To the Editor:
It is ironic that Bruce Riedel is skeptical of Pakistan's role in the war on terrorism and ignores the vital role Pakistan's armed forces are playing in this war. Terrorism is a global scourge that affects Pakistan as well. The president and the prime minister of Pakistan were targets of the terrorists. In May, our interior minister narrowly escaped a suicide bombing in which 28 people lost their lives.
It is incorrect to suggest that Osama bin Laden or the Taliban leadership is based in Pakistan. We would be glad to take them out on the basis of actionable intelligence. We enjoy excellent intelligence-sharing cooperation with the United States, NATO-led forces, and Afghanistan. We have not and will not falter in our resolve to exterminate terrorism from the region.
Over 80,000 Pakistani troops are currently fighting terrorists in the desolate mountains in the country's northwest and manning 1,100 posts all along the Afghan-Pakistani border. We have deployed twice as many troops and suffered three times as many casualties as the NATO force in Afghanistan.
With regard to the domestic situation, there should also be no doubt that Pakistan will hold free, fair, and transparent parliamentary elections by the end of this year. All political parties will be allowed to participate in the general elections, and international observers will be invited to monitor the whole process. It will be the first time in the history of Pakistan that a parliament will have served out a full five-year term. In that time, the present government has introduced democracy at the grass-roots level. Tolerance of fierce opposition and freedom of the press have been ensured all along. Women and minorities have been given due representation in parliament, provincial legislatures, and local government assemblies, and laws have been passed that guarantee women and minorities fair treatment. The reform process will take time, but Pakistan is on the right track toward a tolerant, progressive, and democratic future.
Finally, it is important for the international community to recognize that the ultimate battle in this war against terrorism will be fought in the hearts and minds of the people. Besides addressing root causes that inspire some to desperate acts of violence, we have to address universal issues of ignorance, poverty, and disease to defeat the forces of extremism. Pakistan is committed to playing its part in this struggle.
Nadeem Haider Kiani