What does Pakistan want from U.S. envoy Holbrooke ?

January 30, 2009

Former Pakistan ambassador to London and Washington Maleeha
Lodhi has given a taste of what Richard Holbrooke can expect when
he makes his maiden visit to Islamabad next week in his new role as
President Barack Obama’s special envoy to Pakistan and
Afghanistan.

She may have owed her diplomatic career to General Pervez Musharraf,  but being an ex-official does not mean she has lost touch.

Writing in The News, the paper she used to edit, Lodhi listed an eight-point agenda for Pakistan as it braces for Holbrooke, a diplomat with a reputation for playing hardball.

Lines have to be drawn to make the United States respect Pakistani sovereignty and understand the limits of cooperation, Lodhi writes in an opinion piece titled “Back to the Future”.

Here’s the Pakistani agenda as she sees it :
1. U.S. missile attacks on Pakistani territory should end.
2. Assistance under the Biden-Luger bill should be offered
with no strings attached.
3. Give Pakistan helicopters, night vision, radar to fight a counter-insurgency, it doesn’t need conventional arms from America.
4. Give Pakistan a break in trade agreements. The all- important textile industry needs a lifeline.
5. Make India part of the equation for stabilising Kashmir, by recognising Pakistan’s security concerns on its eastern border.
6. The United States should reshape its Afghan policy to take into account Pakistan’s security concerns, otherwise no strategy will work.
7. Pakistan must also tell the United States that sending more troops to Afghanistan without a change in strategy will backfire.
8. Policies to stabilise Afghanistan should not end up destabilising Pakistan. The Taliban should be prised away from al Qaeda, and a reconciliation process with the Taliban begun.

President Asif Ali Zardari in an op-ed piece for the Washington Post also covered some of that ground, urging the new U.S. administration to boost both military and non-military aid to help Pakistan fight extremists. “Give us the tools and we will get the job done,” he wrote.

And he made clear too he expected Holbrooke to work with both Pakistan and India on the issue of Kashmir, although as special envoy for Afghanistan and Pakistan, India was technically not part of his remit.

 ”Much as the Palestine issue remains the core obstacle to peace in the Middle East, the question of Kashmir must be addressed in some meaningful way to bring stability to the region,” Zardari said.

Reasonable expectations of a sovereign nation ? Or is the time for expectations over ?

[Pics of Richard Holbrooke and a protest in Karachi against U.S. missile strikes in the northwest]

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