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Saturday June 15, 2024

US should be very engaged with Pakistan in stopping terrorism: Senator Booker

By Nasim Haider
February 09, 2023
Sen. Cory Booker waves during the Democratic National Convention at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia. — AFP/File
Sen. Cory Booker waves during the Democratic National Convention at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia. — AFP/File

WASHINGTON: Cory Booker, who is the ranking member of the United States Senate Foreign Relations Committee and former democrat presidential hopeful, shared his views on several issues being faced by Pakistan including the recent terror issues.

Speaking during an exclusive interview with Geo News, Booker talked about Afghanistan, the outlawed Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), Pakistan's deal with the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the looming threat of bankruptcy and the role of American-Pakistanis in the US administration.

Here is the transcript.

Interviewer: Before we talk about Pakistan, let’s talk something about US politics.

Q: Lately, we have seen that Pakistani Americans have played a crucial role in midterm elections and your election as well. But we don’t see them much in the Biden administration. Why? Is that dream not within the reach of Pakistani Americans?

A: First of all, you will have to understand what I believe is that one of the strong, influential and critical communities for the United States is the Pakistani community. You can’t live in New Jersey without seeing the import and the impact Pakistani Americans are making in medical sciences, in the world of business, entrepreneurialism, and in many professions. More than that, culture, faith and food are now a very big part of my state. I am happy that Pakistani Americans in New Jersey are starting to rise up into elected positions as well. One reason I am here today is that this wonderful organisation, American Pakistani Public Affairs Committee (APPAC), has been a partner of mine in trying to change or accelerate the reflection of the Pakistanis and their influence and their import and impact on what we see in our government.

APPAC came to me and said we have never in American history had a Muslim article 3 judge and it was stunning to me that we had never had that all in our history not to have a Muslim judge so we worked together to find a number of qualified candidates to make a recommendation to President Biden. Now, today the first Muslim American judge.

Q: I can understand that you made history by recommending Zahid Qureshi as the first Muslim Pakistani American Judge. But are you satisfied with the level of proportionate representation of Pakistani Americans in the Biden administration because there are almost one million Pakistani Americans living across the United States?

A: I wouldn’t put it to one administration. I am not satisfied as we are not seeing across America the kind of proportionate representation we should be seeing in the highest level of government. Let me give you an example. I am only the fourth black person in the history of the United States ever elected to the US Senate. We have not seen a proportionate representation. Yes, Asian Americans, Muslim Americans, Latino Americans, and women even. We know this. Look at Pakistan, look at many countries that had women rise to the highest ranks. We have for the first time a woman vice president but we never had a woman president. So this idea of proportionate representation for the Pakistani community as well as for many other communities is what we all need to work on. Why? Not for window dressing, not for bragging points. We know by looking at the research from Harvard University and others that diverse organisations are strong organisations. America is strong because of diversity. Our American government will be stronger if it has more proportionate representatives of the diversity of people.

Q: We have seen that during the Trump administration, Pakistan helped America secure Doha Peace Deal with the Taliban. Now, the US is out and is secured. But Pakistan is facing the brunt of terrorism recently by the TTP. Do you see any space for the Biden administration to put pressure on Afghan Taliban to tackle the TTP somehow?

A: Terrorists work in a way that they do not threaten one country, they are threatening the world order. As terrorists get stronger in one place, they are a greater threat to others. This is not an act of charity. The United States should be very engaged in stopping the terrorism of the Taliban. And, therefore, a key ally in that effort must be Pakistan.

Q: If Pakistan takes action against the TTP, Pakistan’s economy is not strengthened enough. Do you think there is some space for the Biden administration to put pressure on the IMF to soften the deal or give Pakistan some leverage?

A: Yes, I mean look, this is the reality of that region. You have the Chinese there and you have an obvious problem with Russia. Pakistan is in a critical neighbourhood and we have to find ways to create a deeper bond and deeper friendship. If not, then it can go for partnership with nations that do not share the same democratic principles or ideals. This is why I have been a voice for strong aid to Pakistan, especially coming out of a climate disaster, not of their own making.