in Pakistan. And because of this one single man's activity, polio today is an emerging concern in Pakistan.
So what I would very much -- and because I know we're here -- we have people who make the opinion and therefore the policy, I think opinion-makers today have more importance than people like us. We just have to follow the opinion you create and somehow deal with it.
So I would urge you to allow -- not allow this one single man to be the demonstration of Pakistan-U.S. relations and not to put -- not to put us hostage to the future of this. And I can assure you that he has appeal process that is available to him. His lawyers are going through that appeal process. Let it run its course. But let's take this man for what he was. Let's not valorize a man who may be seen over here to be pursuing something that he clearly wasn't.
ALBRIGHT: We'll take one more question in the back there.
QUESTIONER: Thank you very much. (Name inaudible) -- I work for Voice of America, Pashto -- (inaudible) -- border region. It's called Deewa Radio. Thank you very much for your comments.
My question is -- you said that Pakistan-Afghanistan long border poses also challenges in the future. So taking into the consideration the Pakistan role in the future of Afghanistan, especially talking to Taliban, which also brings into the fold ISI -- so is it jeopardizing the Pakistan efforts to play its role, number one; and second, why do you think that we don't see any progress on talks with Taliban? So does it mean they have -- the United States and Pakistan has differences over the -- how to reach out to Taliban? Is that the main reason? Or what is holding them back?
Thank you very much.
KHAR: OK. Again, something that I referred to earlier, where I said -- OK, let me talk about this from the beginning. Play its role -- I find that this term sometimes can be misinterpreted, so I don't like to use this term, that -- what role will Pakistan play. I think the role that Pakistan can play is that of a facilitator, the facilitator of whatever the Afghan people decide to be the course of action to take.
And allow me to say that we feel rather strongly that these peace deals cannot be brokered anywhere else but in Kabul. The terms and conditions of these peace deals also have to be led by Kabul. So there is maybe a need for more intensive intra-Afghan dialogue, within their society, because typically we've seen that efforts to impose terms and conditions will -- on the Afghan people have not served our purposes.
So the role that Pakistan can play is only one role, that of a facilitator. We are willing to go out of our way to play the role of a facilitator.
As far as the future of Afghan-Pakistan relations are concerned, we only wish -- as I said, we only see strategic depth in having a relation with Afghanistan -- with an independent, sovereign (Afghan ?), which are based on trust. And we are -- our only interest is to have bilateral relations with Afghanistan as a sovereign equal. Because of the past, there will be many misperceptions on what Pakistan wants to do. But I can assure you that as we will go through the next few months and next two years -- and as you look through the last two years, three years, ever since this government came in, I think it should inspire a lot of confidence in how Pakistan expects to build its relations with Afghanistan.
ALBRIGHT: Madam Minister, thank you very, very much. (Applause.) Your country is lucky to have you as its foreign minister.
KHAR: Thank you. Thank you very much.
ALBRIGHT: Thank you.
MR: Thank you very much.
ALBRIGHT: Thank you all very much.