Whilst The US elections long over, Pakistan has crucial elections coming up. Many experts predict that former cricketer champion, Imran Khan the founder of Pakistan Tehreek e Insaf commonly referred to as PTI, will be the winner. We believe that Pakistan is a very important country due to its location, it being the 6th largest country by population, and its role on the region. We believe that many basic issues, especially related to US-Pakistan relations are ignored by the American media. Mrs. Fauzia Kasuri is one of the founders of the party, and the President of the Women Wing of Pakistan Tehreek e Insaf. She was kind enough to answer some questions we had about Pakistan, US Pakistani relations and how they might change under the new leadership of the PTI.
Can you just tell us a little bit about the PTI? What is your role there?
PTI stands for Pakistan Tehreek e Insaf which means a movement for justice. It was founded 16 years ago by Mr.Imran Khan, who is also the Chairman of the party.
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It is the biggest grass root movement in the history of Pakistan, struggling for the rule of law, empowerment of the common people, an end to corruption and the establishment of a modern, Islamic Welfare State.
I am a founding member of the party and the head of the Women Wing of PTI. It has been my responsibility to recruit and mobilize female members, across Pakistan. In addition, I play an active role in galvanizing our women to play a more effective part in mainstream politics and help bring CHANGE to Pakistan.
Can you tell us about the impact of drone strikes in terms of Pakistani opinions of American foreign policy in the region?
Drone Strikes are seen as an aggression against the sovereignty of Pakistan. They are perceived as an inhuman act of cruelty, violating all norms of fundamental human rights. The killing of innocent civilians, who inadvertently bear the major brunt of these strikes, has resulted in feelings of hatred against the US policies in our region.
The Osama Bin Laden raid in particular, was close to Islamabad, while most drone strikes are in North West, not near the major cities. Did this have more of an impact than drone strikes?
There were serious questions raised as to who allowed the American forces to enter Pakistan? It was particularly humiliating to the Pakistanis that the news of the operation was revealed by the US President, and not by our local officials. Every one was furious and felt terribly let down by our intelligence services.
Yes, the raid in Abbottabad was a great shock for the entire Pakistani nation. This was a city in close proximity to the nation’s capital, Islamabad. It was seen as a great failure of our intelligence services. The precision, alacrity and confidence with which the raid was conducted and completed, raised numerous doubts in the minds of Pakistanis, about the involvement of the government or military agencies of our country…questions were raised on if and how they may have facilitated the operation.
America gives $2 Billion in aid to Pakistan. We have spoken to countless people who claim the administration of Asif Ali Zardari doesn’t give a penny back to the people, what do you think about US aid?
Corruption is a major issue within the ruling elite in Pakistan. It is true that most foreign aid never reaches the common people, for whom it was intended. The Zardari government has broken all records of mismanagement and corrupt practices, as is being regularly reported by the local and international media. There is no reason not to believe that US Aid, sent to Pakistan is lost and plundered at the hands of an incompetent and discredited government mafia.
One specific example is the US Aid that was granted for the Benazir Income Support Fund. As a result of corruption, plunder, misuse of funds, no transparency in the maintenance of accounts, no audit and no accountability, the US Aid halted disbursement of pledged funds for the program, after the initial first tranche.
The government of Punjab is not far behind or different. funds allocated and sent for the setting up of primary schools in the province, by US Aid, were diverted to the infamous laptop scheme. This is a project of distribution of laptops to students, as a political stunt and to promote party agendas.
Following up on the previous question, there is a good chance Imran Khan will win the upcoming elections, and get massive support from the youth. Do you share this assessment? Do you believe that the Zardari Administration could fix the elections in his favor? We saw recent news that Imran Khan would like to deploy the army at polls and ensure the elections are fair.
PTI is all set and optimistic to win the next general elections in Pakistan. There is no doubt that Imran Khan is the political leader who has inspired the youth and women of this country, with his message of justice and change. Our support base among the youth is very strong..they see Imran Khan as a role model that they wish to emulate. He symbolizes courage, determination, vision, commitment and success that has come from hard work. His honesty and credibility is unquestionable.. the youth see and appreciate that. Hence they rally around Imran Khan. They trust him to build the institutions that will promote the welfare of our people.
It is very true that Zardari and the Sharif brothers will use every trick in their sleeve, and use their immense wealth and resources to rig the elections in their favor, but will find a formidable opponent in Imran Khan, with the youth, women and first time voters standing behind him. I feel very sure that the voters will protect their mandate and will not allow for it to be manipulated or stolen.
Given the deteriorated law and order situation prevalent in Pakistan today, Imran Khan is right in seeking army supervision on polling day… it is to provide security for the voters and ensure that they are not intimidated and coerced during the electoral process.
Foreign observers during elections are a common feature in Pakistan and have been there in previous elections. PTI does not have an issue and will encourage their presence for monitoring and ensuring a fair and transparent electoral process.. The European Union election observers and those from any other part of the world are welcome.
Afghanistan. We hear the situation is not only getting worse in Afghanistan, but also pushing extremists over the border into Pakistan. Most Americans now strongly oppose the war and have no idea what our goals are, and why we are there; would you like to comment?
In my personal opinion, wars do not offer a solution to political issues. Afghanistan is a country that has faced foreign aggression for centuries and fought for their independence.They are experienced in this kind of warfare…it is next to impossible to subjugate them with military force. There can be no decisive victory in this war in Afghanistan for the US and NATO armies. The US is paying a very heavy price for this adventure, in terms of loss of lives and billions of dollars. It is for this reason, that after years of military operations in Afghanistan and Iraq, the American people are seriously questioning the wisdom behind this war.
Would PTI form a coalition with parties which many outsiders view as extremists such as Jaamat e Islami in a coalition Government?
PTI is a progressive, centrist party with no extremist leanings.We are a party that stands for CHANGE, rule of law, institution building, education, economic and social justice. We do not have an alliance with any political group now..Our objective is to build a modern, Islamic Welfare State in Pakistan. Those who conform to our vision are welcome to join the movement. Other than that, there is no talk or interest of any alliance with any party.
Many in America Consider Pakistan to be a quasi or even fake ally. We do not hear the other side though. How do Pakistanis and the PTI think of America?
What people in America feel about Pakistan, is the same feeling that Pakistanis have for the Americans.. There is a trust deficit on both sides..Pakistanis feel that the American policy of carrot and stick is not the kind of treatment meted out to allies. They do not see a dependable ally in the United States..there is an urgency to build confidence and trust in the relationship of the two countries.
PTI believes that we need to develop and promote good relations with the US, as with other countries of the world, based on mutual respect and keeping in mind the national interests of Pakistan. PTI wishes to develop a viable working relationship with the United States, fostered on the basis of friendship and not subjugation. We wish to have a comfortable understanding with the US, minus a compromise of Pakistan’s interests, and no dictation from Washington.
Simply, PTI would like to have a foreign policy which is made in Pakistan and is home grown…a policy that is in the best interests of and ensures the sovereignty of Pakistan.
Imran Khan stated that he would shoot down drones over Pakistan. Would he in fact do that? Finally, if the US sent in actual manned jets or sent in troops like during the Osama bin Laden raid, would he give the army the order to respond?
This is a question that should be answered by Imran Khan, once he is Chief Executive of Pakistan.. I am not in a position to comment on this. However, I am confident that his any decision, at any time, will be entirely based on what is best suited to the interests of Pakistan.