ISLAMABAD, Sept 17 (APP): The US Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan Richard Holbrooke on Friday acknowledged that Pakistan has an important and legitimate role in Afghanistan.He was participating in Special Roundtable with national and international radio networks hosted by Radio Pakistan in Islamabad this morning. The programme will be broadcast by Radio Pakistan at 1905 hours today.The Rountable was hosted by Director-General Radio Pakistan Murtaza Solangi and participated by representatives of BBC, VOA, DW, FM Power-99, FM-103 and a journalist live from Swat.Replying to question, Holbrooke said it was not in the interest of Afghanistan, Pakistan or the region that Taliban take over in Kabul and both Pakistan and Afghanistan will have to work together to ensure stability in Afghanistan.
He said it was difficult to predict outcome of the Afghan parliamentary elections being held on Saturday as there are about ten candidates against each seat and they are not organized in political parties.
About corruption in Afghanistan, he said the international community is not there to eliminate it but eradication is necessary for success of the on-going war on terror.
The US Special Representative pointed out that two months back Pakistan and Afghanistan arrived at an understanding on an historic trade agreement.
Afghanistan Government has already ratified it and Pakistan will hopefully do the same soon and with this vast trade opportunities up to Central Asia would open up for Pakistan.
He clarified that India was not included in trade arrangement because of Pakistani concerns. Regarding US position on situation in Occupied Kashmir, Richard Holbrooke said the United States would encourage dialogue and increased mutual understanding between Pakistan and India.
Commenting on remarks attributed to him by a section of the press that Government of Pakistan was on board on the issue of drone attacks, Holbrooke said he was misquoted; however, he pointed out that we face a common threat from the militants in the border region who are killings Americans in Afghanistan and also people in Pakistan.
“They are also trying to provoke conflict between Pakistan and India and thus present a threat to the region and beyond. We cannot afford to ignore this threat,” he said.
Referring to the flood situation in Pakistan, the US Special Envoy said Washington is leading in the relief phase and it would continue to lead in the early recovery phase as well.
He said the United States immediately responded to the unfolding tragedy in Pakistan and moved helicopters from Afghanistan and currently 30 helicopters are engaged in relief activities.
He said the United States is providing aid worth 300 million dollars to help tackle the flood situation in Pakistan and a decision has been taken to divert amount from 7.5 billion dollar Kerry-Lugar programme to help Pakistan meet the emergent situation created by the devastating floods.
Already, the United States has directed 50 million dollars from this programme for the purpose.
Richard Holbrooke said he has interacted with the Pakistani leadership to discuss how the US can help address the situation in subsequent phases as the magnitude of the calamity in Pakistan is hundred times bigger than Katrina in the United States a few years back, adding it will require investment worth billions of dollars to recoup.
He said the United States and other members of the international community would surely provide help in reconstruction phase as well but bulk of the job would have to be undertaken by Pakistan itself. It will have to find ways to raise more revenues to support its needs.
Holbrooke said he visited numerous refugee camps during the last forty years but he was struck by the resilience of the affected people in the face of floods of unprecedented magnitude. In this context, he also referred to the vital role that Radio Pakistan was playing in this hour of trial and said Radio is most effective means of communication and news in the country. That is why he always interacts with Radio Pakistan during his trips to Pakistan.
He pointed out that a special ministerial level session is being held in New York to be co-chaired by UN Secretary-General and Pakistan Foreign Minister to take stock of the latest flood situation and aid requirements. US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton would also attend the session.
Asked whether the United States would support a reconstruction programme like Marshall Plan, he said the US economy constituted 50% of the global GDP when such Plan for Europe was launched but now it is 22% of the world’s GDP. He, however, said Pakistan has two real friends China and the United States and both want to help it in different ways.
When his attention was drawn to large-scale damages to infrastructure in Swat by floods, he held out an assurance that the United States will not forget people of Swat who rendered tremendous sacrifices in the context of war on terror.
The United States would support programmes and plans of Pakistan Government for reconstruction of Swat. About construction of water reservoirs, Richard Holbrooke said Pakistan definitely needs dams to conserve water and check floods in view of the climatic change but it is for its Government to decide where these are to be built.
To a question he admitted that previously reimbursement of the expenses to Pakistan under Coalition Support Fund was slow but added that the process has been expedited, adding this is the money that the United States owes to Pakistan and this year it has reimbursed over one billion dollars. -app