Pakistan's contribution to regional peace and stability Pagine

01/02/2013, Rome

Speaking at a meeting in Rome organized by the Istituto Affari Internazionali (IAI) on 1st February 2013, Pakistan’s Foreign Minister, Hina Rabbani Khar, called for a reassessment of Pakistan’s regional role and a “change of mind-set” in the ways international media portray her country.

The meeting focused on Pakistan’s efforts to advance peace and stability in Asia, and Pakistan’s top diplomat, Rabbani Khar, the first woman to head Pakistan’s foreign ministry, discussed the achievements and challenges confronting the government of Asif Ali Zardari since it took office in 2008, following the murder of Pakistan’s Prime Minister, Benazir Bhutto.

The meeting was introduced and moderated by Stefano Silvestri, President of IAI, and took place following the Minister’s talks with Italian government officials and a hearing at the residence of Italy’s Head of State. During the event, Rabbani Khar voiced her concern that Pakistan is often misinterpreted or misunderstood by governments and the media, which underestimate the role and sacrifices her country has endured over the past years as well as Pakistan’s potential to be an important economic and strategic partner for the West.

Pakistan is an important trading partner of the European Union, which absorbs 21.2% of all Pakistani exports. Between 2007 and 2011 commerce has increased and today, Italy is Pakistan’s third largest trading partner in Europe, and the two countries also enjoy close cooperation in political, economic and cultural matters. It must also be remembered that Italy is home to a large and important Pakistani community, now in its second generation.

Since the election of President Ali Zardari in 2008, which took place following the resignation of General Pervez Musharraf who took power in a 1999 military coup, Pakistan has embarked on a process of democratization which, in Rabbani Khar’s words, is destined to continue. At the international level, an example of this process is the governments’ effort to normalize relations, not only in the economic sphere, with neighbouring India and to diminish tensions in Kashmir (where sovereignty is claimed by Pakistan, India and China).

Another objective of the Pakistani government is to facilitate reconciliation efforts and the stabilization of Afghanistan, whose stability – Rabbani Khar affirmed – is first and foremost in Pakistan’s own interest, given that the country has suffered more than most from the Afghan conflict. Refugees have been and remain a major problem facing Pakistan, not to mention the threat of terrorist infiltration. Since 2001, Pakistan has witnessed more than 300 suicide attacks on its soil.

The challenges facing Pakistan are numerous. Major unresolved issues remain pertaining to endemic corruption, a shady political process, a weak and divided judiciary and the still significant influence held by generals and the heads of the intelligence services – a legacy of more than sixty years of dictatorship – as well as the presence of numerous extremist jihadi groups. According to the minister, a strong and sustained commitment by her government, combined with important international support, will be necessary to ensure that Pakistan continues down the path of democratization.

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