Zardari at UN
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A fortnightly column on the high politics of the Af-Pak region, the fulcrum of global power play in India's neighbourhood
Zardari at UN
There is good news and bad news from Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari's speech at the United Nations General Assembly this week. The former is about the commitment of Pakistan's democratically elected leaders to pursue regional cooperation and reconciliation. The latter is about Zardari's inability to push the Pakistan army and the ISI on ending their support to terror groups.
The good news first. Zardari underlined the importance of strengthening democracy in Pakistan and blamed the international community for embracing Pakistan's military dictators in the past.
"These dictators and their regimes are responsible for suffocating and throttling Pakistan, Pakistan's institutions, and Pakistani democracy," Zardari said. While he did not refer to the Pakistan army directly, there is no doubt on who the target of his public criticism from an international podium was.
Zardari reminded the world that his "will be the first civilian government in Pakistan's 66-year history to complete its full, five-year term". Among the many accomplishments he claimed for his elected government was the effort to promote peace and harmony in the region.
"The growing regional pivot in Pakistan's foreign policy is a reflection of our democratic policymaking. In engaging with our region, we are changing the future," Zardari declared.
In a bid to dispel the widespread international criticism that Pakistan is undermining the efforts for peace in Afghanistan, Zardari insisted that a "sovereign, stable and secure Afghanistan" is in Pakistan's interests.
Rather than emphasise the special role in the Afghan peace process that the Pakistan army often claims, Zardari said he supports Kabul's attempts to reconcile with the Taliban.
Part of his new regional approach, Zardari suggested, was his effort to engage India. Zardari reminded the international audience of his frequent meetings with Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh — five times in the last four years.
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