G8 Expresses Commitment to Pakistan

May 31, 2011

Following the G8 Summit of Deauville last week, the leaders of the world’s largest economies released a statement including the following expression of commitment to Pakistan.

We are committed to supporting Pakistan and re-emphasize the importance of Pakistan itself tackling its political, economic and social challenges by undertaking the urgently needed reforms supported by the international community. We acknowledge the crucial importance of education for the economic and social development of Pakistan. Our cooperation programmes will make getting more children into better schools a priority.

Earlier this year, Pakistan’s President Asif Zardari declared that education would be a top priority of his administration. Improving access to quality education for all Pakistanis is a fundamental step in solving Pakistan’s economic and security struggles. The G8′s commitment to the goal of improving access to quality education for all Pakistanis is an important step in making sure that President Zardari’s education priority can be realized.

Sec. Clinton – US Must Continue to Support Democracy In Pakistan

May 24, 2011

Secretary Clinton meets with UK Foreign Secretary Hague

Secretary Clinton is in London meeting with her British counterpart, Foreign Secretary William Hague, this week. At a press conference yesterday she reiterated American commitment to supporting peace and democracy in Pakistan.

“With respect to Pakistan, Pakistan has hard choices to make. We know the facts. Pakistan is a nuclear-armed state, home to nearly 180 million people, making it the world’s sixth largest nation. It needs international support to deal with political and economic problems and the threats it faces from internal violence. This latest attack on a Pakistani naval installation in Karachi is another reminder of the terrible price the Pakistani people have borne in their own struggle against violent extremism.

“We have killed more terrorists on Pakistani soil than anywhere else in the world, and that could not have been done without the cooperation of the Government of Pakistan. But there is more work to be done and the work is urgent. Over the long haul, both the United Kingdom and the United States seek to support the Pakistani people as they chart their own destiny, away from political violence, toward greater stability, economic prosperity, and justice.”

My Questions, My Fears

May 21, 2011

Kay NeseemThe following submission by Kay Naseem presents an alternative perspective to the security-focused conventional wisdom about terrorism in Pakistan, and challenges us to consider the need for investment in the education and economic opportunity as a strategy to combating the lure of militancy for Pakistan’s youth.

Osama bin Laden has been brought to justice! As I feel grateful today for safety of many innocent people, I am still concerned about integrity of the institution he has left behind; scores of madrasas where thousands of little kids are taught wrong meaning of “Jihad.” The word comes from the Arabic word “Juhd” which means “effort.” The process of “Jihad” means exerting ones best effort (physically, intellectually and spiritually) to achieve a particular goal involving struggle or resistance. It does not imply war or violence. A working mom who is struggling to take her sick child to a doctor and puts her best effort to do so has done “Jihad.” A team of Rotarians who travelled across the ocean to rescue people from polio in India have done “Jihad.” A child collecting money for a poor family outside Wal-Mart has done “Jihad.” The true meaning of “Jihad” is not what is being taught to those little children in extremist madrasas. This is predatory, in many ways, as many children have no access to other sources of primary school education due to poverty, illiteracy and inequity.

Can the same tool of education that turns young children into suicide bombers be used to turn them into doctors, teachers, engineers, scientist and most of all peace makers? It is only the difference of what could be taught to them.

I grew up in Pakistan. I went to a school where we said a Bible prayer at assembly every morning. In fourth grade there was a Bible study class and an Islamic study class held simultaneously for students of the respective faith. Through this experience we developed appreciation and respect of each other’s culture and religion and we saw each other as human beings. We all played together on playgrounds and in each other’s homes. It all seemed so normal at that time.

As I reflect on world politics and terrorism, I wonder what the world would be like if every child in Pakistan was receiving the same integrated and privileged education I was receiving. Would things be different? Would there still be a prevalence of explosive devices in form of young children or adults? I want to say no.

That there are currently 70 million children around the world with no access to primary education makes me sad and afraid. I fear that the learning process of tolerance is being missed by all those70 million. If we deprive them the opportunity to learn, reason, and be productive member of the society, I fear we provide Al-Qaida, and other opportunists, a chance to use the desperation of these children to turn them into terrorists.

This is why programs such as the Education for All Act and Education for All- fast Track Initiative (EFA-FTI), a global partnership of donors and developing countries working to ensure equal education for all, are critical. As a RESULTS grassroots activist, I believe EFA-FTI leads my organization’s goal in providing effective aid to promote equity in global education and my vision of recovery of a peaceful world. RESULTS believe that the most effective tool for improving global health and financial well being is through education. Poverty breeds disease and illiteracy. Has illiteracy and poverty contributed to terrorism? Can thousands of kids be saved from falling into the hands of terrorists through access to primary schools? These are some of the questions we need to ask ourselves while contemplating for our moneys sent abroad. Educating kids is certainly cheaper than sending soldiers and it ensures that healthy bodies and minds will be contributing to healthier peaceful societies. And peace abroad brings prospects of peace here at home.

Kay Neseem is a grassroots activist for RESULTS advocacy organization to fight against poverty and disease and enforce equal education internationally and domestically.

China-Pakistan Relations Good for US-Pakistan Relations

May 18, 2011

Hu Jintao with Barack Obama and Asif Zardari

Pakistani Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani is in Beijing this week meeting with his Chinese counterpart, Premier Wen Jiabao. According to reports in today’s press, the Chinese Premier told his Pakistani guest that “China and Pakistan will remain forever good neighbours, good friends, good partners and good brothers.” This echoes the Pakistani sentiment that China is an “all weather friend.” Do close China-Pakistan ties pose a threat for US-Pakistan relations? Quite the contrary. By supporting close China-Pakistan ties, the US can improve its own relations with Pakistan.

China, which shares a border with Pakistan, also shares a problem with militant Islamists within its own Uighur community. Writing for Foreign Policy, Steve Levine suggests that China’s concern with the spread of militancy can be an important point of leverage in convincing Pakistan that looking to militant groups as proxy defense assets is counterproductive to its security goals.

As for China, the only matter about which it’s more obsessive than its political agnosticism in search of resource riches is its obsessive suppression of anything Uighur, the Turkic Muslim people native to Xinjiang Province. Beijing is absolutely certain that Uighurs are intent on destroying Han Chinese dominance in Xinjiang (they are probably right), and have pursued exile Uighurs throughout Central Asia, and into Afghanistan and Pakistan. China has made it a quid pro quo with these neighbors — suppress local Uighurs, and obtain Chinese goodies. Therefore, a strong China would probably not encourage the revival of dangerous local militancy in Afghanistan. That is the paramount American goal — ensuring that a new big terrorist threat doesn’t emerge there.

Additionally, while China has made significant investments in Pakistan – some $30 billion in trade agreements were signed last year – it also signed $16 billion in deals with India saying that “there is enough space in the world for the development of both” countries. China may be trying to position itself as the dominant power in Asia, but achieving this goal requires peace and cooperation between India and Pakistan with whom it shares borders.

But closer Pakistan-US ties may provide other important lessons for both the US and Pakistan. US leadership will learn that Pakistan does have options other than American aid and can not be taken for granted. Pakistan, on the other hand, may learn that even an “all weather friendship” between two countries has limits. As noted by Georgetown University professor and South Asia expert C. Christine Fair earlier this year, China – like all countries – makes decisions based not on altruism but to advance its own interests.

What has China done for Pakistan? It did not help Pakistan in any of its wars with India in 1965, 1971 or the Kargil crisis of 1999, when it took the same line as the US and even India. It did little to help Pakistan in the 2001-2002 crisis with India and it even voted in the UN Security Council to declare Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JuD) a terrorist organisation in 2009 in the wake of the Mumbai terror outrage.

The roads and ports and other infrastructure that the Chinese are building in Pakistan principally benefit China. Pakistanis are an afterthought. The Chinese obtain contracts on favourable and profitable investment terms, use their own employees, and contribute little to the local economy ultimately to build projects that facilitate the movement and sales of cheap (but also dangerous and poorly crafted) Chinese goods and products into and through Pakistan.

It is a sad fact that China uses Pakistan for its foreign policy aims as well. It provides Pakistan nuclear assistance and large amounts of military assistance to purchase subpar military platforms in hopes of sustaining Pakistan’s anti-status quo policy towards India. By encouraging Pakistani adventurism towards India, Beijing hopes that India’s massive defence modernisation and status of forces remain focused upon Pakistan — not China. China wants to sustain the animosity between India and Pakistan but it certainly does not want an actual conflict to ensue as it would then be forced to show its hand again — by not supporting Pakistan in such a conflict.

Headlines in the wake of tensions over Raymond Davis and the raid that killed Osama bin Laden warn of a possible US-Pakistan “divorce.” But the US and Pakistan are less like a married couple and more like business partners. In this sense, the US and China are also business partners. Each nation – the US, China, and Pakistan – have interests that increasingly intersect around the desire for peace, stability, and economic growth in South Asia. In the 1970s, Pakistan helped bridge a trust gap between the US and China. Today, China can help bridge a similar gap between the US and Pakistan. Closer China-Pakistan relations are not a threat to US-Pakistan relations, but an opportunity for correcting misperceptions about US interests in Pakistan and bringing the US and Pakistan into a closer and more trusting partnership that serves the interests of all nations.

Repeating Past Mistakes Will Repeat Past Failures

May 13, 2011

Sen. Carl Levin

Senator Carl Levin told Foreign Policy magazine’s blog ‘The Cable’ that lawmakers are considering scaling back civilian aid to Pakistan in the wake of the discovery of Osama bin Laden in Abbottabad. Though Congress has concerns about the possibility of militant support networks within Pakistan’s military and intelligence agencies, however, lawmakers are not considering cuts to military, but civilian aid. According to Sen. Levin, helping develop a stable democracy in Pakistan is “also in our interest but not as clearly.”

A 1962 article for Foreign Affairs argues the opposite – that the shortest path to peace and stability is through strengthening civilian institutions, not military.

In this large context of peace and war, the fundamental aim of economic assistance is, therefore, to build up stability in unstable states. This cannot be done by piecemeal patching up, by casual subsidies and handouts. The most successful of all programs of economic aid so far-the Marshall Plan-clearly illustrates the need for change in depth. If the nations of Western Europe had simply been restored to where they were before the Second World War, they would inevitably have repeated yet again their melancholy inter-war cycle of economic isolationism and national rivalry. It was America’s insistence upon a joint solution of their problems that opened the era of technical modernization, supra-nationalism and interdependence. What has saved Europe has been not the reconstruction of the old order but the bold projection of a new.

We don’t have to go back to 1962 to understand the importance of investing in a strong and stable democratic Pakistan, and how disastrous it can be to turn our backs on the civilian institutions. In fact, we can look at a time as recently as the 1990s.

When President George H.W. Bush could no longer certify that Pakistan was not actively pursuing nuclear weapons, aid to Pakistan was suspended as required by the Pressler Amendment. Suspending aid to Pakistan may have made a moral point, but the practical result was to convince Pakistan that it’s national security would have to depend on options outside US cooperation. Rather than pushing Pakistan towards a policy of nonproliferation, cutting aid as India demonstrated nuclear capability likely increased Pakistan’s resolve to demonstrate it’s own nuclear deterrent.

The other byproduct of aid suspension was Pakistan’s military and intelligence agencies looking more to irregular forces as a means of strengthening Pakistan’s defenses. It was terrible, but rational decision: If Pakistan could not count on the support of it’s ‘most allied ally’, it would have to find support where it could.

This scenario could easily repeat itself if Congress repeats this past mistake again.

“You risk undermining the whole edifice that the United States has been trying to support in Pakistan,” warned Shuja Nawaz of the Atlantic Council, an independent policy institute.

Moreover, the U.S. aid lies at the heart of Obama’s strategy to help stabilize a deeply impoverished country of 170 million struggling with a growing Islamic insurgency, soaring ethnic and sectarian tensions, mounting joblessness and failing education, health, energy and other services.

US-Pakistan relations may be suffering from a severe trust deficit, but his lack of trust did not develop on May 1st or when Raymond Davis shot two men in the streets of Lahore. It is the result of past failures by US policymakers to foresee the inevitable perception among their Pakistani counterparts that the US could not be trusted to support them in their time of need.

Despite these setbacks and the discovery of Osama bin Laden in Abbottabad, today presents a unique opportunity to remedy past mistakes and help Pakistanis stabilize their young democracy. Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari has expressed his determination to reign in Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence spy agency by placing it under civilian control, but as yet has not received the political support necessary to do so.

The discovery of Osama bin Laden on Pakistani territory has resulted in open discussion of a civilian inquiry by both coalition and opposition politicians in spite of insistence by military leaders for an internal review. In order for change to take place, however, the civilian institutions must have the support necessary to stand up to and reform the outsized influence of Pakistan’s military and intelligence agencies. Cutting civilian aid to Pakistan will only reinforce a failed status quo. The US should reaffirm it’s commitment to civilian democracy in Pakistan – the bold projection of a new order.

Speculation, Not Facts, Are Driving Discussion of Pakistani Support

May 11, 2011

The day after Osama bin Laden was killed by US special forces, Washington Post columnist David Ignatius wrote that, “One of the mysteries is whether the Pakistani government knew all along who was hiding in Abbottabad.” Since President Obama addresses the nation about the success of the mission, this question has been a constant in media discussions – Was Pakistan providing support to Osama bin Laden? The question’s persistence, however, is supported by speculation, not facts.

National Security Advisor Tom Donilon was clear last Sunday that there is no evidence of Pakistani support for Osama bin Laden.

“I’ve not seen any evidence – at least to date – that the political, military or intelligence leadership of Pakistan knew about Osama bin Laden at Abbottabad, Pakistan,” Donilon said in an interview aired Sunday on CNN’s “State of the Union.”

An assertion David Ignatius brushes aside as “not quite the same as saying for certain that the Pakistanis didn’t know.” Without any evidence of Pakistani complicity, the Washington Post columnist rhetorically asks the NSA Donilon to prove a negative.

A week later, there is still no evidence of official Pakistani support for bin Laden, but David Ignatius is once again suggesting as much.

And what happens next, as the U.S. begins to exploit the “treasure trove” of information found in bin Laden’s compound? Among other things, that cache may reveal what, if anything, Pakistani officials knew, and when they knew it.

Perhaps it’s no coincidence that Mr. Ignatius’s latest column bears that titillating headline, “The Plot Thickens In Pakistan.” Georgetown University Professor and South Asia Expert Christine Fair says reporting on Pakistan’s role has descended to the muck of tabloid journalism.

First and foremost, all accounts and statements attesting to Pakistan’s official facilitation of bin Laden’s tenure are irresponsibly speculative. The United States had been monitoring the compound since August 2010 and had even erected a CIA house to do so. If there is credible evidence of such facilitation, the U.S. government should say so. In the absence of evidence, conjecture is reckless. I spent last week in Islamabad interviewing journalists working on their stories—several of them outright confessed that they had nothing of substance and were running with sheer conjecture. Some relied upon dubious and tentative accounts from children playing near the house, milkmen and paperboys as well as night watchmen. As one journalist conceded, “the standards go down” in situations like this. Unfortunately, these sloppy articles will form the contemporary and historical understanding of this momentous event. But let’s be clear: this is not reportage; rather, it is the substance of tabloid.

As lawmakers consider US-Pakistan cooperation going forward, it is important that their decisions be informed by facts, not speculation. Suggestions of official Pakistani support for Osama bin Laden threaten to unnecessarily deepen distrust between the US and Pakistan. And that will serve no one’s interests.

Ambassador Cameron Munter on Pakistani TV

May 10, 2011

US Ambassador to Pakistan Cameron Munter appeared on Pakistani TV show, Aaj Kamran Khan Ke Saath, on Monday night to discuss US-Pakistan relations in the wake of the raid that killed Osama bin Laden in Abbottabad last week. The interview, conducted in English, is posted below.

Pakistan’s Democratic Government Under Attack Following US Raid

May 9, 2011

While the US is asking tough questions about how Osama bin Laden was able to live undetected just outside a major military base, it is important to move forward with an eye not only on the past, but the future as well. Pakistan’s President Asif Ali Zardari recently wrote that he is “fighting terrorists for the soul of Pakistan.” Following the US military operation that killed Osama bin Laden, that fight has intensified, and pro-democracy forces in Pakistan are under assault from all sides.

In Sunday’s Washington Post, Senior Fellow at the Brookings Institution, Bruce Riedel, wrote that the greatest threat to the fight against global terrorism is Pakistan falling into the hands of extremists.

Bin laden and his likely successor, Ayman al-Zawahiri, increasingly believed that Pakistan is their best chance at a global game-changer: a coup that delivers to the global jihad the world’s sixth-most-populous country with the bomb.

And judging by recent events in Pakistan, that may be exactly what the militant groups are attempting to do. Using a strategy honed in Iraq, extremist militant groups in Pakistan are launching sectarian attacks that divide the people while fan the flames of violence and extremism.

A deadly pattern is emerging: the terrorists are going ahead full-throttle in a murderous rampage against Pakistan’s minority sects and demonstrating their disturbing willingness to make the daily lives of the people of Quetta, and beyond, a pawn in their armed agenda.

May 4 2011 Anti-Government CartoonUnfortunately, it’s not only extremist militants who are jumping on the opportunity to divide and conquer a confused and frustrated public. Some opposition politicians have launched attacks on the civilian government for allegedly failing to secure Pakistan’s sovereignty. The News, an English-language daily owned by the same company that the Washington Post compared to “a political opposition group”, has published a series of articles and cartoons criticizing the civilian government, despite the fact that Osama bin Laden was found living next door to the nation’s largest military academy.

In addition to Pakistan’s activist media, some opposition leaders are also using the situation to advance their own ambitions. Opposition leader Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan, whose Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz faction) has been accused of funding the very militant groups the government is trying to crack down on, has called on President Zardari and Prime Minister Gilani to resign. This call for civilian resignations has also been picked up by former government minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi who said the government should have a “no foreign boots on our land” policy, despite the fact that as Foreign Minister until earlier this year, Qureshi would have overseen the increased cooperation between US and Pakistani military and intelligence that led to last week’s raid.

Karin Brulliard, writing in The Washington Post, says these calls for civilian resignations likely reflect an attempt to divert attention from the nation’s powerful military and intelligence agencies noting that Shah Mehmood Qureshi in particular “is viewed as close to the Pakistani military, and his demand was widely though to reflect that institution’s thinking.”

While this might be the thinking of the military establishment, pro-democracy forces within the civilian government are

Appearing on This Week, Pakistan’s Ambassador to the US, Husain Haqqani, told Christiane Amanpour that Pakistan’s government will conduct a full investigation into how Osama bin Laden was able to enter and stay in Pakistan undetected.

“Heads will roll once the investigation has been completed,” Haqqani said. “Now if those heads are rolled on account of incompetence, we will share that information with you, and if, God forbid, somebody’s complicity is discovered, there will be zero tolerance for that as well.”

Later on the same show, former Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Liz Cheney said that “we cannot afford to walk away. We walked away once at the end of the 1980s and we saw what happened…It’s very important that we deal with this relationship in a very well advised way going forward and we not jump to the conclusion that we’ve got to walk away.”

Past strategies of attempting to isolate Pakistan have weakened the civilian government and pro-democracy forces in the country, allowing extremist groups to move in and gain influence. It is no coincidence that these militant groups turned their sites on the Pakistani state following the election of the present pro-democracy government in 2008. This same government The US should not repeat past mistakes of walking away from Pakistan in a time of crisis, but should

Bruce Riedel identifies the way to prevent Pakistan from falling into the hands of al Qaeda and its affiliates: Supporting the pro-democracy forces in Pakistan’s civilian government.

It is easy to get angry with Pakistan, but that’s not a strategy. We need a healthy Pakistan that fights terrorism. That means helping democratic forces, such as President Asif Ali Zardari, despite their shortcomings.

Advice decision makers in Washington would do well to heed.

US, UK Leaders Call For Greater Support For Democratic Forces In Pakistan

May 4, 2011

 

Speaker Boehner

US and UK leaders are calling on their respective governments to expand engagement with Pakistan following the successful US mission against Osama bin Laden earlier this week. While media reports continue to create confusion about Pakistan’s role in the operation, top leaders are warning against rash decisions and calling for greater support for pro-democracy forces.

The Wall Street Journal reports today that Pakistan has been a crucial partner in the fight against terrorism, and that statements by Pakistani officials expressing concern about the US operation are intended to address domestic public opinion that is largely suspicious of American motives.

“Pakistan is a partner—a key partner—in the fight against al Qaeda and terrorism,” White House press secretary Jay Carney told reporters. “They have been extremely helpful, and we look forward to cooperating in the future”

In private, a number of senior U.S. officials urged caution in casting blame on Pakistan’s government or President Asif Ali Zardari. “If multiple people at any level [knew], I think we would have found out by virtue of the amount of information gathering we do” in Pakistan, a senior U.S. official said. He suggested officials are going back to review their intelligence and see if they missed any signs.

In a joint statement Tuesday afternoon, U.S. and Pakistani militaries said the raid “underscores the importance of cooperation” in antiterrorism efforts. “Both sides affirmed their mutual commitment to their strong defense relations,” the statement said.

Pakistan’s rebuke of the raid appeared aimed at quieting mounting discontent among middle-class Pakistanis, many of whom are virulently anti-American, for what they have seen as a violation of Pakistan’s sovereign space.

Speaker Boehner expressed to reporters the importance of expanding cooperation with Pakistan.

Brushing aside much of the criticism heaped on the Pakistanis after the killing of Osama bin Laden, Boehner said Pakistan was a critical ally.

“We both benefit from having a strong bilateral relationship. This is not a time to back away from Pakistan,” Boehner said. “We need more engagement, not less.”

Speaker Boehner’s sentiments were also expressed by Britain’s Prime Minister David Cameron on Tuesday.

“Pakistan’s political leadership…are staunch in the fight against extremism and terror, and they’ve done huge amounts in their own country to try and combat it.

“Pakistan has suffered more at the hands of terrorism than virtually any other country on Earth.

“It’s in our interests to back those democratic forces within Pakistan, and the stronger that democracy can be the more the whole country will work together to deal with terrorism.”

Pakistani Foreign Secretary Salman Bashir revealed that Pakistan alerted the US to suspicions about the compound in Abbotabad in 2009. Osama bin Laden is believed to have been hiding there for several years before then, but that was under military dictator Gen. Pervez Musharraf. It was not until the present government came to power that the compound was brought to the attention of the US.

As American and British leaders have clearly stated, now is the time to increase engagement with Pakistan, not turn it away. By strengthening democratic forces within Pakistan’s government and security services, the US can help provide the political space Pakistan needs to disentangle itself from the web of militant sympathizers that spread under the supervision of past dictators, protecting American and Pakistan’s shared interest in a safe, secure, and terror free world.

Bin Laden Operation Underscores Need to Support Pakistani Democracy

May 3, 2011

The death of Osama bin Laden during a US special forces operation on Sunday night brought a sense of closure to many people the word over. Though all agree that the struggle against bin Laden’s brand of violent extremism will continue after his death, grassroots movements across the Arab world have demonstrated that it is through peaceful democratic organizing and not terrorist violence that dictators will be unseated and justice spread. The US should support pro-democracy movements across the world, especially in Pakistan where a fragile democratic government is under imminent threat from extremist militants.

Details of the operation that eliminated bin Laden are trickling out slowly, and there seems to be much confusion about Pakistan’s role in tracking and killing the al Qaeda leader. Recent statements from Pakistan’s government say that they had no role in the operation, but this claim strikes many analysts as unlikely.

It is even less likely that, as U.S. counterterrorism czar John Brennan claimed in a press conference today, Pakistani authorities did not know about the military operation that killed bin Laden until it was over. Abbottabad’s Bilal Town neighborhood where bin Laden lived and died was virtually around the corner from the Pakistan Military Academy at Kakul — Pakistan’s West Point, where future General Kayanis and General Pashas are learning to be officers. It doesn’t take 40 minutes to start to scramble planes, or get troops to Abbottabad, and there is no getting into the town by land or air without the expressed consent of Pakistan’s security establishment. This may not have been an official joint operation, but it was almost certainly a collective effort.

The Wall Street Journal reported today that much of the contradictory information coming out of Pakistan may be intended to quell public concerns in a country where a sensationalist media has stoked deep suspicions of American operations, and the Raymond Davis fiasco is still fresh in the public memory, a position reiterated by Karen Brulliart and Debbi Wilgoren in today’s Washington Post.

In comments that seemed directed toward the Pakistani public, much of which disapproves of any type of cooperation with the United States, Pakistan “categorically” denied local media reports that it was given notice about the raid and its air bases had been used.

While public opinion in Pakistan may be suspicious of US motives, Pakistan’s President, Asif Ali Zardari, has been a staunch defender of democracy. Echoing the sentiments of his late wife, Benazir Bhutto, President Zardari wrote in the Washington Post today that democracy is the best weapon against terrorism.

My government endorses the words of President Obama and appreciates the credit he gave us Sunday night for the successful operation in Khyber Pakhtunkhawa. We also applaud and endorse the words of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton that we must “press forward, bolstering our partnerships, strengthening our networks, investing in a positive vision of peace and progress, and relentlessly pursuing the murderers who target innocent people.” We have not yet won this war, but we now clearly can see the beginning of the end, and the kind of South and Central Asia that lies in our future.

A freely elected democratic government, with the support and mandate of the people, working with democracies all over the world, is determined to build a viable, economic prosperous Pakistan that is a model to the entire Islamic world on what can be accomplished in giving hope to our people and opportunity to our children. We can become everything that al-Qaeda and the Taliban most fear — a vision of a modern Islamic future. Our people, our government, our military, our intelligence agencies are very much united. Some abroad insist that this is not the case, but they are wrong. Pakistanis are united.

Perhaps it is due to the sincerity of President Zardari’s convictions that President Obama spoke of US-Pakistan cooperation as an essential component in the fight against terrorism during his historic address to the nation on Sunday night.

But it’s important to note that our counterterrorism cooperation with Pakistan helped lead us to bin Laden and the compound where he was hiding. Indeed, bin Laden had declared war against Pakistan as well, and ordered attacks against the Pakistani people.

Tonight, I called President Zardari, and my team has also spoken with their Pakistani counterparts. They agree that this is a good and historic day for both of our nations. And going forward, it is essential that Pakistan continue to join us in the fight against al Qaeda and its affiliates.

That’s also why suggestions that Congress may cut aid to Pakistan are self-defeating. Indiscriminate and unaccountable aid such as was practiced during the Reagan and George W. Bush administrations can lead to unintended consequences. But so can severing ties, such as occurred under President George H.W. Bush. Cutting assistance to Pakistan would jeopardize existing intelligence and security collaboration when we should be working to strengthen pro-democracy leaders and institutions in Pakistan.

Osama bin Laden was not discovered overnight. It took years of intelligence sharing and coordination between the US and Pakistan, and White House officials made clear that Pakistan’s help was integral to the success of the mission. What has gone too long unsaid, however, is that it took the election of a democratic government to reach the level of cooperation necessary to discover and eliminate the world’s most notorious terrorist. But the struggle to define Pakistan’s future continues. Militant leader Hafiz Saeed has publicly prayed for Osama bin Laden, while the Pakistani Taliban has declared war on the Pakistani state. This is a defining moment for Pakistan that underscores the vital importance of supporting Pakistan’s democratic movement.