Thursday, September 21, 2006

US: Pakistani Pact 'Positive or Neutral'

Last Thursday, Richard Boucher, Assistant Secretary of State of the Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs, gave a speech at the Johns Hopkins Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS) on the "U.S. Foreign Policy Toward South Asia," and also answered some questions from the audience.

Although Boucher's speech attracted some small media attention, Anwar Iqbal at appears to be the only reporter to take note of the explicit endorsement of Pakistan's peace deal with pro-Taliban militants in Waziristan (hat tip to Daveed Gartenstein-Ross at the Counterterrorism Blog for the link).

Boucher praised the effort to such an extent, that he could only foresee Pakistan's arrangement as a "positive" or "neutral" one.

Excerpts from a partial trancript I made of Boucher's comments on Pakistan from audio at the SAIS website:

What effect does the Pakistani pact with villagers gonna have with local tribes in tribal areas? We hope a positive one. We think the overall effort is a good one.

This part of Pakistan along the border - the tribal areas - has been governed under special arrangement way back into the British times, and those arrangements were sort of translated across the departure of the British into the new modern Pakistan. And they - the govenments have agents that operate in these areas but mostly leaves local law in the hands of the tribal groups, and they have to assert authority.

And so rather than have the government challenge them for authority, the government worked out an arrangement, an agreement with the local tribal leaders that they will support development. They will allow this local authority to exist as long as this local authority is used to good ends to develop the area and bring peace to the area, and that there should be no Taliban operating across the border there. There should be no Al Qaeda presence there. There should be no Talibanization of other areas outside.

And so on those conditions the government concluded an arrangement with the local leaders. Now can they make those provisions effective is gonna depend on - determine if it's a positive thing or a neutral one. I think it's a positive step in the direction proceeding which is to develop a political understanding there to bring the benefits of economic development to these regions and we're working with them on that...

(More to come, I haven't finished the partial transcript yet)

Although, the event was open to the public, and members of the media were invited to cover the speech, Boucher refused to take a question from a reporter with UPI, saying that he was "happy" to see the press there, but was only there to talk to the students and not hold a press conference.


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