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Pakistan's Regional Pivot: A Conversation with Hina Rabbani Khar

Speaker: Hina Rabbani Khar, Minister for Foreign Affairs, Islamic Republic of Pakistan
Presider: David E. Sanger, Chief Washington Correspondent, New York Times
January 16, 2013, New York
Council on Foreign Relations

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DAVID SANGER: Good afternoon. Welcome to today's Council on Foreign Relations meeting with Hina Rabbani Khar, the minister for foreign affairs for Pakistan. We're delighted to have you here -- delighted to have you back here.

I've a few requests from the council before we begin. The first is that you completely turn off your electronic devices or at least, if you want to keep it on, slip it into your neighbor's pocket so they're the one who's embarrassed when it goes off. (Laughter.) The second is to remind everybody that this session is on the record. That means both the questions and the answers, so bear that in mind.

The council's asked me to remind you that the next meeting is a World Economic Update. It'll be on Wednesday, January 23rd, and in the back of the literature you got today there's a listing for that.

What we thought we would do, after I just spoke with the minister, is I'm going to pose some questions to her on a variety of topics concerning the United States and Pakistan, Pakistan and India, and so forth. We'll do that for about 30 minutes, and then we'll turn it to all of you, and we'll be out promptly at 2:15.

So again, many thanks for coming. It's great to have you here.

Let me start with last week's meeting between President Obama and President Karzai. During that time, President Obama announced a slightly sped-up schedule for turning control over to the Afghan forces. Pakistan, of course, has been concerned for a period of time that with the American withdrawal and the turnover, you could have chaos on your border and that the Afghans were simply not prepared for this level of responsibility.

So now that you've had a chance to hear the president speak with some of your compatriots -- I know that you saw Ambassador Rice earlier -- tell me what you think of this new American plan, or the slightly revised American plan, and what kind of concerns Pakistan has about it today.

MINISTER HINA RABBANI KHAR: OK. First of all, good morning to -- or good afternoon to everyone, and a pleasure to be here. And as far as -- you know, as far as Afghanistan is concerned, first of all, let me make you understand the enormity of our concerns, OK? The enormity of our concerns can be looked into or described through a 30-year history. And as you know, that Pakistan happened to be a country until -- up until 1970s which was exceptionally stable, which was very peaceful, which did not know extremism, which did not know violence, which did not know narcotics, which did not know -- (inaudible) -- not even know the extremist mindset.

And how we dealt with the Soviet invasion of -- you know, of Afghanistan and the extremist mindset that we bred, the arms that we bred, the narcotics which was introduced in the region, et cetera -- all of that has had a lasting impression even 30 years after in our region, in my country, in Afghanistan.

So therefore, I'm just trying to explain that the enormity of our concerns are from, you know, what sometimes goes wrong, and then the enormous repercussions that it has not only for the next two years but for the next two decades.

Now, as American -- or the U.S. plus NATO, the international community's transition, or at least military transitions from Afghanistan takes place, we are of course very concerned and we would literally request only one thing: a responsible transition. And let me explain what a responsible transition would entail.

A responsible transition would entail that you look at your entry point goals: a stable Afghanistan, an Afghanistan which would not be a breeding ground for terrorists, an Afghanistan where people would be -- where institutions would be built, where women will have their rights, where -- and will be a source of stability to the region.

And then you look at where we are right now. You know, let me just share with you three barometers which are not very confidence-inspiring for us, you know. Back in 2007, the 5 million-plus Afghan refugees that we have housed for this last three decades in Pakistan have started to trickle back into Afghanistan. You know, just very slowly, tens (of) thousands. Now, since 2009, we have a fresh flow of refugees which is coming into Pakistan. Which obviously shows that the Afghan people themselves -- because it might be important what we think in Washington and in Islamabad, but what at the end of the day is the most important is what people think in Kabul and how the Afghans are looking at their own future.

So that's one sign which is not very confidence-inspiring, and related to that, property prices in Peshawar, which happens to be the border town, have risen by almost 300 percentage points in the last year only. A lot of Afghan investment happening in Peshawar right now.

Now, the other, you know, one or two years, three years, we think it's -- if you look at the region, because one major clear sign or, you know, objective of foreign presence, military presence in Afghanistan was to reduce the ideological (space ?) that goes -- that exists for extremist mindset. And I think if you look in the last 10 years, the space of the extremists, the ideological space for them has only increased.

You know, I think -- (inaudible) -- the case of Pakistan, for instance -- happens to be a neighboring country -- before 9/11, before 2001 there was only one suicide bomb which (happened ?) inside Pakistan territory. You know, after 2001, since the foreign presence of military troops in Afghanistan, there has been -- you know, the number of -- frankly speaking, I have lost count, but only in the last two years or three years there has been more than 300 suicide bomb attacks which have caused, altogether, in the last 10 years, about 30,000 civilians who have died in Pakistan because of suicide bomb attacks, et cetera. Six thousand of our soldiers, paramilitary forces, et cetera.

So the region itself, you know, or the situation is obviously not very confidence-inspiring.

Then the other sign, if you want to look at, is -- you know, for instance, incursions from Afghanistan into Pakistan, hordes of people -- like 300, 400 people -- would come across the border, come into Pakistan -- has increased exponentially in the last six months rather than decreased, which means that the borders are becoming less and less -- and the other side of the border within Afghanistan is becoming less well managed than it was two years back. So this, obviously.

Then, the green-on-blue attacks. You know, they might scare you as Americans but they haunt us as Pakistanis, because what that means is that institutions that we're trying to build, the ANSF, et cetera, are not maybe as professional a military or an army that you ideally would want to think.

So these are all signs which are not very confidence-inspiring. That is not to say that Afghanistan as a country has not made many gains. You know, and schools, rights of women, many other things. And what we need to now see is that what -- so when you say, are you concerned about 2014, let us say I choose to be, you know, concerned but also choose to be cautiously optimistic that from now until 2014 you can create the circumstances that all the entities in Afghanistan who currently consider it to be their job and in their interest to come in the way of stability, become part of the system, become stakeholders within the political system so they have stakes within a stable system.

SANGER: Well, will it help or hurt if post-2014 there is an American presence still in Afghanistan? You've heard everything discussed from the Obama White House, from the zero option to 5(,000) or 6,000. I would say a year ago, when you asked the same question of the Obama White House, you would hear about maybe 10(,000) to 15,000 --

KHAR: (Inaudible) -- 10,000, yes.

SANGER: Yes.

KHAR: I think -- you know, it's not my job to give a judgment call on the numbers, but -- however, let me just say that in the long term there should be no foreign military presence in Afghanistan. It will not be good for Afghanistan. It would not be good for the stability of the region.

You have seen serious concerns being raised by all neighbors of Afghanistan, you know, all immediate neighbors, all entities or countries, important countries within the region, you know. And I don't think I need to name any.

Now, however, when you say responsible transition, this is exactly what we mean. Leave at a time where the conditions -- at least some of the entry goals have been achieved so you do not leave in a rush. We mean -- a responsible transition means that you have achieved your objectives and then you leave. It's not, we leave in January, it's, we leave when the objectives are achieved.

SANGER: And how long do you think that would take? Because obviously, by 2014 the United States will at that point have been in Afghanistan for nearly 13 years.

KHAR: You know, it could take 14 years, and it could take one year, or it could take six months. As I said, I think time is -- it's not a function of time but a function of what are you able to do in that time.

SANGER: And is it your sense that this administration is still looking at the initial goals for going into Afghanistan, or, as witnessed by the creation of a committee a few years ago called Afghan Good Enough within the White House, have they, to your mind, backed away from their Afghan --

KHAR: It should have always been Afghan Good Enough. It could have not been a Switzerland created overnight, you know. And I think, unfortunately, that was the entry goals. It was to create a Switzerland overnight. So it should be Afghan Good Enough, but it has to be Afghan Good Enough.

So I don't -- let me just put it very simply, and I hope we can -- I do not want them -- I do not want to leave behind conditions which are worse than the ones that they inherited or they came to, OK? So I say for Pakistan, you know, they have been -- there have been more incidents of terrorist attacks ever since there have been more instability within the region.

The extremist mindset has been allowed to grow, has been -- not allowed to grow; I don't -- I'm not at all saying that we made it happen or we wanted the extremist -- but because of some of the actions, because of some of the policy decisions, because some of the tools that we decided to use, we have created, expanded the ideological space for the extremist mindset to prevail and to live happily ever after in.

SANGER: If we had members of the U.S. government, the U.S. intel community here, they would say to you, I suspect, that Pakistan has been partly responsible for that, that what they used to term the double game, which was to have the ISI support elements of the Taliban for fear that the Taliban would be a significant power by the time the United States left, had in fact fueled some of that ideological -- opened up that ideological space.

Can you tell us now that you're confident that the ISI is no longer quietly supporting any Taliban elements?

KHAR: Mmm hmm. Yes, I can say that with a great deal of assurance and confidence. And you know, I can explain why I can say that with confidence, because I think if there's anything -- you know, we are a country which is happy to be today a democratic country, which is not scared of its past and which is not scared of talking about the lessons of history. And if there's one lesson of history for Pakistan, it is that any entity -- any entity -- and this is why I think it should be a lesson for the U.S. also, because we did it together. The CIA and ISI created the Mujahideen and armed them with all sorts of fancy tools and, you know, the -- sort of the inculcation of the extremist mindset together.

And the lesson learned is that you create what you think are assets, and they will become your biggest liability. They have become a liability for the U.S. They are a liability for Pakistan. They're a liability for the entire region and for the entire world.

So there is absolutely complete recognition in Pakistan that any group which uses violence as a means to be able to prove his strength, their strength, or political aims and ambitions is a noble area, is bad for Pakistan, is bad for the region and is bad for the world.

SANGER: Now, when you talk to American officials about why there could be a continued American presence in Afghanistan, one answer is they're concerned about the Taliban not coming back in and retaking Kabul.

KHAR: Sure.

SANGER: The other answer, the one that they usually will not give when television cameras are on, is that they want to have a trigger force there in case of instability in Pakistan and particularly in case they saw loose nuclear weapons in Pakistan. You may recall, in 2009, there was a big scare -- fortunately, a false alarm -- about loose nuclear material in Pakistan.

When you talk to American officials, do they discuss the possibility of -- the need to keep an American force there, in case of Pakistani instability? What do they tell you about that?

KHAR: I can tell you -- (inaudible) -- they never have.

SANGER: They never have, OK. And when you hear them make public statements about their concerns about the security of the Pakistani nuclear force, what do you say to them as well?

KHAR: No, I think we've had this discussion many, many times. And we have a very strong national command authority system, which is headed by the prime minister. And we are very confident, like any other nuclear state, that our assets are secure.

SANGER: When I ask American officials -- so we hear this from Pakistan; you hear some American officials say that they have no broad officials about the security, there's one exception they bring up, and that is that the new strategy in Pakistan has been to develop a more mobile nuclear force that can move out closer to the Indian border, and so if India ever began "Cold Start" or some other effort to have a ground invasion, they had a way to respond. Their concern of course is that more mobile nuclear weapons are also much easier to steal, and that you're never quite certain who's in complete of them because they're in the command of local commanders. Pakistani response to me has always been, well, we're just copying what the United States did in Germany during the Cold War.

Do you have concerns about this new, more mobile force, and what that could do? Do you believe it actually creates instability with India? Do you -- are you concerned that it would be easier to steal?

KHAR: You know, we have a policy of minimum deterrence as far as this is concerned, right? And we do not go, as does no other country go, into the details of discussing, you know, bits and pieces of what this entire program entails, but I can assure you that we have a very robust command and control system. And I think the 2009 scare that you were mentioning is an excellent example of how these scares can sometimes be presented as such monumental truths and end up being nothing, right?

So I think this is really part of a narrative which had concerns about many facets of Pakistan, and I hope it is -- it is truly and steadily receding.

SANGER: It would be receding if there wasn't concern that these new, more mobile weapons actually create more instability. Then you don't believe they do?

KHAR: No, we do not believe anything creates more instability in terms -- first of all, we do believe that nobody should be concerned about the safety and security of any of Pakistan's nuclear weapons at all. In India --

SANGER: Including mobile?

KHAR: Including. We are very confident about that, right? So beyond that, I don't think that anything else is up for discussion right now.

SANGER: Let me ask you a little bit about a case that has been very much concerning to U.S. officials; I'm sure you hear about it all the time. It's the case of Dr. Afridi, who of course was the doctor who was acting on behalf of the United States and the CIA in trying to figure out whether Osama bin Laden was in the Abbottabad complex. But he was also carrying out an inoculation program that was for real. He has been arrested; he's been charged with treason.

Americans have a hard time understanding this case, because they believe that if Pakistan really believed that the violation here was bin Laden's presence on Pakistani territory, that Afridi would be more of national hero than in jail. Can you explain this?

KHAR: Yes. I thank you for the opportunity to explain it. And let me just start off by saying that, you know, I would like to break a few myths, and you can corroborate this information with your own officials, also.

First of all, Mr. -- Dr. Shakil Afridi was no hero who knew he was -- he was assisting the Americans or anyone else in finding out where Osama bin Laden was. He did not know what he was doing. He was just -- he happens to be a man with a long history of being up for hire, both by terrorist organizations and by any other intelligence agency who so desires. So this man who we have portrayed to be a great national hero -- or a great international hero, at that -- did not know if -- who he was working for and what he was doing -- that he was going for Osama bin Laden so to speak, right?

The second myth, or the second concern -- and a serious one -- do you realize what this man has done for the cause of polio education in Pakistan? Do you realize, because of his activity, millions of Pakistani people and children are at risk. So to me, he's a villain and clearly not a hero of any sort. And I think this is a big lesson, that we should desist from using these elements of humanitarian caregivers in any way, in intelligence or other operations.

Thirdly, as far as -- you know, because it's interesting, I -- the last I was in Washington was in September. And you know, I was on the Hill and in the Senate and had very intensive discussions within the administration, at the state and White House, et cetera, and which all went off very well. But one thing that I -- that came to me as a surprise and as -- you know, at the Hill and Senate work -- that whatever were considered to be the points of divergence between the U.S. and -- America and American minds, so to speak, was actually points of convergences.

So this thing -- and I will tell you more about it. But simply Osama bin Laden, as it inflamed emotion and became, you know, something that you could not understand, it was equally so for the Pakistanis -- for the Pakistani parliamentarians as much as it was for the American congressmen. They were equally upset, angry, could not believe it, could not understand it, who needed it to be explained. And that's why there was a session which was called in Parliament which was probably the toughest session ever, where everybody who could have been responsible and everybody who was part of it was -- as far as the intelligence area was concerned -- was brought to explain what happened.

An that's why an independent commission, headed by, you know, people with great repute, was formed in Pakistan. And that commission has finally given its report to the prime minister, which has not been made public --

SANGER: Will it be made public?

KHAR: -- and it will be made public -- at least parts of it will be made public.

SANGER: Do you know when?

KHAR: No, I -- (inaudible) -- yet, but it will be made public soon. So what I'm saying is that we're all concerned about the same things, that Osama bin Laden's presence in Pakistan was as much of a disaster for us as it was for anyone else -- and the fact that he was not found. And you do know that from the loads of evidence and the intelligence which was found out from his barracks or from his home, the Americans have reached the conclusion that nobody within the Pakistani system had known.

If there were people on the ground -- somebody was obviously assisting him and there were intelligence failures. That's a fact. We need to do -- make sure that the system is responding to that new reality of knowing that, you know, we can have such big --

SANGER: Do you know enough about the commission report to know whether it came to a conclusion about who was assisting him and what --

KHAR: You know, it was recently presented to the prime minister and I've been away. I haven't been in Islamabad. So I will hopefully be able to take a look at it once I go back there.

SANGER: And my recollection of that parliamentary session that you referred to, was that most of the questioning of General Kayani and, at the time, the head of the ISI, General Pasha, at that time, was about the American intrusion into Pakistani airspace more than the presence of bin Laden.

KHAR: You see, and why do you hold it against any nation to have a problem with that? You know, if today China were to have an attack inside -- you know, American territory -- or, forget China. It's -- (inaudible).

SANGER: (Laughs.)

KHAR: Mexico were to have a -- you know, and it caught -- if Mexico were to -- if Mexico were to partner with you to do the same attack, you would think, good -- common enemy. Osama bin Laden was an enemy to us. You know, Benazir Bhutto who happens to be leader to make Pakistanis and now to all Pakistanis, because even those who will not look at her as the leader of Pakistan, was actually -- her assassination was at the hands of these terrorists.

Millions of Pakistanis have suffered at the hands of these terrorists. So al-Qaida is an enemy number one to us as much as it is to U.S. And to you, I think, in the U.S. -- and that's another point of convergence that is considered to be a point of divergence -- with U.S. you live with a fear of an attack on the homeland. My homeland is attacked every day. You know, our children are dying every day. School buses -- so who -- you know, who are these people and how could anyone be complicit in assisting them to exist?

SANGER: Let me turn to the question of drones, something that we're likely to hear a fair bit about as John Brennan faces his confirmation hearing. Mr. Brennan, of course, has been the assistant to the president who's sort of been most responsible for the -- (inaudible) -- the strategy that has included the drone attacks.

You were here in September. You spoke at the Asia Society, as you did again last night. And as I was looking back at your talk from last September, you said at that time that using -- continuing to use drones was choosing to win the battle at the cost of the war, and that unilateral strikes should be regarded as illegal.

Your parliament, in fact, passed a resolution strongly recommending that such strikes end. My recollection is that about a day or two after the resolution passed the U.S. conducted a number of strikes. As you have this discussion with American officials, are you detecting any change of opinion? Are they coming around to your view? Are they continuing the strikes? Are you approving the strikes before they --

KHAR: OK, first of all -- we are absolutely not approving the strikes, for many reasons, one of them that you mentioned, which I had said before. But there are also many other complicated reasons. And I think it is extremely important for the Americans to fully understand and comprehend the precedents, or the dangerous precedents, (first ?) that they are creating by choosing to use tools which is clearly, within the U.N. Charter, illegal, which is clearly, within the U.N. Charter, unlawful for -- and from global architecture as it exists of nation states managing, and what their responsibilities are, illegal, unlawful. So you do not want to be doing anything which is illegal and unlawful.

Now, what the argument that is typically given by the Americans? The argument that is typically given by the Americans is that it is the most effective tool and there's nothing that comes close to it. Our point is that even if something comes close to 80 percent as effective, it is much more of an effective tool than drone strikes, because drone strikes are counterproductive.

And now let me share with you how drone strikes are counterproductive. In September, I talked about winning the battles at the cost of the war. So you want to get, you know, al-Qaida operative number 112, and you want to get Taliban operative number 1,012, OK? And you get them, and you think this is winning. However, you're creating a thousand more minds in people who will go in the ranks of the al-Qaida and the Taliban because they feel that when civilians die and when illegal activity happens in another territory, it's a hostile one, and it is something which has reaction.

The third aspect of it -- you know, this government takes great credit -- ever since this political government came into power, we were able to -- when it was under the leadership of President Zardari, who said that if this war is killing our children and our people and our men and women, then it cannot be an American war or a Western war, because the general perception during General Musharraf's time in Pakistan, widely, politically, everywhere, was that this was America's war enforced on Pakistan, and now Pakistan is suffering and Pakistan is losing. And so then we came and we said, no, this is our war, because it has to be our fight, because these are people who are not attacking -- they're attacking Pakistanis and Pakistani children. Now, the moment a drone comes over Pakistan's territory, it becomes American war again, and that imagination or that belief becomes more and more -- and you know --

SANGER: Well, you've made this case to your American friends repeatedly.

KHAR: -- I will come to that -- but you know, I just want to say that what I'm seeing as a positive sign is that this narrative -- that I don't call it a narrative, because I think this was -- you know, this has been a consistent position, and that we truly believe it to be a counterproductive tool -- that this is something which is now gaining traction, I think, within the American system, also. I see some reports; I saw recently a Washington Post opinion page which was about that, which was about taking responsibility, looking at the precedents that you're setting, looking at the repercussions of this, and, you know, making it in sync, in tune and in line with international law.

Now, with the Americans -- I think with the Americans, we have come a long way on many, many aspects. On this one, it continues to be a topic on which we disagree, OK? However, we feel that we are moving closer and closer to reaching a point where, you know, the American perspective will come closer and closer to Pakistan's. And so we have hope there, and we continue to engage with them intensively.

But this engagement is very different than the one that was taking place pre- -- you know, pre-, for instance, June --

SANGER: Have you --

KHAR: -- it was more of an animosity-oriented, you know, your point, our point, but not meeting -- but here, it's much more meeting of the minds, and understanding that this is a tool which needs to be done away with.

SANGER: Have you ever taken the subject up with Mr. Brennan directly?

KHAR: You know, I haven't had the occasion to meet Mr. Brennan.

SANGER: You haven't.

KHAR: Yeah. But of course --

SANGER: And have you heard -- apart from what you read on op-ed pages and so forth, have you heard directly from American officials -- military officials, intelligence officials, your political counterparts -- that they are moving to your view on --

KHAR: You know, I don't want to go too much into the details of what the level of discussion right now is, because I think it's much more important to have quieter diplomacy rather than, you know, public or -- but I can just say that on each of the points of dissension between the U.S. and Pakistan, we have come a long way to be able to move together, and I -- yeah, and this happens to be one of them.

SANGER: Well, let me just finish up before I turn out to our -- to our members, to ask you a little bit about what's happening in Pakistan right now. We've seen this quite remarkable movement surrounding Mr. Qadri, who I think it's fair to say that most of us had not heard of prior to the past few weeks, who has managed to surround himself in a bulletproof case outside the Pakistani Parliament. I don't know how you get a bulletproof case and put it up in front of the parliament without some help, but somehow he managed to. He's had tens of thousands of supporters around him calling for the civilian government to leave office quickly ahead of elections. What does he represent? What -- why did this -- why did this crop up so quickly?

KHAR: OK, first of all, Mr. Sanger, I don't think you should feel so bad about not knowing his name, because many people in Pakistan, including myself, also did not know of his name. (Laughter.)

SANGER: (Chuckles.) I feel better now.

KHAR: Yeah. So three weeks back, this gentleman, self-enforced reformer or whatever you want to call him, was happily sitting in Canada, oblivious to the many, many problems the Pakistani public has to go through at the hands of the democratic government. So he has now taken it upon himself to deliver the Pakistanis from their own chosen government. (Laughter.)

Now, with this very herculean task, he comes to Pakistan, lands there, creates quite a stir because he's -- first of all, dresses up differently than all of us. He's robed up and, you know, looks better than most of us. So he gets a lot of attention.

And then he starts saying things which are preposterous. Now, you know, with the media, especially the one in Pakistan, you say something which is ridiculous to the point of being ridiculous, you gain a lot of attention. So it --

SANGER: Never happens here. Yeah. (Laughter.)

KHAR: -- so yeah. So he gains a lot of attention, and then people start noticing him. And then he starts talking about making demands on the government as if he is -- by the way, it might be interesting for me to share with everyone, but according to the constitution of Pakistan, this man -- (inaudible) -- on his -- you know, he doesn't have a political party, but this person cannot even contest the election to a single seat in the parliament, be it provincial, because he happens to be a dual national. He's a Canadian national, so he cannot contest Pakistani elections.

And so he comes, and now he has the 30,000 people. Now, typically it is said that 30,000 people he has been able to gather. So I was just reminding somebody at the U.N. Asia Society, also I used this figure -- I said, when I was elected to the one of the 272 elected seats within the National Assembly of Pakistan, I got 80,000 votes, OK? So these large (hordes ?) of numbers that he talks about that he's been able to gather clearly are not representative of the 180 million people.

So the demands that he are -- he is making are all ones which want to derail the democratic process and the democratic system. You see, if somebody like him had appeared two and a half years from today and said, oh, this government is doing no good work and it will be harmful for Pakistan's interest so that -- and people must get to choose their own new government who can deliver to the people -- now, two and a half years back if he would have come, he would have still thought maybe he had some moral authority.

Now he is coming two months before the democratic transition in Pakistan, the peaceful democratic transition to a civilian government is supposed to start, the first time in 60 years that there's going to be a smooth democratic transition after completion of five years. And this person comes to disrupt that very process whereby Pakistanis will get a chance to elect their own leader. And he comes and he asks for electoral reforms.

And he was of course in Canada and may have not gotten the news that we passed a constitutional amendment which requires two-thirds majority within the parliament of Pakistan to do exactly the same thing: have electoral reforms. And today, the chief election commissioner of Pakistan, for instance, is not a nominee of the government of Pakistan. He's a nominee of the opposition. So all of this is rather interesting. (Laughter.)

SANGER: Interesting for sure. There was a lot of -- Pakistan is given to conspiracy theories. We have a few of them here ourselves.

KHAR: Yes, a few. (Chuckles.)

SANGER: One of the most prevalent right now is that he is secretly getting the support of the military, that this is sort of a way into a soft coup ahead of the elections. Do you believe --

KHAR: OK, you know what is interesting, Mr. Sanger, is that he is so well-reputed that everybody or anybody who has any credibility has distanced themselves from him by miles. The IFPI (ph), which is a representative body of the intelligence agencies, issued a statement a few weeks back: We have nothing to do with him.

OK, so typically, if they have -- you know, I am not doubting -- they would typically -- if they -- they would not want to, because that is discrediting him, you know, and everybody -- now recently, yesterday only, Mr. Nawaz said he called in all the opposition parties -- all the opposition parties in Pakistan. And they all issued a statement which was deemed completely distancing themselves from him.

So he's a man who's (guaranteed ?) becoming a pariah in some ways where people want to distance -- you know, people with any credibility. For him to be able to gather 30,000 people and bring them to Islamabad -- I think, you know, there are many people in Pakistan who will have the ability to do so.

SANGER: Well, this is great. Let us turn now to our members here. As you know, the Council on Foreign Relations is filled with shy and retiring types who will -- (laughter) -- never want to go raise their hand and seek a question.

But I'm going to ask the members that when you're called upon, if you'll stand, if you'll wait for the microphone because not only do we want to have everybody hear you, but we want you on the transcript here as well. And if you would limit yourself to one question and keep it as concise as you can and make sure it has a question mark at the end of it, that would be -- (laughter) -- that would be terrific. Why don't we start with the gentleman in the front row here? Your mic's on the way. If you tell us who you are as well.

QUESTIONER: Joseph Cari, Integration Capital and Trade. Madam, thank you, first of all, for being here. My question is -- back to the bin Laden situation, there's two things. My question is, what does it say to you about America's trust of your government that we didn't feel we could tell you we were doing this? And secondly, in the accounts that I've read, the doctor clearly knew he was out taking DNA samples, and in the reports that I have read, that seems to contradict a little bit -- little bit of what you're saying. So if you could answer those questions, I'd appreciate it.

KHAR: Sure. The doctor certainly knew that he was taking DNA tests, but did he know whose DNA test he was taking? I am sure you would understand that if the CIA did not share it with Pakistani government, it certainly did not share it with Dr. Shakil Afridi -- that it was Osama bin Laden that he was going for. So what I said was exactly the same, that he did not know he was in this Herculean task to get Osama bin Laden. He was just doing a job for the -- for some money that he was paid, as he was doing the same jobs for some terrorist organizations that he was paid for, which he has been convicted and is serving a sentence right now.

So this was your one sentence on Osama bin Laden; what was the first?

QUESTIONER: What does it say -- (inaudible) --

KHAR: Oh, yes. OK, what it says -- yes, yes -- what it says is -- and I have said this to my -- you know, counterpart -- I've said this to my counterpart many times -- I've said it to many people in the American system, and I think there's a bit of (a traction ?) of what I'm saying within the American system also. What it says to me is that we have less -- we have lost so many opportunities in stabilizing Afghanistan to the trust deficit mantra, that it is something that we should not be able to -- you know, we should at least hold ourselves responsible for that.

There -- you know, you said that a lot of people in America or anywhere else typically blame Pakistan for what is happening in Afghanistan. You know, I look at it, and the more I analyze it, the more deeper I look into it -- into it, I get a clear picture that it is us trying to oversimplify a rather complicated, complex situation on the ground. So when you put the blame on the neighbor, and everything which happened -- which went wrong in Afghanistan -- and let me ask you a question.

If we had so much capacity to fix it in Afghanistan -- what 48 other nations cannot fix -- you know, wouldn't you want to fix it in Pakistan first? Or are we supporting and complicit with these terrorists who are attacking our own children? You know, all of NATO forces together don't reach the count of 6,000 people that they have lost -- soldiers. So if you are concerned about the loss of Americans -- and we are also very concerned about the loss of Pakistani life.

So we are in it together. We are partners against a common enemy, and when we decide to go into a blame game mode and, you know, give way to trust deficit and allow that to come in the way -- and you know, so that harms our mutual interest and mutual objective of disarming -- of disintegrating the terrorist networks and the terrorists and just the mindset -- the extremist mindset and everything else that we are trying to do in Afghanistan and the region.

SANGER: While the question was on bin Laden, I have to ask you -- since I know you went to the University of Massachusetts at Amherst and no doubt were a good moviegoer there -- have you seen "Zero Dark Thirty?" What did you think?

KHAR: You know, I haven't -- I plan to. I will. (Laughter.)

SANGER: OK, Great.

Another question. Gentleman on the aisle right here -- could you just wait for your microphone?

QUESTIONER: Thank you. I'm Imran Riffat from Global Kids. Madam Foreign Minister, the question is that you have now said in this meeting that these people who are carrying out attacks in Pakistan -- you know, they are also enemies of Pakistan, you know. And General Kayani has also said that one of the biggest threats that faces Pakistan is from these people, you know.

These groups are said to be receiving funding from overseas, and their overseas funders include Saudi Arabia. You and General Kayani were in Saudi Arabia recently. What assurances, if any, did you get from the Saudis to stem the flow of funding to these groups? Thank you.

KHAR: I won't go specifically naming any country, because I think there are more than one country where the source of funding and financing for these entities comes for. There's a whole, you know, plethora of forces of funding. So I don't think -- so I'm not responding to your specific question about one particular country, but I can tell you that with each one of those -- with every country, and as with Americans, we are trying to ensure that we have many -- much more intensive systems to ensure that their financing is inhibited. And the -- so is the case with our other partners also, including some countries in the Middle East. And I can tell you that each of those countries, each of those countries -- (inaudible) -- the governments are very committed to make sure that their funding does not go to any of these entities. However, there are some private organizations which operate all over the world -- right? -- who give -- who end up managing to give. So we can work as we have -- in short, that we can work with each one of these governments to make sure that any of their private sector people are not also able to give them funding.

But you're absolutely right. We have to concentrate on what is the source of funding, and that's why, for instance, you know, it is interesting, David, that we are a country which has been shouting at the top of our lungs, you know, for the last four years -- especially President Zardari; this happens to be a favorite topic of his -- that why are we so, you know, asleep to the question on narcotics funding?

Do you know -- and this is an interesting point, by the way. Guess -- I would like -- I would literally like to do a hand raise and guess. And if you have the answer, I would be very impressed. Do you know what is -- how much narcotics production has increased in Afghanistan ever since foreign military presence? So -- (inaudible) -- during the Taliban time and after the Taliban time, what is the change? Who thinks 10 times? Who thinks thousand times? Yeah, you know, it has actually gone up by 300 times, 30 (sic) times more than what it was. So it has actually gone up by 3,000 percent -- it's 3,000 percentage points, sorry, so 300 times what it was.

And this is not my report. This is the U.N. report -- 3000 percentage points is what narcotics production. Where do you think all of that money is going, and why are we sleeping on it? You know, why do we not consider it? So you're absolutely correct, because the type of funding -- you know, today some of them have more sophisticated -- (inaudible) -- or even some of the Pakistani, you know, law enforcement agencies. What -- so they have a whole lot of source of financing, and I think they all have to work collectively much, much better than we have so far. Good question.

SANGER: Very good question.

In the back, right there.

QUESTIONER: Lud Truckivich (ph), Russian Television International. Madame Foreign Minister, what can you expect to occur upon your arrival in Pakistan given the -- yesterday's announcement by the Pakistani Supreme Court?

KHAR: Well, this is the usual -- (laughter) -- yeah, pretty much. We've gone through many of these things before, you know? And I think we will -- it's fine. I mean, this is institutions finding their rightful place within Pakistan. And it is -- it had to happen.

Please, I always say this -- and allow me the opportunity to say this -- because what looks like an extremely chaotic situation to the foreign eye is actually institutions which have been -- which have been stemmed for many years of dictatorial regimes in Pakistan. Each one of these institutions are actually finding their rightful place. And as each of those institutions, whether it's the parliament or the judiciary or the others, find their rightful place, there's a tendency to try and enlargen their space. And that's natural. It -- the natural correction will happen, as it is happening. So it's something that we have to be patient about.

And we in Pakistan are now -- I think the lesson learned from history for Pakistan is, it's a phrase that a cousin of my used, so I'm going to, you know, not use it as mine, but recently she sent me a message which said that, how can the nation be so impatient to self-destruct, right? So she was talking about the past.

So as I'm saying -- so when you want quick solutions, you are a nation which is impatient to self-destruct. We have learned our lessons. We are not -- we have to be patient -- (inaudible) -- let the institutions go, let the institutions build, let each of these institutions find their own place and that will be a stronger Pakistan.

SANGER: The institution finding its place here right now, of course, is the court and Justice Chaudhry. Have they overreached, to your mind?

KHAR: You know, we have our views on it, which I'm not going to share right now, but all I'm saying is that I think, as I said, it is every institution which is finding its rightful place. The parliament has (this larger ?) place in constitution, but the parliament was playing the bigger role, typically. So as, you know, democracy becomes deeper and sustained, this will happen.

SANGER: Very good. Right here, ma'am.

QUESTIONER: (Off mic.) I wonder if you could talk a little bit about the Indian relationship. How do you see it evolving in the context of the current improvements, with concrete economic joint projects, other kinds of infrastructure, power sharing, all of the things that night actually make some lasting (impact ?)?

SANGER: And could you tell us whether these recent events on the Line of Control --

KHAR: Oh, yes --

SANGER: -- truly imperil this or whether you think that they will blow over.

KHAR: OK. You know, the unfortunate part is that if you'd asked me this question two weeks back, I would have given you a very positive answer.

But do you know what the fortunate part is? That I will still give you a relatively positive answer. And -- because I think it's another one of those lessons. You know, that's why I think we wanted to talk about the regional pivot. Pakistan, a democratic Pakistan -- why is a democratic Pakistan a responsible Pakistan? Because a democratic Pakistan made a choice of putting its foreign policy focus first and foremost on improving and normalizing its ties with each one of its neighbors. That includes the two most difficult relations, one on our left -- you know, one on our west, one on our east, India and Afghanistan.

On Afghanistan, I think we've talked a great deal, and Afghanistan has done reasonably well.

On India, up till two weeks back -- and therefore I say I hope for the future also that we will continue to do rather well -- we were able to normalize relations to quite an extent, improve the atmospherics, continue with the dialogue process.

And you know, nothing -- nothing is as monumental in terms of the message that we are trying to send to the Indian way than the fact that we decided to normalize trade with India after 40 years, 40 long years. There were democratic governments in between, there were dictatorial regimes for 10 years, and yet nobody had the guts to say that, you know, with India, like with everybody else, we should have normal trade relations.

And why did we do that? One, we wanted to send a very serious message the Indian way, that we mean business, we walk the talk of normalization; and two, then -- that when you normalize trade, you're actually building stakeholders in each other's future.

So there are Pakistani investments in India and Indian investments in Pakistan. You know, these people would be very unhappy on incidents like the one that we just saw or any talk of, you know, hostile behavior of any type.

So these recent incidents have been extremely unfortunate. You know, it started with 6th of January, where one of our soldiers was -- died; 8th of January where they came, two of their soldier were -- died -- were -- not only died but their throats were slit. The Northern Command spokesperson himself said in the Reuters report, you know, in an interview to Reuters, that no throats had been slitted. We looked into evidence. We could find no evidence that an incident like that had taken place.

Then on 10th of January there was another incident, incursion into Pakistan -- not incursion but, you know, murdering one of our people across the LOC. And then there's been one day before yesterday also.

So now in all of this, what you see is a glaring difference between how Pakistan is reacting to it and how India is reacting to it. And I'm rather disappointed by that, OK, because you see a lot of very hostile, negative statements which have come out.

However, let me tell you what we believe and what we will (persevere ?) and I think this shows the strength of a democracy and the perseverance of a democracy and the single-mindedness of purpose on pursuing this track of building on the peace that this democracy brings to the table.

We believe that both India and Pakistan -- and just recently, you know, said this -- both India and Pakistan are very responsible countries within -- are important countries within South Asia. As they're important countries, they must also show very responsible behavior and must show their complete commitment to pursuing a normalization of relations and, you know, peaceful coexistence, for heaven's sake, like we are two countries which have spent 60 years in a narrative of hostility, and I take the blame for that. I'm not saying India has spent 60 years. I'm saying both the countries have very effectively spent 60 years in developing hostile narratives. And is this what you want to bequeath to your next generations? We say no. And that's why, when I went to New Delhi, we said that we want an uninterrupted and an uninterruptible process -- peace process with India.

Unfortunately, this LOC incident has obviously created questions. But we still believe that dialogue must be the means to resolve this or any issue.

SANGER: So you're telling us that this incident is not going to get in the way of --

KHAR: I'm saying -- I'm saying more than that. I'm saying that if -- you know, we will be open to a discussion, a dialogue at the levels of the foreign minister to be able to resolve the issue of cross-LOC incidents and also to recommit ourselves to respect for the cease-fire, because Pakistan is fully committed to the -- to respect for the cease-fire 2003.

So this is -- I hope this will pass. The only thing which I am concerned about is that when we allowed this -- when we allowed this to become domestic politics issue, which we have been very careful -- you know, the last two years we had a backlash when we decided to normalize trade. We held our ground.

And when we held that ground, we realized that most of the naysayers -- now, there are many naysayers on both sides of the border; in India and in Pakistan, there are many people in both sides who do not want these buses to continue, so they will always encourage you to sort of, you know, go hard on the rhetoric and just ratchet up the tension. It is -- some people find it in their interests and just in their -- we don't, so we must not fall prey to that.

And I think in Pakistan, we have managed it very effectively. We have not fallen prey to, you know, the requirement of ratcheting it up. And I think that just shows the majority in the Pakistani democracy today because no opposition leader also. They have all been very responsible, and they have said that we need to fix our ties with India and do whatever we can to do so.

SANGER: OK. Ma'am?

QUESTIONER: Hi. Evelyn Leopold, journalist at the United Nations. How do you see the next generation of Pakistanis? A lot has been written about religious schools that train martyrs and train little boys, both Afghan refugee boys and Pakistanis, and teach much else. Do you see the possibility for universal education? Or how do you see the next generation?

KHAR: OK. First of all, Evelyn, let me just start by saying that I see the next generation to be represented by a brave girl that you may have heard of, Malala Yousafzai, for I think she represents the next generation of Pakistan. And believe me, the next generation of Pakistan (is ?) therefore much better than my generation and the one before me. You know, she represents --

Now, interestingly, you talk about universal education. Now, also, this person that you referred to, Mr. Qadri, has come in asking for the parliament to be dissolved. This is the same parliament, by the way, which passed a constitutional amendment which makes education, primary education, not only primary education but education up till middle -- up to 10th grade, not only the right of every child but the responsibility of the state to deliver, and there's all sorts of things, like if the parents do not bring their children to school and if the state is not able to provide. So this is something which we take very, very seriously. It is the responsibility of the provincial governments, that's how the system works in Pakistan, but we take this very seriously, and we're partnering with a lot of, you know, good people to be able to ensure that we are able to deliver on this.

So I can assure you -- it is sad in some ways that we look at the Pakistan of 1970s as nostalgia, OK? You will see people from that generation, and they only tell you of how moderate how everybody was, how beautiful it was and how, you know, there was all sorts of activity, healthy activity taking place in Karachi and Islamabad and (the whole ?).

Now, I am quite sure -- and I'm here not cautiously optimistic but very optimistic -- that the next -- that, you know, the next generation will see the same Pakistan back because I think now in Pakistan, the recognition of what are -- the choices in front of us are in black and white. You know, we spent 20 years in the gray area.

And therefore, I'm very against any political leader in Pakistan who tries and increases the ideological space for the terrorists to operate, who tries and explains them away by saying all this foreign military presence, and therefore they are justified in fighting them, et cetera. All of that is nonsense. There is no justification of -- for anyone to use violence in any way.

And anyone who does, the state must equip itself. And that's what we are in the process of doing. Right now we cannot -- we have not been able to respond as well as we should have because the state is not equipped -- equipped, I mean hard-core equipped, you know; the police enforcement agencies, et cetera, slowly and steadily, we are equipping ourselves with intelligence gear, with softer side of it, harder side of it.

And I'm quite sure that as this -- these two simultaneous transformation take -- there's one in the mind which is even more important, which has already taken place, and the other -- and the ability and capacity. As these two simultaneous transformations take place, I'm quite sure that the Pakistan that will be key to our next generation is the much -- is going to be much better than the one that I inherited.

SANGER: You mentioned the young girl who, of course, was attacked. As you look at that incident, what were the lessons to be learned for Pakistan about -- she had very little protection, although obviously, she received many threats.

KHAR: You know, David, physical protection, when somebody wants to kill you, you know, for instance, when Mr. Bilour died, (another ?) great, great man, he was somebody who spoke vociferously, loudly against these people and was very, very brave indeed. If somebody wants to come and blow up himself while meeting you, there's nothing you can do to protect him.

In the same case, in the same way, Malala (Yousafzai ?) had received warnings, and I'm told that the local administration had repeatedly, not once, but thrice, offered her physical protection. And you know what that girl said, interestingly, somebody was telling me? She said to her father that if I take a policeman behind me and go to school, do you think I will be able to have a normal life and have normal friends? You know, that's quite a thing to say for a 14-year-old. But so it's more than just being able to physically protect by giving, you know, armed guards, et cetera. I think the concentration has to be in ensuring that we are able to distance ourselves from these people and just take them out of the society.

SANGER: Right here.

QUESTIONER: Thank you. Madam Foreign Minister, my name is Roland Paul. Following up on a question that David put to you about the American drones, there is information that there's at least two major groups that are not so -- in Pakistan that are not as opposed to that operation as you might think, and the first is the Pakistani military; if General Kayani was very strong in requiring us not to do it, we would have considerable difficulty doing it. And the second, I'm told, is the indigenous people of Waziristan are not entirely opposed to that operation either, because it's eliminating people that they don't want in that territory. Would you comment on that?

KHAR: OK. I know for sure about General Kayani, because on this we've had several meetings and we have interacted with Americans together sometimes on this. So I'm quite sure where he is on this, and he is -- like the government of Pakistan, does not -- believes that they're illegal and also counterproductive, and certainly does not want -- the Pakistani military does not want this to continue at any cost.

Secondly, you were talking about indigenous people of South Waziristan. I know many parliamentarians who represent that, and typically what you hear is there is a fear of not knowing -- you know, they say a sound appears -- we hear a sound and they say that people are going mad, that people are actually going mentally -- they're concerned about their mental health because they live with the fear of something appearing overnight and then sometimes a lot of collateral damage taking place. So I don't know, meaning I haven't heard of local people to be very happy with the use of drone strikes at all.

SANGER: We promised to have everybody out of here by 2:15, including the minister, so let's just take one more question, right back here, the young lady in white here.

QUESTIONER: Thank you for a very informative -- Carla -- (inaudible) -- Research. Thank you for an enormously informative discussion. You mentioned nostalgia for Pakistan of the '70s. And I can tell you as an American I share that. We have many doctors and lawyers of Pakistani origin who are superb here, marvelous. And I understand that the IMF conditionalities forced Pakistan to reduce its investment in education, which is what led to the reliance on these religious madrassas which evidently trained very, very destitute children to become suicide bombers.

So to what extent do you think organizations like the IMF or the World Bank or international aid organizations are assisting or exacerbating Pakistan's problems? And there have been those -- I think Professor Joseph Stiglitz -- who've said that a lot of the aid that the so-called developed countries give to the developing world is actually something that benefits the developed world more than the developing world.

KHAR: OK. I'm not a conspiracy theorist, but I'm also not a great believer in aid, in the sense that I don't think aid can do it for you. Every country has to do it for themselves. So there's no World Bank program which can deliver it for Pakistan or an IMF fund. So it's very clearly that your country and its systems have to deliver. Therefore, I'm a great believer in if any assistance ought to be coming to a country, it should come directly through the main core assistance, not all around it, because then -- all around it, you're not actually assisting the state to be able to deliver to its people, you're actually creating a gap -- an increase in the capacity gap.

So I'm all for not -- you know, no country should be reliant on aid, and every country should be able to -- and I think that's -- we know in Pakistan, for instance -- I'll give you a simple example. OK, I think World Bank people will not be very happy with me, but I will still give you this example. When we came up with the Benazir Income Support Program, which is for the first time a social protection program in Pakistan, which had a dual role, first it was we want to be a welfare state, like anybody else. We do not have the resources to be a welfare state. So we decided -- the government decided -- and again, this was something that the Pakistan People's Party takes a lot of credit for -- that if you cannot -- if you do not have the resources to reach to all the vulnerable, let's look at the most vulnerable.

So let's determine, within the Pakistani -- 180 million people -- who are the most vulnerable? Then, through a very sophisticated, scientific, house-by-house survey, we determined that, OK, that -- who are the most vulnerable. And then we said, whatever resources we can put aside -- so close to a hundred billion rupees -- we'll go to these people. And guess what? It will not go to the male member of the family. It will go to the female member of the family. So at one time, you are taking care of the vulnerable people, and you also upgrading the status of the woman within her house, because now she's bringing 2,000 rupees every month, to the family.

So when we wanted to do this program, we had no aid agency which wanted to come. And they said -- they said, no, it's going to be a political program, and you guys are not going to be able to do it, et cetera. We did it ourself, put our own money in it. In two years, we had three or four or five international aid agencies which are assisting us in that, OK? So they were bidding, too, because we made it work ourselves.

So typically, I think those things that work are the ones which you do for yourself, rather than those which are -- which you're told to do.

SANGER: Well, Madam Minister, thank you very much for spending this hour with us, for being so -- both confident and candid in your answers. (Applause.) I appreciate it, and I thank you all for coming.

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