Former President Asif Ali Zardari worries about dangerous turn of events in Middle East

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Tehran December 9, 2014: Former President Asif Ali Zardari has said that he was worried about the dangerous turn of events in the Middle East, North Africa and Euro Asia because Pakistan had suffered grievously from the sustained blowback of terrorism and extremism and urged the countries involved to take a leaf from history as the best compass to navigate path in these dark times.
He said this while addressing a conference on militancy in Tehran today. The conference was organized by Institute of Political and International Studies. Iranian President Hassan Rouhani presided over the conference.
State fragility in the heart of the Middle East caused by non state actors from different parts of the world including the west was a huge challenge causing sleepless nights in many big capitals of the world, he said.
He recalled that as President he resisted global attempts to rush into wars in the Middle East because any support to the rebel groups would trigger state meltdowns and dangerous security vacuums. He said that Pakistan did not vote with its non-Nato allies at the United Nations for intervening in Syria mainly because he had seen what chaos such choice had brought in the past.
I did not want Pakistan standing on the wrong side of history again, he said.
Thirty years ago when a great game was being played between super powers in our region the international community and short sighted policies joined hands to breath oxygen into the monster of terrorism and extremism, he said adding ‘that conflict spilled over our borders to reap a long harvest of violence with an unending tailwind’.
Pakistan and the neighborhood today still suffers the aftershocks of that encounter where we were left to host one of the world’s largest concentration of refugees and a conflict economy of narcotics, Kalashnikovs, and extremist mindsets.
Our border areas became the refuge of militants on the run and made this area for over a decade the nursery of international terrorism.
Terrorism and extremism is the core challenge facing the current millennium and warned against sectarian conflict brewing in the Islamic world.
Explaining the nature of this new monster he quoted from a speech of Shaheed Benazir Bhuto in which warning against it she had said, This is the one where bigots feel that Sunnis must kill Shias and Shias must kill Sunnis, and that both must kill Hindus, Jews and Christians.”
Let us be candid today he told the audience pleading also ‘there is no point blaming one another, or pointing fingers’ and called for “long-term solutions, not band-aids”.
He said that while big powers could afford to walk away from the mess the countries in the region had no such luxury. “We have to make big-ticket changes in policy and course correction”,
The former President said that course corrections don’t come without a price-tag of blood and treasure and recounted the price Pakistan had paid in fighting this battle since the last five years.
He said that today Pakistan’s efforts to battle extremism, sectarianism and terrorism with renewed determination and vigor are evident to all and expressed the hope that the world will no longer accuse Pakistan of using militants for advancing its security and foreign policy agendas in the region.
“I am encouraged that Pakistan’s determination to stand as a bulwark against terrorism is also reflected in the new Afghan President’s declaration that he wishes to forget the past and start afresh”.
Sustainable peace in Pakistan is not really possible without an Afghanistan that is politically stable, he said and added that consistent outreach and signaling of backing no political favorites and non-interference in Afghanistan will bear some strategic dividends.
With India too with whom we share borders, climate risks, culture and communities our policy of moving past coercive diplomacy is important.
He said that Pakistan is looking to invest in peace in the region, but it will not respond well to conditions messaged at us across the working boundary or the media. Hard postures are not the way forward for mature countries.
He said that there are no military solutions to any inter-state conflicts in South Asia or even the world because the enemy has mutated to a new kind of monster. It recruits lost souls and preys on the fearful and misled for its violent march of death and plunder.
He called upon the regional leaders to wake up to the reality that widespread poverty, displacements and food and water insecurity are the new common enemy to save the planet from new nightmares.
Durable peace demands that the legitimate aspirations of the people are accommodated peacefully consistent with sovereignty, unity and territorial integrity without foreign interference, the former President said.
Some hard choices have to be made he said adding “peace in this region will continue to elude us until the legitimate aspirations of the people of Palestine and Kashmir were met”.
Regions will have to work as connected blocs not just by the micro-chip but by their infrastructure resources and markets.
Hydel-power diplomacy the politics of pipelines regional connectivity all these will come to little if we are not as leaders able to understand and connect to each other. The more we communicate and cooperate the more we can share responsibilities as well as positive outcomes.
TAPI CASA and IPI pipelines are the kind of motors we need for growth for the provision of jobs in a marketplace where extremism thrives in the soil of multiple deprivations.
He said that he supported Iran’s peaceful use of nuclear energy as it is essential for the survival and development of countries that host large populations and expressed the hope that Iran find pathways that accommodate both national and global compulsions.
Later former President Asif Ali Zardari called on President Hassan Rouhani and discussed bilateral, regional and international issues.

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