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A Conversation with Makhdoom Shah Mahmood Qureshi, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Islamic Republic of Pakistan

Speaker: Makhdoom Shah Mahmood Qureshi, Foreign Minister, Islamic Republic Of Pakistan
Presider: Jami Miscik, President and Vice Chairman, Kissinger Associates, Inc.
September 21, 2010
Council on Foreign Relations

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JAMI MISCIK: Well, council rules, good evening. It's six o'clock, so we'll go ahead and get started.

I'm Jami Miscik, and I'd like to thank you all for joining us here this evening for the Council on Foreign Relations meeting with Pakistan Foreign Minister, Mr. Qureshi. Let me also extend a special welcome to our national members who are participating in the meeting via teleconference tonight.

Before I introduce our distinguished speaker, I'd like to ask everybody to make sure that they really did turn off their cell phones and their BlackBerrys. If you put them on vibrate it does interfere with our sound system. If they ring, we will find you. (Laughter.)

This evening the foreign minister -- our format will be that the foreign minister will make a few opening remarks; we'll then have a brief conversation, and then we'll open it up to the audience for your questions.

Let me begin. It is really my pleasure to welcome our distinguished guest here tonight. Mr. Qureshi has been the foreign minister in Pakistan for the last two years now, and he has played an instrumental role in shaping foreign policy in that country. You'll have seen his CV in the materials that you received, so I'm just going to highlight a couple of things. And in particular, I just want to note that he's been an elected official since the mid-1980s, holding increasingly important elected and executive positions.

The images that we've seen from Pakistan in recent days -- the floods, the victims now displaced from their homes -- have captured the world's attention. Pakistan is a country of great strength, but it is also facing great challenges, so it's all the more reason for us to thank the minister for being with us and sharing his time with us tonight.

Mr. Minister, please.

FOREIGN MINISTER MAKHDOOM SHAH MEHMOOD QURESHI: Good evening, members of the council, ladies and gentlemen.

There are moments in the history of nations that test their mettle. For the United Kingdom, it was the blitzkrieg. For the United States, it was 9/11. And for Indonesia, it was the 2004 tsunami. Pakistan confronts its test these days. We face the most devastating monsoon floods in our history, a calamity of biblical proportions. One-fifth of our nation is submerged under water. This is a landmass larger than Italy or the United Kingdom. This calamity has struck when the whole nation is united in fighting terrorism and extremism, notwithstanding its enormous cost. Yet despite the double jeopardy of terrorism and floods, we are determined not only to survive but to prosper. We are confronting tyranny and natural disaster simultaneously, and we will triumph over both.

Ladies and gentlemen, a year ago I had the privilege of addressing the council. I had observed that it was only now that the leadership of Pakistan and the U.S. were laying the foundation of a strategic partnership. The United States realized that it was time to turn the page on the past, on the one-dimensional relationship with Pakistan that rightly or not left many in my country feeling used and exploited. Now, the days of a myopic, transactional relationship between our two countries are over. The United States fully understands that only an economically and politically stable Pakistan can contain the threat of terrorism, and is in the national interest of the United States and of world peace.

Working with the Obama administration in an elevated strategic dialogue over the last year, we have redefined a mature, sustained, long-term economic and political partnership. Our partnership is based on shared values, common goals and common interests. In a year, this new partnership has made tangible headway. Pakistan-U.S. relations now have a definite direction and depth. It is multidimensional and has institutional underpinnings that were hitherto missing. Between last October and now, two sessions of an overhauled and expanded strategic dialogue have not only helped bring into sharp focus our common objectives but also provided means to address them. Nearly all of the 13 sectoral tracts under the strategic dialogue have made appreciable progress and set achievable benchmarks.

Ladies and gentlemen, through an effective public outreach, spearheaded by Secretary Clinton, the U.S. has made significant progress in the battle for the hearts and minds of our people. Recent events have increased the tempo of that perception transformation. America's hand of friendship and solidarity towards the people of Pakistan -- (audio break from source) -- during the recent devastating floods in our country. The U.S. was among the first of our friends that came to our help and remains the foremost in relief and rehabilitation. The United States has given more in flood assistance than any nation on earth, and has been instrumental in mobilizing the United Nations in an extraordinary international relief effort. For your invaluable assistance, I wish to register our profound gratitude.

Ladies and gentlemen, the scale of the tragedy is indeed immense. The U.N. secretary-general had described the destruction as greater than the tsunami, the 2005 earthquake, and the recent earthquake in Haiti put together. Much of our crops have been destroyed. The infrastructure has been ravaged in all our provinces. In the scenic Swat Valley, there is not one bridge left standing. Through the length and breadth of Pakistan, across the course of the Indus River, the deluge has uprooted 20 million people. It has washed away livestock, crops and livelihoods; inundated town after town, acre upon acre of fertile farmland. We are faced with the challenge of providing food, clean water and shelter to uprooted populations. We must prevent widespread disease and malnutrition. We must put in place medium to long-term plans for rehabilitating the affected.

As in the 2005 earthquake, the people of Pakistan have come together to help their brethren, but the magnitude of the crisis has overwhelmed our national capacities, as it would have any other nation, developed or developing. If you can think of the havoc that Hurricane Katrina played on the resources of the United States of America, multiply that by a hundredfold to understand what the monsoons have wrought upon Pakistan. For us, recourse to international assistance has become inevitable.

Ladies and gentlemen, Pakistan is conscious of the need to ensure complete transparency and accountability in aid dispersals. We are working through the U.N. system and in close collaboration with the World Bank and Asian Development Bank to prepare a credible damage needs assessment. The government has put in place an oversight mechanism that will address donor requirements. It is a powerful body of 15 eminent persons called National Oversight Disaster Management Council, which will oversee transparent and effective utilization of international assistance. We're also creating a dedicated website to track all assistance and its utilization. A similar mechanism needs to be devised for the U.N. system.

Ladies and gentlemen, despite the enormity of the task at hand, Pakistan will not lose focus in the fight against terrorism and extremism. This fight has cost Pakistan dearly. Terrorist attacks inside Pakistan have led to the loss of lives of more than 7,000 innocent civilians. This is more than twice the number that died in Ground Zero, just miles away where we speak today. Our security forces have lost more than 2,500 law enforcement agents, more than all NATO combined. And we have lost a nation's greatest leader, Benazir Bhutto, to the bloody hand of international terrorism. Imagine the trauma to our national psyche on the assassination of our most popular, talented and inspiring leader. Economically this war has cost Pakistan at least 50 billion U.S. dollars, no small amount for a developing country. But we are determined not to allow the extremist agendas to prevail. Pakistan has paid much too heavy a price for democracy to succumb. For us and for the world, failure is just not an option.

A sterling achievement of the democratic government was to forge a broad-based consensus against terrorism and extremism and give this struggle national ownership. Our slogan was and remains, "This is our war." This consensus can only be sustained if military actions, such as those in Swat and Malakand and elsewhere, are followed up with an equally robust development effort. We need to place emphasis on improving life and expanding opportunities for the ordinary Pakistanis. Only when people see tangible results in terms of improvement in health, education and economic opportunities, will they realize that the sacrifices they make today are for a better tomorrow.

The situation, ladies and gentlemen, calls for curative treatment and not symptomatic narrative. If there are -- if there ever was a need to showcase a democratic, market-based model for development that can deliver, it is now. If there ever was a need to expand opportunity and enhance capacity, it is now. It will hopefully see us through the acutest of aches, but it can only go this far. At the end of the day, Pakistan, its government and institutions have to be capable and competent to be able to draw upon the country's inherent strengths.

Ladies and gentlemen, enhanced access for Pakistani products, with all the modernizing and liquidating effects of freer trade and commerce, should be seen as a strategic imperative. For the United States, for Europe, for the rest of Asia, opening up markets to Pakistani export is not an economic issue; it is a national security issue. The opening of markets to Pakistan will accelerate and catalyze the process of societal transformation in our part of the world. Without firing a single bullet, we will score an important and perhaps decisive victory in the struggle for hearts and minds. The calculus is simple; the arithmetic, clear. The Council on Foreign Relations should conduct a serious cost-benefit analysis of such a policy option.

Ladies and gentlemen, Pakistan has a 2,400-kilometers-long, daunting and porous border with Afghanistan. We are home to over 3 million Afghan refugees, a tragic legacy of the Soviet occupation of that country. The presence of such a large number of foreign nationals on our soil translates into a security linkage. The security of Pakistan is linked with the security of Afghanistan. Only a stable Afghanistan at peace with itself can ensure a stable, peaceful region. Pakistan has always had and will always have legitimate stakes in Afghanistan's peace, security and stability. Pakistan has long held the view that there is no military solution for the conflict in that country. The military agenda is critical, but it is far from the only mechanism for sustained peace. Meaningful reconciliation, Afghan-led and Afghan-owned, is the only way forward. During President Karzai's recent visit to Pakistan, we reiterated our offer of support to this initiative of reconciliation and reintegration. We believe that for the sake of regional security and stability, it is important to stay the course in Afghanistan. It is important to work the regional processes and translate the vision of trans-regional development perspective into reality. Afghanistan will only find peace once all segments of Afghan society are enabled to participate in a democratic and representative polity, and once the drug issue and gun-running are effectively addressed.

Ladies and gentlemen, Pakistan is committed to peace in South Asia. We are convinced that a sustainable peace can only offer the best guarantee for ensuring a bright and prosperous future for the over 1 billion people inhabiting the region. Resuming the dialogue process with India therefore remains a major objective for us. My discussion with Indian minister of external affairs in July was useful. We look forward to constructive and results-oriented interaction with India on all issues, especially the issue of Jammu and Kashmir.

It has always baffled me that the international community has long recognized that the Palestinian question is a core issue to peace in the Middle East but does not seem to understand that similarly, until the status of Jammu and Kashmir is resolved, real peace in South Asia will remain elusive. Today the Kashmiri youth, children and women have once again highlighted the occupation and suppressive policies of occupation in Indian-held Kashmir. Surely the world can recognize that this resistance is internal. It may be easy for some to dismiss the uprising as outside education, but no one any longer can seriously believe this. The occupation cannot continue. The rights of the Kashmiri people cannot continue to be denied. The international community must recognize that the people of Kashmir, in an entirely indigenous upsurge, are demanding the right to self-determination. The U.N. long ago recognized this; now is the time for the international community to do something about it. We call upon the United States particularly, which is pressing so responsibly for peace in the Middle East, to also invest its political capital in trying to help seek an accommodation for Kashmir. Such an accommodation will not only be just for the people of Kashmir, but will be critical to peace in the region. It will also be critical to the containment of terrorism, which is fueled and thrives on pleated examples of social and political injustice.

Ladies and gentlemen, it has been said that in crisis comes opportunity. The twin crises now facing the people of Pakistan are demanding heroic sacrifice of our people, and we are rising to the occasion. We are uniting both politically and socially to confront terrorism, the massive floods, and those that would exploit these challenges for political ends.

Let me underscore my full faith in the resilience of the Pakistani nation and its remarkable ability to rise up to any and every challenge. I thank you. (Applause.)

MISCIK: Well, Mr. Foreign Minister, thank you very much for those comments. And it's very helpful for us to hear from a person like yourself and hear your perspective on important issues like Afghanistan, the floods and terrorism.

Let me start where you began, with the tragedy of the floods and the displaced people. As winter approaches, as this immediate first round of aid is reaching the people, what are your concerns over the next several months? What will be the highest priorities in terms of what your country will need?

QURESHI: The highest priority is to get people back to their homes and make sure that no one starves, there is no epidemic, that millions exposed to water-borne diseases, that people are able to restart their livelihoods, agriculture is kick-started again, they can plant their winter wheat crop, shelter is provided to them, clean drinking water. These are some of the immediate challenges that we face.

MISCIK: And is the government able to get into the areas to be able to be there as a force of stability, to have the people know that they are getting those services from the Pakistani government, or is that still uneven in certain areas?

QURESHI: If you look at the enormity of the challenge, I think -- despite a lot of criticism, I think the government has done reasonably well. Nobody has died out of starvation. All experts were of the view that a health hazard was around the corner. Luckily that has not happened. There has been no major law and order situation in the country because of the flood situation. The challenges are huge -- I'm not saying it is easy. It's an uphill task. You know, we have mobilized all our national resources, but they will not be enough. Fortunately, there is a realization -- and once again, the encouraging thing is that civil society in Pakistan, NGOs, and particularly the younger generation, the youth has responded so positively, and that gives everybody hope that they believe in Pakistan and they are willing to share the burden.

MISCIK: I read your very impressive biography before coming here today, and I note that we are in roughly the same age range. I'm not going to call either one of us old. (Laughter.) But you have had -- you've seen Pakistan go through tremendous changes in your lifetime, and I was wondering if you could just share with us two or three that you think are maybe the most significant from your perspective and what you think that then portends for Pakistan's future. And your comment now -- just now about the youth is a great jumping off point for that.

QURESHI: Well, I remember returning back to Pakistan from university, from Cambridge, under a military dictatorship, and people yearning for democracy, struggling for democracy, and a small clique telling the people, "We know better; what do you understand -- the niceties of governance?" It's a small clique, an elite that would take all decisions. And that situation -- the struggle towards a transition towards democracy was indeed -- (inaudible) -- and I saw that struggle taking place.

Then I also saw ones elected into the assembly, into parliament, how interventions did take place -- extra-constitutional events and interventions did take place, and how they set us back many, many years. So there is -- this seesaw between democracy and dictatorship was one of the very important imprints on my mind.

The other struggle that is very, very, very pronounced is that the people have so much talent. There is so much potential, and yet we have not been able to provide frankly the leadership and the resources to those teeming millions who can do a lot for this country. Pakistan has a lot of civilians. Pakistan has a lot of talent. Pakistanis have gone abroad everywhere and have struggled and have competed and have succeeded. Why can't we do it at home? This at times makes me wonder what is wrong. What needs to be done to fix that? And I think if I have a dream, that is to fix it, because I think there are very able Pakistanis, and we can turn around this country. It is economically, politically very viable, and we can be a very useful democratic ally of the free world.

MISCIK: Let me turn to the other -- you mentioned the two tyrannies facing Pakistan. Terrorism is obviously an issue that is very important to this audience, having just had the anniversary of the attacks of September 11th. But in Pakistan you have several challenges with extremists and terrorism. Setting aside the foreign element for the moment, could you speak to the challenges that Pakistan faces from domestic extremists that are disrupting the stability and security of society?

QURESHI: The domestic extremists are threatening our way of life. The founding fathers of Pakistan had a vision for Pakistan. What was that vision? It was a democratic, progressive, moderate Islamic Pakistan. What they are trying to impose upon us is the opposite of what the majority of Pakistanis want, and the latest expression -- the 2008 elections, they had a choice. They could have voted extremist parties into office; they did not. Whenever the people of Pakistan have been giving an opportunity to express themselves freely, they have acted responsibly. Unfortunately many of our elections have been not all that fair, to put it mildly. But whenever people have been given a chance, they have acted and they have behaved responsibly and have taken the right decisions. I have a lot of faith in the ordinary Pakistani. Are we willing to give that ordinary Pakistani an opportunity to play a decisive role in nation-building? We have not in the last so many decades. The time has come that they should play an assertive role.

MISCIK: Okay.

I think it's time that I'm supposed to turn this open to the members in the audience and listening on the phone for questions. As we call on different individuals, microphones will be brought around. If you could stand, state your name and your affiliation, that would be most helpful. And please try and keep it to one question because we want to make sure that we get as many people as possible.

QUESTIONER: Michael Levin. Minister, I'd like to know if you could speak a little more about this relationship with the United States that you said has now entered a more strategic non-one-dimensional relationship, especially in light of the fact that you have a complex set of allies that are not a natural family of allies for the United States -- the Islamic world that Pakistan stays very close to, China, and the United States as part of that equation. Not to mention that there's a lot of anti-American feeling inside of China and recently -- inside of Pakistan, and a lot of anti-Chinese feeling now newly in Pakistan. So what rational optimism makes you believe that --

QURESHI: Anti-Chinese feeling?

QUESTIONER: Anti-Chinese feeling. Haven't there been Chinese people killed --

QURESHI: That's news to me. (Laughs.)

QUESTIONER: -- on some of the construction projects and -- anyway, that direction. So as a result, it would seem to me entirely possible either from the United States' point of view when Pakistan was less strategic for purposes of fighting terrorism or from Pakistan's point of view when you felt you needed to ally more closely with China or the Islamic world, that you wouldn't need the United States. What makes you think it won't revert to a one-dimensional relationship with the United States again?

QURESHI: In my understanding many of the Islamic states that you're referring to have excellent and very cordial relations with the United States. Despite issues that you could have with China, I believe that you are sort of trading very well with China and you have, you know, an ongoing sort of a relationship. And Pakistan did contribute a bit to sort of opening up China to the United States.

My understanding is that there is no anti-Chinese feeling in Pakistan because Pakistanis generally feel that China has stood by us in difficult times. They have invested in mega infrastructure -- physical infrastructure projects in Pakistan that have sort of helped the socioeconomic development of Pakistan.

Having said that, when I came into office almost -- you know, over two years ago, and I looked at the strategic dialogue that we were having with the United States, I felt it was very (caustatic ?). I felt it was not results-oriented, and I pointed it out then to the previous administration and urged them to revisit the whole approach because we had had two sittings in two consecutive years with no results. We had agreed to a number of tracks, and I learned that some of those tracks had never met. So I requested this administration, particularly Secretary Clinton, to upgrade that relationship and to expand its base. And she agreed, and she responded very positively. Today we have incorporated in our dialogue sectors which can make a qualitative difference to the lives of ordinary Pakistanis -- for example, education, health, water, energy, agriculture and many others. Today we have -- we used to have one sitting in a year; this year in October we are going to be having the third session of the strategic dialogue in one year. So there is a qualitative improvement in our engagement.

And then I think the level of congressional delegations to Pakistan have increased considerably in the last two years, and my own reading is every congressional delegation helps reach a better understanding of what Pakistan really stands for. There is an image, there is a projection. People read about it. A lot of times negative reporting is highlighted. They do not really know the real Pakistan. They can get to know the real Pakistan when they visit Pakistan. I have met congressmen and senators who have been to Pakistan. Once they come back, they speak a different language, a friendlier language, a more sympathetic language.

So I have seen that qualitative difference take place in the last two years, and I'm happy that I've sort of made my two-pence worth of contribution to that. And let's not forget, Pakistan and the United States have been on the same side ever since we came into existence. We have been one of your oldest allies in the region.

MISCIK: Yes, back there?

QUESTIONER: Asim Rehman. Mr. Minister, thank you for your time today. You spoke a lot about marshaling national resources to assist in the flood situation. It should come as no surprise then that there was tremendous outrage in the donor community at home and abroad to learn that $11 million was recently allocated for the construction of a monument for former President Benazir Bhutto.

QURESHI: Not correct.

QUESTIONER: Pardon?

QURESHI: Not correct.

QUESTIONER: If you'd be in a position to correct that, there's a perception, at least among many donors in America.

QURESHI: I said so. It's not correct. That's not true. How can I be more plain than that?

QUESTIONER: Okay. Thank you.

MISCIK: Yes, in the far back there.

QUESTIONER: My name is Chandrakant Pancholi. And I remember the late Benazir Bhutto at CFR stating that one of the regrets she had is not amending relationship with India. Can you just expand on the disputes that you have with India and the talks that you had, the relationship with military, and the Kashmir -- don't forget the Kashmir issue -- (laughs) -- and whether China is a party to the dispute.

QURESHI: You see, the school of thought that I represent, which is the Pakistan People's Party, has always advocated normalization and peaceful coexistence with India, recognizing the fact that we have outstanding issues. Obviously we have issues, and that is why we have a composite dialogue going on between India and Pakistan. Kashmir is one of them -- (inaudible) -- and there are other issues. But we -- and the school of thought that I represent, we are of the view that Pakistan today stands to gain out of this normalization. We are neighbors, and we will always remain neighbors. So we have to decide how to coexist.

In my view, India has accepted the existence of Pakistan. We have now a kind of a strategic balance in a way -- you know, we can't sort of conquer each other, nor do we want to. So why can't we live in peace? Why can't we concentrate on areas that we have ignored? There are millions of Pakistanis living beneath the poverty line. There are millions of Indians living beneath the poverty line. There are so many areas, common challenges that we can work together. Climate change -- who knows to what extent climate change has contributed to this devastating flood? And we have common issues. We have common sources of water. So India's relationship is an important relationship.

What we want is resolution of our outstanding issues through peaceful dialogue. And the two prime ministers, when they met recently in Bhutan at Thimpu agreed that dialogue is the only way forward.

Going forward, yes, the Indian minister for external affairs, Mr. Krishna, was over in Pakistan. He was in Pakistan in July, and we had a meeting. I've had discussions with the former Indian foreign minister, Mr. Mukherjee, a very senior congressman, a very senior member of the party, and again, with Mr. Krishna. I've had a very frank discussion with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on a number of issues, and I am of the view that there are a number of doables that can be done. We can do it. We can do it. That will change the environment; that would change the climate in South Asia. If Asia is going to be the continent of the 21st century, why should South Asia lag behind? Look at East Asia. Look at the way they have progressed. We have examples. The European example is one right in front of us. Nations had difficulty, but they're coexisting, and there is economic growth and prosperity. So I see a lot of faith in moving forward, in building bridges, at the same time addressing our outstanding issues.

On Kashmir -- yes, it's been on the agenda for years, and the situation is a difficult one. At times it's easy for the Indians to look towards Pakistan and blame Pakistan for everything that's going wrong in the Indian-occupied Kashmir. Today what we are seeing over there is a expression, a people's expression: alienation, frustration. Now, you could argue that Pakistan can fan disruption, Pakistan can be behind certain nefarious activities, but can Pakistan orchestrate thousands of people? Can Pakistan plan, sitting in Islamabad, a shutdown all over Kashmir? Do we control women and children in Sri Nagar and other parts of Kashmir that will answer our call and come out and agitate and in a nonviolent manner? I don't think we can. And I think our Indian friends have to take a fresh look at the evolving situation in Kashmir. I think we can sit -- and there's a third party, the Kashmiri people. All three sides should sit together and find a solution.

MISCIK: Let me just follow up for a quick moment on the Pakistan-India relationship. In 2008 with the Mumbai attacks, there was a period of tension, obviously in the aftermath of that. How have you worked through that period now with the Indians, with your counterparts? Are you doing any specific security work together, for example with regard to the Commonwealth Games opening in 10 days from now? Just maybe you could expound on that for a bit.

QURESHI: Well, when the tragic Mumbai incident took place, I was in Delhi. I was in Delhi trying to build bridges. I'd gone with a message of peace and friendship. I was equally disturbed -- I was hurt at what happened, and it set us back. The process -- the dialogue process was suspended. And now we are struggling to get back -- to get that process going back to where it was. So it was a serious setback, but I have been arguing with the Indians. By disengaging you are playing into the hands of the extremists. You are playing into the hands of those forces that want to scuttle the process of normalization. Do not do that. An incident of this nature requires more cooperation. We must sit together and say, "This is a common challenge."

Today there is a new realization in Pakistan because Pakistanis have seen how terrorism hurts. They have seen innocent people being killed in all the major urban centers of Pakistan. So they understand the pain of terrorism. So there is a new realization, there is a new shift of public opinion, and that should bring us closer and make us work together for a better future for both people.

QUESTIONER: Mr. Minister, Jim Traub with The New York Times Magazine. You just spoke very eloquently about your own sense of frustration that the Pakistani people haven't had a full chance to realize their own potential, and I think in this country as we prepare to disburse a very large aid package to Pakistan, there is concern that one of the reasons for that is the lack of capacity of the civilian government and even the lack of legitimacy of the civilian government. And one of the perceptions that's come out of the flood is that while the military has been relatively effective at responding to this disaster, the civilian government much less so. So my question is, is there any substance to that concern? And if there is, what can the United States do in order to help strengthen the capacity and the legitimacy of the Pakistan civilian government?

QURESHI: First of all, I fail to understand how you question the legitimacy of this government. This government came into office through an election which was nationally and internationally recognized as a credible, fair election. Where is -- how did the question of legitimacy come up?

QUESTIONER: I'm sorry. I was referring to people's belief in the government as opposed to its literal legal legitimacy. There's no question about democratic legitimacy -- (off mike).

QURESHI: I really fail to understand what you're trying to say, but I can tell you that there are no capacity issues. The Pakistan army is working. Pakistan army is an institution that belongs to the government of Pakistan. There is an elected government in Pakistan. They are doing their job, doing no favors. And if they are helping the people of Pakistan, they ought to be helping the people of Pakistan. The taxpayer of Pakistan is footing the bill. They pay their families. So if they are out helping them, that is exactly what they ought to do.

They are working under instructions of an elected government, and that is what it ought to be. And if we can settle these things once for all, it will be good for all of us. I think the people of Pakistan clearly want democracy, and they have spoken once again. You've seen the 18th constitutional amendment. Did we have a majority? Did we have a two-thirds majority to get the 18th amendment through? We did not. How did it happen? It happened because we were successful in evolving a consensus in Pakistan. All political forces agreed that this is the way forward. This is where authority lies. This is who the chief executive ought to be, and this is the principle of separation of power enshrined in the constitution of Pakistan, so let's not be ambiguous about it.

Capacity -- obviously we can include the capacity of civilian institutions. Obviously if there weren't military governments in Pakistan in the last six decades and if you had then listened to people like Benazir Bhutto and not supported a military dictatorship, today we would have stronger civilian political institutions in Pakistan. Now we need to strengthen them. We need to help them, and we will strengthen them and hopefully build capacity, and you can help us. You can help us do so.

MISCIK: Yes, on the side there in the back? I can only see the hand. I'm sorry. (Laughs.)

QUESTIONER: Thank you. Laurie Garrett from the council. Mr. Minister, you mentioned climate change, and you also compared the devastation of your floods to Aceh, saying it's many times worse, the experience that you're having now. One of the lessons that came out of the tsunami was that we can never mitigate or prevent earthquakes and tsunamis, but we can create adaptive responses, early warning systems, the capacity of the world to mobilize. In the context of the possibility that these extraordinary monsoons this year are related to climate change, and looking at the melting of the glaciers of the Himalayas and the increasing flow rates as a result in your river systems, what do you imagine going forward will constitute a regional set of agreements related to adaptive response for climate change?

QURESHI: See, I'm not an expert and I think experts should look at this issue and help us understand to what extent climate change has contributed to this unusual flooding. But one thing I do understand is -- and one thing I would seriously urge the Indians to sit with Pakistan and see what are we doing -- (inaudible)? Are we contributing to environmental degradation? What are they gaining? What are we gaining? And how are we contributing, sort of hastening the sort of glacier melt by physical presence -- you know, human presence on glaciers that are vital for their survival and ours? So there are -- I think this climate issue needs to be looked at very carefully. And adaptation -- yes, the world can help Pakistan.

In Copenhagen I recall clearly that we were advocating that Pakistan is valuable to climate change. And if it continues the way it does, then there are greater chances of increased flooding and droughts in Pakistan. Let's not forget, three weeks prior to the floods we were quarreling over distribution of scarce water within the four provinces of Pakistan. And from that end, the pendulum swung to such abundant water we don't know what to do with it. So there could be a factor that needs to be studied more carefully.

And then there are certain measures that we as a nation have to take to sort of mitigate the effect of flood. For example, we need reservoirs. We have not invested in reservoirs. We need additional storage in Pakistan. And if we had additional storage, to some extent we would have been able to store this water that has gone into the sea and has devastated millions of people that could have been stored and could have been used for agriculture and for generating electricity, which is scarce.

QUESTIONER: Thank you, Mr. Foreign Minister. My name is Roland Paul. I'd like to ask you a follow-on question to a question I asked the former president of Pakistan when he visited us on two successive years -- that's General Musharraf. And with the passage of time I have to modify it a little bit, but what's the order of magnitude of the size of the Pakistani Taliban and the Afghanistan Taliban in the FATA and the northwest agency? I'm not asking for the specific numbers but just the order of magnitude.

QURESHI: That's a difficult one to answer because -- (laughter) --

QUESTIONER: Just an idea. (Laughs.)

QURESHI: But what I can say is that there is a growing realization in Pakistan that let us not distinguish between the Afghan Taliban and the Pakistani Taliban because both are creating havoc. We have suffered on account of Pakistani Taliban, but Tehrik-i-Taliban in Pakistan has been no friend to Pakistan. And I think that distinction with the passage of time is blurring and there's a greater understanding developing within Pakistan that they are no friends of ours, they are no friends of Afghanistan. And that is why this democratically elected government has taken steps to improved relations with Afghanistan.

I remember when I came into office as foreign minister there was finger-pointing, there was acrimony, there was hostility between the Afghans and Pakistanis. But in the last two and a half years, look at the way things have improved. Today at lunch with the German chancellor, the Afghanistan minister was sitting across from me and completely supportive of what I was saying, and I was endorsing what he was saying. That is a qualitative change that has come about, and I think that needs to be recognized. It has come about under a democratically elected government because we represent the will of the people, and the will of the people is peace. They want jobs. They want economic opportunities. They want growth. They don't want chaos; they don't want to see their children die. And I think that message is being equally realized and felt on both sides of the border.

MISCIK: Mr. Foreign Minister, I think we're almost out of time and I just want to make sure that our members get your thoughts on Afghanistan in a little bit more detail. In this country in December, the president is going to hold a review of the policies. The president of the council tells me that the council is doing its part with a task force report coming out on the Afghan-Pakistan issue. I was just wondering, if you could be in the national security situation room in Washington, what two or three things would you want to make sure that they -- (audio break) -- on the agenda with a priority for addressing this issue in this review?

QURESHI: I think there should be more investment in people. I think the civilian surge should be given more emphasis. Issues of governance that were overlooked must be looked at more carefully. Issues that have affected stability were completely ignored, for example. Nobody in the last eight years looked at drugs and narco money as an important source funding terrorism. It was not part of the NATO mandate, and after all, poppy is cultivated in Afghanistan, and it's worth millions of dollars. So even if it's a fraction of that is being used by militants, it's a lot of money.

For example, illicit weapons -- where are the militants getting their ammunition and supplies from? Somebody is supplying. Somebody is providing weapons to them. Why can't we choke those supplies? that is important. These issues were overlooked.

Then issues of building capacity of civilian institutions in Afghanistan. Let's not forget that Afghanistan has been in a conflict situation for the last three decades. Even today there are 3 million Afghan refugees in Pakistan. Look at the social implications, the economic impact that Pakistan is still facing on account of those refugees. So building capacity of institutions that are important for governance is important. Yes.

And also distinguishing between reconcilables and irreconcilables. There is an element that will never reconcile. They have to be fought and they have to be defeated, and we have to use military means to defeat them. But there is an element -- if given a choice, they would want to opt out. Have we reached out to them? Perhaps not. I think we should.

MISCIK: Well, our time is up here. I want to thank you on behalf of all of the members, both in the room and listening on the phone, for your time. We very much appreciate it. Thank you. (Applause.)

QURESHI: Thank you. (Applause.)

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