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Pakistan's Way Forward

U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs Richard Boucher said the United States wants to work with the leaders of Pakistan on issues confronting the Pakistani people, including economic development, energy security, and the threat posed by violent extremists.

At a press conference in Islamabad, July 2nd, Assistant Secretary Boucher welcomed Pakistan’s transition to democracy, a goal the U.S. has worked hard to support. “We are working very hard with the leaders of Pakistan now to try to stabilize the democracy, to build the institutions that can help maintain and guarantee democracy over the longer term,” he said. Noting that President George Bush has met with Pakistan’s Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani, and looks forward to their next meeting, Mr. Boucher said the U.S. position is clear: “Our commitment is to Pakistan as a nation, Pakistan as a democracy, and Pakistanis as people who deserve a chance to live in freedom and safety and prosperity.”

Al-Qaida terrorists and local violent extremists continue to pose a serious threat to Pakistan, Afghanistan, and the world, said Assistant Secretary Boucher. “Ordinary Pakistanis have suffered from bombings that are al-Qaida and Taliban-sponsored,” he said. Pakistan, he noted, lost a great national leader, Benazir Bhutto, to a terrorist bombing in December.

Dealing with al-Qaida and Taliban terrorists will mean securing Pakistan’s tribal areas. “We can deal with a lot of problems by helping stabilize the area politically, build it up economically, and give young people different opportunities,” said Mr. Boucher. But security for the tribal areas will also mean fighting the hard-core, violent extremists who are hiding in these areas, he said. The U.S., said Mr. Boucher, supports working with the tribes to ensure that they can become responsible for their own security. “We don’t support releasing terrorists into the wild so they can strike again.”

Assistant Secretary Boucher said the U.S. wants to contribute to Pakistan’s efforts to deal with the problems “of terrorism, of food, of energy, problems that really affect the Pakistani people.”