Press Release No.21/2009

Permanent Mission of Pakistan to the United Nations, New York

Swat peace deal not a paradigm shift

New York, February 18, 2009; Pakistan's Ambassador to the United Nations, Abdullah Hussain Haroon has said that the agreement reached between the Tehrik-e-Nifaz-e-Shariat-e-Mohammadi and the provincial government of the North Western Frontier Province can in no way be construed as a paradigm shift in the policy of the Government of Pakistan to fight terrorism.

He made that statement while addressing a distinguished audience, comprising the faculty and students of New York University , academicians, intellectuals and representatives of the media at a forum on “ Global Leaders : Conversation with Alon Ben-Meir”.

Ambassador Haroon said that President Asif Ali Zardari has clearly stated that he will not sign what is called the 'Nizam-i-Adl' regulation between the NWFP government and the Islamic group unless peace is restored in the Swat valley.

Explaining the background of the movement launched by the Tehrik-e-Nifaz-e-Shariat-e-Mohammadi (TNSM), the Ambassador told the audience that the government of prime ministers Nawaz Sharif and Mohtarma Shaheed Benazir Bhutto as well as former President Gen. Pervez Musharraf had accepted the demand of the people of area to enforce Shariat(Justice Regulations) in the region.

Enforcement of Shariah was within the framework of Pakistan 's constitution and does not contradict its provisions, the ambassador added.

Ambassador Haroon dispelled the impression that Shariah was in any way synonymous with terrorism. Shariah is the basic law that applies to all Muslims and is firmly enshrined in the Constitution.Terrorists, he said, had misused Islam, adding that the religion does not permit suicide bombings whereas terrorist condone it. “Does that become Shariah? no it does not.”

Analyzing the prevailing situation along the Pak-Afghan border, Ambassador Haroon said by abandoning of Afghanistan after the defeat of the Soviet Union, the United States had created a vacumn,swaying the erstwhile anti Soviet fighters into Taliban. The Taliban propogated that they had provided their order,education,employment and justice.

In response to a question, Ambassador Haroon said, he believed that the situation along the Pak-Afghan border can be tackled through a mechanism of Joint Command on each side. This, he said would lead to better and effective coordination and help seal the porous border.

To a question regarding relations with Afghanistan , Ambassador Haroon said that the democratically elected government of Pakistan has good relations with Afghanistan . This, he said shall help in better understanding and pooling of resources for a concerted effort to fight the scourge of terrorism.

The Taliban, Ambassador Haroon, said were armed with the finest arms and what Pakistan needs is sophisticated weapons, state of the art communications system and financial help for the economic uplift of the people living In Tribal Areas . Fighting terrorism is a challenge and Paksitan is commited to fight it, he said.

Dialating on the Pak-US relations he said that historically Pakistan had close relations with the United States . Pakistan was a member of SEATO and CENTO and enjoyed close economic and political relations.Pakistan played a critical role in bringing China close to US which had a positive impact on international relations. The people of Pakistan , however, were a bit disappointed when "despite our allied status, the US did not give the support we thought was our due".

Islam he said was spread in the Indo-Pak subcontinent by the Sufis and saints who converted the locals with the message of peace and harmony. Most of the area that is Pakistan today is a cradle of the Indus Valley Civilization. If you study Moenjodaro and Harrappa, there was not a single weapon which is a testimony of the peace loving nature of the people living in this area. Talking about the people of Pakistan and its land Ambassador Haroon said that the overwhelming population are moderate and peaceloving.Pakistan was not created by its founding fathers as a theocratic state

Pakistan,Ambassador Haroon said was doing reasonably well economically with significant growth rates till early 1970’s. The Soviet invasion in Afghanistan and the burden of hosting more that six million refugees brought down our economy.According to an estimate an amount equal to twice the annual GDP of Pakistan was spent on maintaining the Afghan Refugess .Given this, the Afghan war was a major turning point in our history which among other consequences also led to the introduction of Kalashnikov Culture, narcotics, deterioration in educational institutions and of course rampant corruption “ slowly and slowly we sank into a morass deeper and deeper” he said.

Dr Alen Ben -Meir, an expert on Middle East ,who serves as Senior fellow at the New York University acted as moderator. Referring to the situation in Afghanistan , he termed it as one of the biggest challenges facing the Obama Administration. "We have to come to a point to say that we have to somehow manage this war on terror and somehow control this nuisance of Taliban. We have to ensure Pakistan is stable,democratic and can sustain economically. We have to introduce some sort of governance in Afghanistan ".

Ms Vera Jelinek,Divisonal Dean, New York University ,Centre for Global Affairs introduced the Ambassador.