Wednesday April 24, 2024

US envoy lists priorities for Pakistan: First goal to advance civil rights, freedoms

By Wajid Ali Syed
September 23, 2020

US envoy lists priorities for Pakistan: First goal to advance civil rights, freedoms

WASHINGTON: The Trump administration's nominated ambassador to Islamabad has stated that US relations with India should not come at the expense of Pakistan, while offering to facilitate dialogue between the two countries to bring down tensions in the region.

Addressing the Senate confirmation hearing on Tuesday, William Todd said that the US can have a strong relationship with both India and Pakistan. "Our hope is that both countries will take the necessary steps to reduce tensions, and as President Trump has offered, we are prepared to facilitate dialogue if both sides request it," he said, adding that to truly reduce regional tensions, and rebuild a strong relationship with the United States, Pakistan must take sustained and irreversible action against terrorism.

Todd acknowledged that Pakistan has suffered terribly itself at the hands of terrorists and has committed publicly to ensure terrorists cannot use its territory to operate. "Pakistan has taken important steps toward fulfilling that commitment but needs to continue that work," he said.

Vowing to work with Pakistan to advance shared interest in eliminating terrorism from its territory and advancing security in the region, he said that he would actively engage Pakistan on such issues, as well as, "strategic stability and non-proliferation, carrying a clear message on the threat that nuclear weapons pose to the United States, the region, and our allies and partners. Pakistan needs to demonstrate it is prepared to live up to international commitments on weapons of mass destruction."

Ambassador Todd told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee members that his highest priority would be to ask Islamabad to put extreme pressure on militant groups, including Lashkar-e-Taiba.

He highlighted that the health impacts were real and the economic fallout for Pakistan was likely to be serious. Explaining the US Pakistan health partnership, he said the US trained health workers to upgrade emergency operations centers and delivered ventilators to Pakistan.

Beyond the immediate COVID-19 crisis, this is an important time in the broader, complicated US- Pakistan relationship, he said.

The US and Pakistan have differences, but "Pakistan is an essential regional partner, and this is an opportune moment in our relationship to work together on shared goals. Peace in Afghanistan is in both our countries’ best interests, and effective US-Pakistani cooperation is essential to achieve that objective."

Pakistan played a critical role in creating the conditions that brought Afghan leaders and the Taliban to the historic start of Afghan Peace Negotiations, Todd told his audience adding that Pakistan has an even more important role to play in supporting efforts toward a negotiated political settlement that ends the 40 years of war. "This is a moment of opportunity for Pakistan to continue to forge a new and better role in the region and if confirmed will be one of my highest priorities," he said.

"My first goal will be advancing human rights, particularly freedom of religion and expression. I am also concerned about increasing restrictions on civil society, including the growing harassment and disappearances of journalists without accountability, which undermines the exercise of the right of peaceful assembly and freedoms of expression and association," he said. He further said that the US needs increased bilateral trade and investment with Pakistan. "Making progress on youth engagement, trade and investment, and human rights will be challenging, but necessary for a better future for Pakistan, and a stronger US-Pakistan relationship," Ambassador Todd said.