JUDY WOODRUFF: Welcome. Good afternoon. I'm Judy Woodruff, with PBS's "Newshour With Jim Lehrer." I'm delighted to be here to welcome all of you to today's session of the Council on Foreign Relations in Washington.
Before we get under way, I want to remind all of you who are in the room -- you're used to this warning -- I want to ask you all to please completely turn off your cellphones, Blackberries, pagers and anything else that's wireless that might make a noise, so we don't interfere with the program.
As a reminder to everyone here, this meeting is on the record. And I also want to let everyone know that we are joined today by Council on Foreign Relations members from around the world who are going to be participating by teleconference. So we welcome all of you, as well.
Today we do welcome the foreign minister of Pakistan, Makhdoom Shah Mahmood Qureshi. The subject he's here to discuss could not be more timely. President Obama will be meeting with his national security team in just a few hours from now, to have yet another discussion about Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Minister Qureshi, who is the son of a former governor of the Punjab, studied in Pakistan and at the University of Cambridge. He served as a member of the Punjab provincial assembly, and in the national assembly in Pakistan. He went on to hold several ministerial positions, including in agriculture, in planning and development, and in finance.
He also served prominent positions in the Pakistan People's Party, the PPP, under the late Benazir Bhutto.
Following the elections of last year, he was sworn in as the foreign minister. He has been in the United States for the last several weeks, traveling to a number of cities on what the Los Angeles Times has called a diplomacy tour.
Please join me in welcoming Foreign Minister Qureshi of Pakistan. (Applause.)
MINISTER MAKHDOOM SHAH MAHMOOD QURESHI: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. It is my privilege to speak to the distinguished members of the Council on Foreign Relations.
Pakistan and the United States have been allies for six decades. Our alliance has often been characterized by disenchantment, as described by Dennis Kux in the title of his book on the U.S.-Pakistan relationship. Only now are the leaders of both our countries laying the foundations of a strategic partnership.
Instead of a transactional rapport, Pakistan and the United States now see each other as two democracies seeking to stabilize South and Southwest Asia together. We have a common enemy in terrorism. We will fight it. And we will defeat it together, but we plan to sustain our relationship well after the current war effort is over.
Pakistan has made tremendous sacrifices in the global effort to make the world safe from terrorists. Pakistanis felt -- until recently -- Pakistanis felt that our sacrifices were not fully appreciated in the United States, just as some in the U.S. continue to doubt our resolve against all extremist groups.
The unprecedented national consensus forged by our government against extremist ideologies and ensuring success of Swat and Malakand operations have proven to be seminal events in our nation's long struggle against terrorism. They also reassured American skeptics that Pakistan means business in fighting terrorism and ensuring the security of our country, our region, and indeed, our world.
The enhanced partnership act, also know as the Kerry-Lugar bill -- passed recently by both houses of the U.S. Congress -- recognizes Pakistan's immense contribution to the global struggle of our generation. The bill commits assistance for the people of Pakistan for the next five years and voices the desire to sustain U.S. support for the succeeding five years as well.
Pakistan's democratic leadership is convinced that terrorists and their sympathizers can best be defeated in building a better future for the impoverished people of our country and of our immediate neighborhood.
U.S. assistance in this effort is not just aid: It is investment in American and global security. We are confident that with U.S. and international cooperation, Pakistan today can look beyond the war on terrorism and tread the path of peace, development and prosperity.
Let me first dwell upon our strategy, approach and objectives in the effort against terrorism that will explain how we intend to go beyond and lead our nation into an era of democratic stability and prosperity.
After the return to Pakistan of the democratic order in March last year, our first priority was to assume full political ownership of the cause of combatting terrorism and extremism within our country. Pakistan would not confront terrorists only because the world wanted us to do so, but because it was in Pakistan's national interest.
The people of Pakistan have historically upheld the values of tolerance. They have spoken against those who wish to strike, at the roots of our nationhood, through terrorist actions.
Through political reconciliation among all stakeholders, we were able to develop a broad-based consensus against terrorists and their obscurantist ideologies.
We've mobilized Pakistani public opinion against those bent upon imposing their perverted beliefs through senseless destruction, violence and scant regard for human lives.
With widespread revulsion against extremist ideology dawned the realization that no amount of appeasement would pacify the violent reactionaries. The threat they posed to our national security and social fabric had to be met with a comprehensive strategy, including the application of military force where required.
The military operation in Swat and Malakand was launched against this background and owes it success to the willingness of the local population to brave all kinds of harsh sacrifices, in the hope for a better future for their children.
Close to 3 million people faced internal displacement in simmering heat, for up to three months, before returning home to start fresh. Our primary task today is to hold on, to consolidate and build upon the groundswell of public opinion against extremism.
This will be possible only when the rehabilitation and reconstruction in Swat and Malakand keeps pace with the return of the displaced people. Within our limited resources, we have made a beginning and allocated rupees 50 billion for reconstruction.
The urgency of the situation on the ground however demands immediate and unreserved support of the United States and the international community. Only when the people see tangible results -- in terms of improvements in health, education and economic opportunities -- will they realize that the sacrifices rendered today are for a better tomorrow.
Our approach towards counterterrorism operations in Swat and Malakand is part of a national strategy that denies physical, political and ideological space to terrorists and extremists.
Experience gained from military operations, in Swat, the challenges of managing internally displaced population and the subsequent reconstruction and rehabilitations efforts serve as a template for further operations in the tribal region bordering Afghanistan.
Ladies and gentlemen, in the wider national context, political and ideological space to the terrorist can only be denied in a thriving economy with social safety nets available to the poor and improving social indicators in terms of health, education and declining poverty.
To give an example, if Pakistan manages to implement free universal primary education, it would not only help gender mainstreaming and gender equality, but seminaries and madrassas preaching hate and terrorism would die a natural death. The choice for parents to send their children either to a modern school that helps them become productive member(s) of a society or to a madrassa that offers no hope or opportunity is obvious.
Pakistan's education policy, which has just been announced, addresses these issues and envisages increasing the allocation on education up to 7 percent of GDP, and a commitment to free, universal primary education by the year 2015.
Ladies and gentlemen, Pakistan beyond the war on terrorism would be a stable, democratic country where terrorist and extremist ideologies will have little or no support, where social harmony is ensured by reclaiming our Sufi heritage based upon divine love and unity of mankind, where Pakistan would be able to regain its status as the intersection of civilizations and cultures that the Indus Valley is known for since time immemorial.
Only this, instead of trade caravans, reestablish north-south, east-west energy and trade corridors, linking Central Asia with South Asia and Europe with west Asia and the Far East. These objectives would fall short unless peace and security prevails in Afghanistan.
Much of what Pakistan faces today is the blowback of the international effort to contain Soviet communism in Afghanistan during the 1980s with the mobilization of the mujaheddin. The United States and its Western allies helped set the stage for the defeat of the Soviet Union through Pakistan, but left both Afghanistan and Pakistan alone in dealing with the aftermath.
Instability in Afghanistan, especially in the south and east, inevitably spills over to Pakistan. The converse is also true. If Pakistan is back on the path towards sustainable development that extends all the way to our tribal region and up to the border with Afghanistan, it cannot but have a stabilizing effect on Afghanistan.
Afghans have, through centuries, traded with and through Pakistan. Our bilateral trade is more than $1-1/2 billion and the value of the transit trade is more than $26 billion. Much of the Afghan government revenue is generated through custom receipts at Towr Kham and Chaman border crossings.
If Pakistan achieves economic growth rates commensurate with its potential, and the Afghan economy taps into this market, the benefits to both our countries would be immense.
Though the security and economic challenges in Afghanistan are great, both the United States and Pakistan have worked closely together in the past, first to stave off the Soviet threat and subsequently to dislodge Taliban after 9/11.
However, in both cases our shortcomings have been in consolidating the peace. Ladies and gentlemen, Pakistan today is at a crucial phase in its fight against terrorism. Terrorists are in retreat, with their top leadership in Malakand and Swat either captured or killed. The leader of the Pakistani Taliban, Baitullah Mehsud, is dead. Taliban in the tribal region are in disarray. No single leader holds sway over disparate factions.
All we ask the United States and the international community is to provide us the tools, both military and economic, to effectively deal with threats that we both face. Delays in military reimbursements and lack of military equipment inevitably hamper our efforts.
The developed world has to weigh whether allowing market access to our textiles entails too high a cost compared to the resources, both human and material, that Pakistan has committed to fighting international terrorism.
Do free trade and investment agreements between Pakistan and the U.S. and the European Union pose insurmountable difficulties compared to the vast amounts being spent on military operations by ISAF, NATO and the U.S.?
Is setting up of reconstruction opportunity zones in our tribal region along the border with Afghanistan not in regional interest if the outcome is stability in the south and east of Afghanistan?
Is it wiser to keep fighting the fire or taking away the oxygen that fuels it?
These measures would cost a fraction of what is being spent in the war against terrorism, yet provide a more durable basis for regional stability.
Besides the international community, countries of the region have a special responsibility to shoulder. It makes no sense that instead of pooling our resources to fight terrorism, we squander these to threaten the other. It doesn't take much genius to understand that terrorists require more intensive -- that terrorist threats require more intensive dialogue between South Asian neighbors, accompanied by a sincerity of purpose and resolving disputes rather than pauses and conditionalities.
Instinctive reactions, coupled with hasty and unsubstantiated accusations, strengthen the very forces that we profess to defeat. It is fine to move beyond the rhetoric. Each country has to stand up to terrorism and be counted. Cold War calculations to gain short-term advantages have no relevance in these times. Long-term interests of all countries of the region lie in promoting stability and work towards socioeconomic uplift of the people of the region.
Ladies and gentlemen, political stability and socioecoomic development in Pakistan are stepping stones for taking us beyond the war on terrorism. While military means may be required in Afghanistan to fight al Qaeda and the Taliban, Pakistan needs U.S. investments in our infrastructure and socioeconomic development and access to your markets. Pakistan has the necessary institutional capability to take this agenda forward.
Given strong commitment and a unity of purpose, the threat of terrorism could be reduced to an extent where it would be possible to deal with it through traditional policing and intelligence options. This should be the measure of our success in the war on terrorism. Anything short of this key benchmark should not be acceptable.
I thank you. (Applause.)
WOODRUFF: Mr. Minister, thank you. You raise a number of things that I know we'll want to explore. I'm going to ask questions for a few minutes, and then we will open up for questions from the audience here.
First of all, you talked about a regional approach. You talked about the need for a long-term commitment. But my first question has to do with the short term, and that is, what should President Obama do about General McChrystal's request for a significant -- (laughter) -- number of additional troops, American troops, in Afghanistan?
QURESHI: Well, I'm not in a position to take such decisions, and not -- nor I'm in that business. We are friends and we are allies, and we have a common objective. And the common objective is to defeat the terrorists and to contain extremists.
What we should do, in my opinion, we should consult each other. Obviously, the military commanders are giving their assessment of the situation in Afghanistan to President Obama. Once they've done that, it would be useful, in my opinion, if the military leadership of Pakistan -- and we do have, mind you, a tripartite mechanism in place through consultations -- if that assessment is shared with our military leadership so that our effort is more coordinated and more focused, secondly, you've had elections in Afghanistan and, obviously, a result is going to be announced, and you'll have a new president and a new president will have a new government.
And the political leadership of Pakistan will have to engage with that new administration. What we have done in the last year and a half, recognizing how Afghanistan's peace and stability is so linked to our peace and stability, we have tried to improve relations with the government of President Karzai and the Afghan government.
Now, we would want to understand what sort of relationship you are going to have with this new government and what are the new terms of engagement. How do you initiate a process of reconciliation in Afghanistan? And if you intend to do that, what sort of role do you envision for Pakistan? And what do you expect from Pakistan.
Pakistan is willing to be supportive because Pakistan feels that our interests converge, and we are willing to work with you.
WOODRUFF: And you're saying all that should happen before a decision is taken on the troops? Is that what you're saying?
QURESHI: I am of the view that it will be useful. It will be useful because the process is on and, from what I picked up in the little interaction that I've had yesterday, you still have time in taking a decision. Perhaps, that decision will be taken late October, early November.
Now, if that is so, then there is a sufficient cushion for consultations with Pakistan and, in my view, they could be useful.
WOODRUFF: Do I hear you saying you're worried that there may not be consultations with Afghanistan?
QURESHI: I'm not saying that. I'm not saying that. (Laughter.) What I'm saying is we are meeting, we do consult. A greater engagement is required.
WOODRUFF: The New York Times reported yesterday that the head of Pakistani intelligence, when he met at the CIA here in Washington last week, argued against sending more American troops to Afghanistan.
QURESHI: I'm not sure of that. I'm not privy to that information. And everything that appears in the New York Times might not be exactly correct. (Laughter.)
WOODRUFF: To be very serious about that, though, is there -- is your government united in its view of how to -- of what should be going on right now in Afghanistan?
QURESHI: Oh, we are very clear. We are clear because we have a very clear vision for Pakistan. And we have come to that conclusion after wide consultations within Pakistan, inside parliament and outside parliament, and all stakeholders in Pakistan are on the same page.
And that is how we have devised this strategy of ourselves called the 3-D strategy, the strategy of dialogue, development, and deterrence and the right mix of views of these three Ds, and it's working.
WOODRUFF: The aid package that you referenced, the Kerry-Lugar legislation that begins a year from now, it goes on for five years, $1.5 billion a year. You welcome it. There are, as you know, loud critics today inside Pakistan who are saying they're worried that there are too many strings attached.
What are the strings attached, in your view, in that legislation?
QURESHI: That's the beauty of democracy. Don't you have different views in the United States? Was everybody in agreement in the U.S. when you went into Iraq? No, they were not.
So that is democracy. There all will be a different point of view, but the present government feels that this is a first very strong signal of a long-term commitment with the people of Pakistan. And that's the Kerry-Lugar bill is the first visible demonstration of an engagement with Pakistan beyond terrorism.
Now, when I came here last year, you know, in September 2008, the question that I was facing was the Swat deal. Pakistan has capitulated. The Taliban are 60 kilometers outside Islamabad. And I said hang on, please relax; do not worry. You know, we get affected first.
And do you think we would allow Taliban to take over our country? To tell us how to live in we do not subscribe to their interpretation of Islam. We do not share their value system. Right? And we represent the people of Pakistan, and the people of Pakistan have spoken.
They have spoken through a credible, fair election held in February 2008. And we reflect that public opinion. So there will be opinion polls, but the main opinion poll is the general election. So we will have to wait until the next general election to determine what the people of Pakistan want.
WOODRUFF: How would you describe in brief the conditions that accompany this aid? And are these conditions acceptable to you?
QURESHI: First of all, I was told by no lesser person than Senator Kerry and Senator Lugar yesterday when I went to meet with them at the Senate that the $7.5 billion for economic assistance has no conditions, A.
Some of the expression of intent that the Congress has expressed that is on the security assistance -- now, what we have to see is is it in agreement with the broad policies of the government that we are pursuing. If it isn't, we are comfortable. And I think we are. I think the broad direction is -- we are in agreement with.
We are in agreement with the objective. We are in agreement with the strategy. And we have contributed to the strategy when the trilateral process took place, when this government came into office in May 2009 in Washington, which was endorsed at The Hague. Pakistan participated in that. And that is what has given us a greater confidence and ownership of participation of taking on the fight and claiming that this is not yourself; this is our fight and, collectively, as I said in my opening remarks, that collectively, we will go ahead and defeat these extremists.
Now, the broad policy is there. Yes, we could have issues with the language. Yes, it could have been better drafted. Yes, you know, there are views on that. Yes, you know, some of the sensitivities should have been catered for. But the broad intention and the objective of the bill I don't think anybody is in disagreement with.
But then, you know, legislation is legislation. It's not literature.
WOODRUFF: So what are you -- (laughter) -- many in America -- in the United States could agree with that.
And just a couple of more questions before we turn to the audience.
So what do you say to those in this country who are saying they're worried that the money the U.S. sends to Pakistan will be spent on what it's supposed to be spent on? That it won't be --
QURESHI: That's a justified worry.
WOODRUFF: -- in another direction.
QURESHI: That's a justified worry. I would like to address that.
We would like to use it -- we would like to use this money properly because it is in Pakistan's interest to use this money properly. And that is why we are talking to the administration. We have talked to other friends on the -- Friends of Democratic Pakistan Forum that let us sit together and put in place mechanisms which built in transparency, accountability, and monitoring. And we are comfortable with that. We have no issue with that.
WOODRUFF: The -- General McChrystal's assessment, among other things, he said the main Taliban enemy the United States faces in Afghanistan is the Quetta Shura. Quetta is in Pakistan. What is Pakistan doing to shut down the Quetta Shura?
QURESHI: Well, believe you me, we have no liking for the Quetta Shura and what it stands for. We, as a democratically elected government, have very clearly defined our goals. We do not differentiate between sort of, you know, the good -- you know, the good terrorist and the bad terrorists. Terrorists are terrorists.
What we are saying is we have to move on. We have to move in consultations. And collectively, we can do a better job. And while we are moving on, we will have to trust each other. We will have to build a relationship of trust and confidence.
If you keep doubting our intentions and we keep doubting your intentions, then where is this partnership going? We have come -- this government has come to, you know, to add a new chapter of our relationship, a long-term partnership with the United States that supports democracy, that supports, you know, a freedom of expression that supports, you know, investment in people.
And I think we've got -- we have started move in the right direction. Yes, we will move ahead. We have moved decisively in Swat and Malakand. And we will go beyond. We will go beyond and Swat and Malakand.
And we will go into areas that we're required to go into. And if we feel there is an element in Quetta that is destabilizing Pakistan, we will not spare that element.
WOODRUFF: Waziristan is part of what you're talking about?
QURESHI: Absolutely, yes. Because we want to clear our territory of all kind of mischief. These people have caused us more harm than anybody else. Look at the lives we've lost. Look at the economic implications they've had on Pakistan. Right?
You have a choice. You have a choice of leaving. You have a choice of withdrawal. Do we have a choice? We have no choice. We share a border. We have to co-exist. And we have to protect ourselves. So we are doing it in our own interest. It so happens that your interest and our interest coincides. Our interests converge.
And on this convergence, we have to build a partnership for the future.
WOODRUFF: Last question before we turn to the audience.
You were quoted today as saying that the United States may know now where Osama bin Laden is. Is that an accurate quote? And if so, what do you base it on?
QURESHI: Did I say that? (Laughter.)
You're often quoted, you know, according to your own wishes. I don't think -- you know, if I --
WOODRUFF: You didn't say it?
QURESHI: If I recollect, what the question was where is Osama bin Laden. I said if I knew where he was, you know, and if the security forces of Pakistan knew where he was, we would get him. We would get him. And by doing that, you know, we would be scoring a huge point, you know, in demonstrating our commitment to a larger cause.
Now, at times, there are statements made that Mr. So-and-So is at a particular place. If you have information, please share it with us. Let's not get into this guessing game. I think what's been going on is a guessing game. You know, we have to go beyond the guessing game and work as partners.
And this will happen as the trust level between us goes up.
WOODRUFF: You're saying the U.S. may not be telling you -- is not telling Pakistan everything it knows about --
QURESHI: I'm not sure if they do know. I do not know. I mean, why would they not share it with us? If they knew, obviously, they would share it with us. And if we know obviously, we would share it with you.
WOODRUFF: Questions from all you. I'll take a hand right there. Yes, please stand up and give us your name.
QUESTIONER: Good afternoon. I'm Deep Dechovey (ph) with the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.
Thank you for talking about how Pakistan can be a partner with the United States on security issues. I want to raise with you one of President Obama's security priorities, namely, ratifying the comprehensive test ban treaty and then seeking to get other states who are key to that entering into force to also ratify.
Can you tell us what Pakistan's current position is on signing and ratifying the nuclear test ban?
QURESHI: Our position is that we are in broad agreement with the goals of President Obama, and they are nuclear disarmament and non proliferation. And we want to engage positively with the administration and with other friends on these issues.
While we do so, what we are telling friends that we have a situation in South Asia. And while we devise our strategy, we have to keep the strategic balance in South Asia in view.
WOODRUFF: India, that's what you're referring to?
QURESHI: Obviously. (Laughter.)
WOODRUFF: Yes? Right here? Teresita Schaffer.
QUESTIONER: Teresita Schaffer from CSIS.
QURESHI: Sorry. And if I may -- sorry, ma'am.
And if I may, and when you -- when you sign agreements that are discriminatory in nature, it doesn't help.
WOODRUFF: And which agreement are you referring to?
QURESHI: The civilian nuclear deal with India. (Laughter.)
QUESTIONER: I wanted to take you back to the part of your presentation where you talked about Pakistan's view of extremists and terrorist organizations.
I wonder if you could address the organizations that are oriented not so much towards Afghanistan like the Taliban but those that have historically been oriented towards India and towards Kashmir like the Lashkar-e-Taiba.
What is the government of Pakistan's view of these organizations? Are they a threat to Pakistan? Are they a strategic asset? Are they something else?
QURESHI: Yes. Organizations that carry out acts that, you know, result in to Mum attack are certainly no friends of Pakistan. At least we don't look at them as friends of Pakistan because, through that act, they not only killed 166 innocent people, in my opinion, they could have triggered off something more serious than that. And innocent lives would have lost.
Now, we have to be very -- and we have to guard against that mind-set. And this government is very clear, we feel that, in the interest of stability and peace in the region, the fact that Pakistan is focused on the western front, the fact that we have a huge challenge on the western front, the fact that terrorism and extremism is an immediate threat to Pakistan, it is in Pakistan's enlightened self-interest to normalize and to be at peace with India.
And such organizations and such acts do not go hand in hand with the government policy. And these have to be checked, curtailed, and shut.
WOODRUFF: Yes? Back there?
QUESTIONER: Hello. My name is Kerri Lamack. I'm with Families of September 11.
And I'm very interested in your discussions about sharing information. And I'm wondering if you could talk a little bit about Pakistan's ability to help prevent nuclear terrorism given bin Laden and al Qaeda's intent to kill 4 million Americans with nuclear weapons and, also, about A.Q. Khan's network and sharing information with the Americans about that.
QURESHI: Pakistan is a willing partner on that score. Pakistan will do anything and everything to keep the world safer. We are a responsible nuclear state. And when you become one, there are certain obligations that you have to abide by, and we are cognizant of our obligations, and we will abide by them.
On A.Q. Khan, the government of Pakistan has investigated, has extracted the information that was required. And on the basis of that information, we have broken the network, and Mr. A.Q. Khan does not enjoy any official status. As far as we are concerned, that is a closed chapter and the information that we got was shared with friends and the United States as well.
WOODRUFF: Yes, sir. Right there?
QUESTIONER: Question, if you will, about --
WOODRUFF: If you could give us your name first. Thank you.
QUESTIONER: Sorry. Bob Hathaway of the Woodrow Wilson Center.
Can you share with us your government's views as to the nature of the Iranian nuclear program? And if the current diplomatic initiative does not bear fruit in a relatively short period of time, do you think that expanding sanctions against Iran might be an appropriate and a helpful response?
QURESHI: I would like to be positive. I would like to suggest an engagement with Iran. And I think this administration has taken the right step, and they have engaged. I believe that the meeting that took place in Geneva on the 1st of October was a step forward.
I believe they've also expressed a desire to cooperate. I believe they've agreed to the IAEA people inspecting the new site on the 25th of October. And I believe they are willing to show flexibility. I think they should be tested on that.
And if a negotiated outcome can be brought about, I think that should be our first preference.
WOODRUFF: Answer your question? All right.
Let's see. Right here in the front. Hi.
QURESHI: You've been grilling me all morning. (Laughter.)
QUESTIONER: Sorry. Continuing the grilling, Mr. Minister, Barbara Slavin from The Washington Times.
You said that the status of the south and east of Afghanistan is crucial for Pakistan and for your efforts to stable the frontier --
QURESHI: All of Afghanistan. All of Afghanistan -- the status of all of Afghanistan.
QUESTIONER: I wanted to draw you out a little bit more. Do you think it is going to be necessary to have more foreign forces in those areas in order to stabilize them and to provide the buffer that you need so that you can continue your efforts?
And if you could also talk a little bit about the Karzai government. The elections that they held have been tainted by fraud. Are you concerned over whether the Karzai government is going to be a strong enough and a stable enough partner for Pakistan to continue this sort of cooperation?
QURESHI: On the level of troops, I think I did answer that, but I'll attempt -- I'll make another attempt to your satisfaction. See, what we are saying is we're not demanding any troops on our side. What we are saying is we have the wherewithal. We have the institutions. We have the capability to handle things on our side.
And believe you me, that's a great relief for you. You know, you're thinking -- you're wondering if you can add more troops to Afghanistan. And just imagine if you had a situation in Pakistan where you required help, you know, physical help. You will be in serious trouble.
But thank God, you don't require that because we have institutions that are capable of doing the task, and they have demonstrated that in Swat and Malakand. Why? Because we've given -- we've built consensus, and we've provided political leadership and ownership for this fight.
Now, what we are saying is just enhance our capacity -- counterinsurgency capacity.
QUESTIONER: (Off mike.)
QURESHI: I'm coming to that. I'm coming to that.
Now, we can manage our end, and we will manage our end, and we have taken a number of steps to start managing our end. A, never in the history of Pakistan has there's been so much deployment on the western side as it is today. Never have we had something like close to 1,000 posts manning the Afghan-Pakistan border. Right?
Never did we agree to the concepts of the BCCs that we have today before. Now we have, in principle, agreed to that. Right?
Having taken these steps, what we need is a better coordination on the other side as well. You have your troops -- the United States, NATO, has troops in Afghanistan. What we need is a two-pronged strategy.
After all, when people go in and they come back, we can have -- instead of having one net, we can have two nets. One operating on that side of the border, and one operating on this side of the border so that if somebody slips out of our net, you get them. And if somebody slips from your net, we get them.
And this coordinated approach is what is required. Now, we think we will manage our end. To manage the other end, the Afghan -- what is the level of troops that you require? That's your judgment. I'll leave it to you.
WOODRUFF: But are you saying right now there's not enough confidence on the American side -- as much confidence as you would like to see to do the kind of coordination that you believe is necessary?
QURESHI: No, I never said that. What I'm saying is there is always -- there's always room for improvement. What I'm saying is there is -- this is an evolving situation. And in this evolving situation, at times, we will need very quick reactions. Right? And that is why we are saying that we should have in place mechanisms for quick response.
WOODRUFF: What about the second part of her question about the Karzai government?
QURESHI: Yes. As far as the Karzai government is concerned, see, it's for the people of Afghanistan to decide who leads them. What did we do? We said very clearly we sat and we discussed and we took a decision, a very early decision that Pakistan will not interfere in the Afghan election.
We will have no favorites, and we will take no sides. And we will respect the democratic decision of the people of Afghanistan and whoever they elect as their president and whatever government that comes about there in a democratic fashion, we are willing to work with them. Right?
Now, having said that and having seen and read about the criticism that has come, you know, post-election, obviously, you know, there is complaints and there have been complaints and there have been issues that have been raised, but when you address them, you have to keep in mind two things.
One, the democratic tradition in Afghanistan is very recent. Right? This is the second-ever election they've had. B, you also have to recognize that a large percentage, perhaps not as high as was expected, but still a large percentage of the Afghan population did come out to vote under compelling conditions when their life was under threat. Right? When there were explosions taking place, you know, left, right, and center, they did come out and they did vote. And we should respect that.
Now, if individuals or interest groups, you know, wanted a kind of a result, it's not for me to comment. It's for the election commission of Afghanistan and the complaint commission in Afghanistan and the international observers in Afghanistan for comment.
What we are saying is we are willing to help. We are willing to help stabilize. We are willing to help initiate a process of reconciliation through the Friends of Democratic Pakistan Forum. We have a jirga process. Pakistan has been part of that jirga process. We had a larger jirga, then we had a mini jirga -- which I chaired in Islamabad -- and that is a traditional Afghan way, Afghan process, Afghan led, Afghan own process of reconciliation.
Now, if there is a division within Afghanistan on these issues, then we should help initiate the healing process. After all, we will need some kind of a government there. After all, we will need governance there. After all, we need functioning institutions in Afghanistan.
And until and unless we have functional institutions in Afghanistan, how do we deal with terrorism and extremism because we have all know agreed and there is almost a consensus that military option is not the sole option. You know, our approach has to be more comprehensive. It has to be more holistic.
And when you talk about a holistic approach, obviously, institution -- civilian institutions, governance, corruption, delivery, social delivery -- all these things come into play.
WOODRUFF: Right here. Yes?
QUESTIONER: James Tunkey, I-OnAsia.
Thank you, Minister, for being here.
You're speaking about elections in Afghanistan, and it's heartening to hear you mention a future election in Pakistan. I had the pleasure of meeting Benazir Bhutto when she spoke at the council in New York before the last round of elections.
Could you speak a little bit about what your plans for institutional building in Pakistan given that the title of this talk is "Beyond the War on Terror," what will be done within Pakistan, much as you've spoken about Afghanistan and the other social institutions?
QURESHI: I think there's a recognition in Pakistan. The present democratically elected government of Pakistan recognizes that, over the years, civilian institutions in Pakistan have weakened. They're weakened on account of military dictatorships. In the last 60 years, we've had four interventions in Pakistan.
Now, if we'd had a consistent flow of democracy, you know, our institutions would have strengthened, and they would have been in a better position. Having said that, I think the process has begun in Pakistan.
How? For democracy to be strengthened and to be functional, we require a very strong and is a very independent judiciary. And today in Pakistan, there has been an expression of that. There was a movement that was, you know, supported by political parties, by civilian society, for the restoration of the judiciary that was sat on the 3rd of November, 2007. So that's one.
The new appointments that have been made into the superior judiciary are through a consultative mechanism and, you know, all, you know, institutions that have been given a role under the constitution have been consulted, and they have been well taken.
Today in Pakistan, we have a very independent print and electronic media; another important institution that stimulates debate, discussion, and helps formulate public opinion. Today in Pakistan, we have a vibrant and a growing and a more aware civil society. And we are building on that.
Today we, in Pakistan, recognize that if we want to have democracy, democracy will have elections at given intervals. And for elections to be credible, we will have to have an autonomous, independent election commission.
Today in Pakistan, there is a recognition that, you know, the constitution -- and there were certain interventions made in the constitution that has somewhat upset the balance and the parliamentary nature of the constitution. And today, we have a parliamentary committee looking at the various interventions made in the constitution under various dictatorships and the 17th Amendment being the latest -- how to initiate a process through consultation to rid the constitution of those interventions.
Today in Pakistan, we feel that the civil service of Pakistan is very important. I'm a great advocate that you cannot have good governance until and unless you have a very strong, well-trained, and well-paid civil service in Pakistan.
Today, the best talent of Pakistan is not coming into the civil service. Now, how do we attract the best talent in Pakistan until we have, you know -- we create an environment to which -- which is an attractive environment. And until we have a good, functioning civil service, how do we give good governance? How do we -- we can formulate policies, but whose going to implement them?
At times, we have good policies. The problem lies in its implementation.
So these civilian institutions, they exist, they are weakened. We need to strengthen them. The recognition is there, and we have set the process. It will take time, but it will happen.
WOODRUFF: Okay. You had your hand up earlier. Yes, ma'am? The woman right there. Where's the microphone? There.
QUESTIONER: Pamela Constable from the Washington Post.
I have two questions. You said several times that there's a strong consensus in Pakistan that peace and stability in Afghanistan is in the interest and benefit of Pakistan.
To be blunt, I've never met anyone in Afghanistan who believes that. In fact, most Afghans tend to see a Pakistan intelligence agent under every rock. Are they wrong? And if they are wrong, what can you tell us here today to specifically bolster what you are saying about this consensus that stability and peace in Afghanistan are in Pakistan's interest?
And one other smaller question. You said that there was a great interest in Pakistan in improving public education as a means of reducing the influence of radical madrassas. My question is: Why has it taken so long? These madrassas have been preaching hatred for a long time, and Pakistan's education budget has been very small for a long time.
Why has it taken so long? Thank you.
QURESHI: I'll attempt -- I'll try and answer your first question.
I think it's often overlooked the contributions Pakistan has made to help the Afghans. When the Soviets moved in, the contribution that Pakistan made should not be forgotten. It's, you know, it's there. It's part of our history.
We still have 3 million Afghan refugees in Pakistan. Does anybody talk about them? Is there any recognition, you know, that Pakistan is still hosting them and there is a cost involved there?
There is, I think, recognition on the other side as well that we have to improve relations, and that is the only way forward. The interaction that we've had in the last year and a half -- I mean, the interaction that I've had with Dr. Spanta, the foreign minister, have been very good. We see eye to eye on a number of issues, and that is why, on the 6th of January, 2009, in Kabul, I signed an agreement which laid a new framework of a bilateral relationship with Afghanistan that talks of not just cooperating in, you know, against terrorism. It talks of, you know, the future economic relations and regional connectivity bilaterally.
And that is why, today, the government of Pakistan has signed an MOU here in Washington with the Afghan authorities that we will renegotiate the transit trade agreement. That is now laying a new architecture for future relations. And I have seen, from my experience, what little I have in Afghanistan, after the initial catharsis, they realize how important we are for one another.
And that is beginning to take place. And with a political government in Pakistan, I see thins improve with Afghanistan. That's first.
And the second --
WOODRUFF: The madrassas -- why not sooner?
QURESHI: Yes. The madrassas and, you know, what they are turning out.
Ma'am, on that score, I think we have a collective responsibility. The madrassas that we have today never existed before the Afghan-Soviet invasion. And believe you me, your money and your thought and your input has come into the creation and establishment of those madrassas because there was a purpose and religion was used by the free world to push the Soviet Communists back out of Afghanistan.
Now, but you left. You left in a hurry, and we were left with the madrassas. So it will take time. We can't wish them away. We can't wish them away, but what we are trying to do is we are trying to amalgamate them into the main stream, and we want to reform them.
Now, we've just come into office, and the first, you know, the first expression of, you know, economic commitment that the United States has made has just come about. I think the most appropriate person to answer the madrassa reform was the person that the United States supported for seven, eight years that he was in office. And you were in long negotiations on the madrassa reform.
What happened, what did not happen is in front of us. But we feel that we need to address this issue regardless of who was responsible and who is not responsible. This is an issue that needs our focus and our attention, and we intend to do so.
Having said that, we also have to, first of all, distinguish between madrassas that are churning out jihadis or terrorists and madrassas who are providing a social service. Every madrassa in Pakistan is not producing terrorists. Madrassas are fulfilling a social need of a border section of our society.
They're also imparting a religious education. So every madrassa is not a madrassa that needs to be sort of, you know, eliminated. We have to identify the madrassas that are involved in promoting militancy and training militants. And I think when you have a more focused approach, then it the numbers would go down, and we can have an effective policy to deal with them.
WOODRUFF: Want to give a name to the person who was in office for seven years you're referring to? (Laughter.)
QURESHI: That will be hard, but I can try. (Laughter.) A just called General Musharraf.
WOODRUFF: All right. I'm told that we are out of time. I want to thank Foreign Minister Qureshi for his remarks and also for answering some tough questions from this audience.
Thank you very much. (Applause.)
QURESHI: Thank you very much.
WOODRUFF: Thank you. Very good to see you. (Applause.)
(C) COPYRIGHT 2009, FEDERAL NEWS SERVICE, INC., 1000 VERMONT AVE.
NW; 5TH FLOOR; WASHINGTON, DC - 20005, USA. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. ANY REPRODUCTION, REDISTRIBUTION OR RETRANSMISSION IS EXPRESSLY PROHIBITED.
UNAUTHORIZED REPRODUCTION, REDISTRIBUTION OR RETRANSMISSION CONSTITUTES A MISAPPROPRIATION UNDER APPLICABLE UNFAIR COMPETITION LAW, AND FEDERAL NEWS SERVICE, INC. RESERVES THE RIGHT TO PURSUE ALL REMEDIES AVAILABLE TO IT IN RESPECT TO SUCH MISAPPROPRIATION.
FEDERAL NEWS SERVICE, INC. IS A PRIVATE FIRM AND IS NOT AFFILIATED WITH THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT. NO COPYRIGHT IS CLAIMED AS TO ANY PART OF THE ORIGINAL WORK PREPARED BY A UNITED STATES GOVERNMENT OFFICER OR EMPLOYEE AS PART OF THAT PERSON'S OFFICIAL DUTIES.
FOR INFORMATION ON SUBSCRIBING TO FNS, PLEASE CALL CARINA NYBERG AT 202-347-1400.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT.