Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Documentary on Benazir receives top American award

Daily Times
An inspiring documentary on the life and mission of former prime minister Benazir Bhutto on Monday received the Peabody Award, the most coveted prize in electronic media, at a glittering presentation ceremony held for 38 recipients in various categories. PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari was in attendance at the two-hour ceremony, and was recognised by Patrick Stewart of Star Track fame, who was presenting the awards. Bilawal’s aunt, Sanam Bhutto, was also present. ‘Bhutto’ – an 111-minute documentary about the two-time prime minister – gives a strong sense of her endearing personality and courage, mixed with single-minded devotion to promote democracy and human rights. The film’s directors, Duane Baughman and Mark Siegel, received the awards before a large and distinguished gathering at the Grand Ball Room of Waldorf Astoria Hotel. “I was happy that the documentary on Shaheed BB got a prestigious award,” Bilawal said in an interview with APP. He said the film recognised Benazir’s sacrifices for the cause of democracy and the hard work she had put in for the welfare of Pakistani people. “It is an absolute honour to have been recognised with an award as widely respected as the Peabody is,” said Baughman, director and producer of the multi-award winning film. “Benazir Bhutto’s story is an inspiring, heroic, and barrier-shattering for women across continents, religions, and ethnicities. I am humbled to have been able to share her legacy with the West, the world and women everywhere.” Siegel, the co-director, also paid tributes to Bhutto’s work in promoting democracy and rebuilding the country. “Jeeay Bhutto,” he shouted as he left the stage. “The range of the Peabody Awards’ search for excellence has never been wider or deeper than this year,” said Horace Newcomb, director of the Peabody Awards. Newcomb described ‘Bhutto’ as a documentary where “Benazir Bhutto’s life story unfolded like an epic novel, with a fairy tale beginning, a martyr’s death and years of social awakening and political courage in between”. Bilawal arrived in New York on Sunday for an eight-day visit to the United States during which he will meet American lawmakers, senior officials and media organisations, and address a number of think tanks. PPP officials said he would try to explain Pakistan’s position on various issues, remove misperceptions and create a favourable environment for improving US-Pakistan relations.

Zardari, Karzai agree to extend transit trade to Central Asia

Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari and his Afghan counterpart Hamid Karzai has agreed to extend the transit trade agreement between the two countries to the Central Asia Republics. “Once the decision has been taken, modalities for extending the transit trade to Central Asia will be worked out by the officials from two sides,” the Pak President’s spokesperson, Farhatullah Babar, said after the meeting held in Chicago on the sidelines of the NATO Summit yesterday.During the meeting that lasted for nearly 45 minutes, Zardari also emphasised on long term regional economic engagement and stressed that projects like Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) gas pipeline, CASA-1000, Reconstruction Opportunity Zones (RoZs) and rail and road connectivity could change the destiny of the region, calling also for concerted efforts to implement these projects. Zardari said that Pakistan would support every effort for peace and reconciliation in Afghanistan including the Qatar process as long as they were acceptable to Afghans, Babar said. Noting that peace and stability in Afghanistan is a central concern of Pakistan, Zardari reiterated that the Pakistani territory shall not be used for any kind of attacks on any other country. Pakistan Parliament had also recently reiterated this principle and also declared that all foreign fighters shall be expelled from its soil, the spokesperson noted. Farhatullah Babar said that the post 2008 period has been marked by frequent Pak-Afghan meetings at the leadership level. Karzai visited Pakistan to participate in the Afghanistan-Iran-Pakistan trilateral summit February 2012 during which he held bilateral meeting with both Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gillani and Zardari.

Pakistan and the U.S.: A new beginning?

By Sherry Rehman
The NATO summit in Chicago will focus on the endgame in Afghanistan on the heels of U.S. House debate on bills that will shape the nature of the U.S.-Pakistan relationship. The tone of this debate and the diplomacy of the Obama administration will send a clear signal to the 180 million people of Pakistan as to whether the world's oldest democracy will stand with one of the world's newest democracies to defeat terrorism and extremism for a politically stable and economically viable South Asia. Many are pessimistic. However, a series of confidence-building measures could recast our bilateral relationship. If the war against extremism is to succeed, the war of words between democratic allies must end. The U.S. and Pakistan have had a rocky year. The unilateral raid on Abbottabad, the Raymond Davis CIA provocation, the U.S.-led NATO air assault in Salalah that tragically killed 24 Pakistani soldiers and the continuing unauthorized drone attacks on Pakistani soil have frayed our 60-year special relationship. We can dwell on the things that have separated us or work toward rebuilding the relationship. Pakistan has taken the first step to restoring normalcy to U.S.-Pakistan relations by working to reopen the NATO supply routes that were closed after the Salalah tragedy. Significant progress could be made toward resetting the relationship between our countries if the U.S. were to: •Finally apologize for the battlefield deaths at Salalah. •Reimburse the Coalition Support Funds — U.S. repayments to Pakistan for the cost of battling terrorism — owed to Pakistan, a very small part of the $78 billion that Pakistan has lost on account of the war against extremism since 2001. •Increase the sharing of counterterrorism intelligence to assist our military in combating extremism. •Cease the controversial drone operations that violate our sovereignty and the norms of international law. •Shift to a policy of trade not aid by providing enhanced access to U.S. markets for Pakistan's exports. These game-changing steps would serve as a deathblow to extremist expansion in the region. As the U.S. prepares to exit from South and Central Asia — again — in 2014, those of us who live and will remain in the region have a legitimate interest in a stable and responsible security transition in Afghanistan. Pakistan has paid an enormous price in our battle against al-Qaida, with more than 37,000 civilians and nearly 6,300 security forces killed. Former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto gave her life fighting this scourge. Given this level of clear commitment, coupled with sacrifice, it is unseemly for our resolve against terrorism to be questioned by the West. The 46 nations fighting in Afghanistan represent countries with an aggregate gross domestic product of more than $365 trillion, and an aggregate military force of nearly 22 million troops. When this unprecedented coalition cannot contain the terrorists on the Afghan side of the border, it is naive to assume that Pakistan alone can completely eliminate terrorist activity on our side of the border. We have 140,000 troops in daily combat against the militants in FATA, Pakistan's Federally Administered Tribal Areas, and Waziristan. We are hardly passive allies in our existential battle against militancy. America may not be aware that our successful (and costly) effort to clear thousands of terrorists from Swat, Bajaur and Mohmand has been undermined by militants who now find sanctuary in eastern Afghanistan from which they continuously attack our civilians and our soldiers. Despite the enormous efforts taken and huge casualties suffered, Pakistan's efforts are in vain if NATO cannot provide the anvil to Pakistan's hammer. The threat to Pakistan is real and constant. The daily attacks shatter lives on a level we could never have imagined before 2001. Each military offensive launched in our tribal areas results in immediate attacks on our schools, hospitals, markets and religious shrines across our nation. Yet we are resilient. We continue the fight. My embassy updates the U.S. Congress on a weekly basis of the toll this fight has taken on the men, women and children of our country — a staggering 43,726 confirmed dead. Just last week an additional 34 Pakistani civilians and 18 security personnel were killed in my country as we fight this war. This is our reality. While some may question our commitment and ask whether we are doing enough, the truth is that Pakistan — our government, civilians and our soldiers — want a swift victory over terror more than anyone. Our existence depends on it. In order to succeed, America and Pakistan must forge a new beginning together, starting today.
Sherry Rehman is Pakistan's ambassador to the United States.

NATO summit: ‘President’s articulation of Pakistan position led to clarity’

Daily Times
Presidential spokesman Farhatullah Babar said the impression that Pakistan was going to announce restoration of NATO supply routes during the Chicago summit as a condition for the country’s attendance had been proven wrong. Babar was briefing journalists along with Ambassador Sherry Rehman at the conclusion of the two-day summit, attended by President Asif Ali Zardari and Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar. The spokesman noted that President Asif Ali Zardari’s articulation of Pakistan’s position on restoration of ground lines of communication and other issues has led to clarity and understanding of Islamabad’s perspective. In his interactions, President Zardari made it clear that the Salala incident on November 26, 2011, which resulted in deaths of 24 Pakistani soldiers, forced upon Islamabad a review of the relationship. The president also stated that parliament has issued guidelines for the bilateral relationship and that Islamabad is bound to follow those guidelines. “This impression has been wrong, there is now greater clarity on both sides whether it was meeting with Secretary Hillary Clinton or speech at the NATO-ISAF meeting or a brief encounter with US President Barack Obama, all these have resulted in greater clarity and understanding of the Pakistani position,” Babar said. He explained his point that clarity means recognition by President Obama that the two sides need to work through issues. “If President Obama says we need to work through tensions and President Zardari says we are bound to follow parliamentary guidelines, it is clarity.” Pakistan, he said, has created space for diplomacy. About conditions for resumption of NATO supply routes, Babar said the most important thing is that there is mutual trust and respect. He also briefed the media about President Zardari’s meetings with his Turkish counterpart Abullah Gul and UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon. Sherry Rehman said the democratic government has been dealing with issues unambiguously and transparently. Pakistan, she said, clearly has concerns. “We cannot gloss over differences – we are dealing with issues without compromising Pakistan’s strategic concerns, we are following parliamentary guidelines – we are looking for an apology.” She said that Pakistan and the United States are trying to work through their differences. “Pakistan’s national interest cannot be traded for positive feedback at conferences,” she said in answer to a suggestion that Pakistan’s gestures could have won it international appreciation. “No country is trading their interests. Pakistan, the US and NATO are all searching for common ground.” She said Pakistan has been very clear about its sovereignty