Press Conference in Islamabad, PakistanJohn D. Negroponte, Deputy Secretary of State
June 16, 2007
DEPUTY SECRETARY NEGROPONTE: Good evening. Good evening everybody, it’s good to be here. I’ve made this brief trip to Islamabad after meeting in Washington with the Pakistani Ambassador Durrani, and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs General al-Haq, and others who encouraged me to visit here as early as possible following my appointment as Deputy Secretary of State, and I’m very pleased to have been able to do so. I met today with President Musharraf and with a number of his top advisors. I met with Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz, the National Security Advisor Tariq Aziz, Foreign Minister Kasuri, and with Foreign Secretary Khan. I also met with the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, General al-Haq and Army Vice Chief, General Hayat. And I saw the Chief of the ISI, Lt. General Kayani shortly after I arrived in Islamabad yesterday.
In all my meetings, I emphasized the importance that the United States places on the long-term, multi-faceted strategic partnership that has developed between the United States and Pakistan. I emphasized our strong desire to see that relationship continue to grow in the interest of both of our countries, and the region as a whole. We therefore look forward to the next round of the United States-Pakistan Strategic Dialogue in order to continue these high-level discussions. I look forward to leading our delegation in this dialogue, and returning to Pakistan at a mutually convenient time this coming fall.
In the past two days, I’ve reviewed the many areas of close bilateral cooperation between the United States and Pakistan: economic and social development, security cooperation, working towards regional peace, stability and economic growth, and fighting terrorism and extremism. We also discussed the importance of Pakistan’s continued progress towards democracy. I thanked President Musharraf and other members of the Pakistani government for Pakistan’s continuing commitment to fighting international terrorism and extremism in the region. Pakistanis have made many sacrifices in that struggle. We know that the fight against terrorism cannot be won on the battlefield alone. It is also a struggle of ideas that has political and socio-economic elements.
In that context, we discussed strong United States support for the Pakistani government’s FATA* Development Plan. This is a 750 million dollar, five-year United States support program that we will begin implementing in the next few months. And we discussed the considerable progress that Pakistan and India have made towards resolving their long-standing issues, in the interest of regional peace, stability and prosperity. Those are the high points of my visit, ladies and gentlemen. I consider this to have been an extremely good two days of meetings. I want to thank you for your attention, and I’d be pleased to take a few of your questions.
QUESTION: Sir, the people of Pakistan want to know, what is the mission, logic, and philosophy of the presence of three senior officials of the United States administration at the same time in Pakistan? Have you brought some strong message, or mild message, about the President of Pakistan, and the Government of Pakistan?
DEPUTY SECRETARY NEGROPONTE: I think, as I said in my statement, my presence here is prompted both by the fact that I’ve been encouraged by senior Pakistani officials to come here at an early date and it’s also the logic of the situation. I became the Deputy Secretary of State in February of this year; Pakistan is one of our strategic partners and friends, in a very critical part of the world, dealing with some of the most important issues of the day. And it was time, a good time, for me to visit. There was no particularly special agenda, or any hidden agenda, if you will, driving my decision to visit at this time.
QUESTION: I’m Javed Saddiq, I represent Daily Nawa-i-Waqt. You have visited Pakistan in a situation where Pakistani people are experiencing some turbulent times. There is a judicial crisis going on, and the elections are around the corner. So, did the President discuss these things to you? And the second part of my question is that some international media is reporting that you have come to assure your support for the President to remain both the President and the Chief of Army staff -- your comments?
DEPUTY SECRETARY NEGROPONTE: My comments, first of all, with respect to the tenor of our discussions - what I would say is that we covered a broad range of issues, the strategic picture, the situation in the Frontier area, the situation in Afghanistan, and also the general political and economic situation in your country.
As far as the message that I brought, it is one of strong friendship, and trust, for and with the government and the people of Pakistan. We believe that we have an excellent partnership together in facing the various challenges that confront us. And if there was one principal message that I delivered, it is one of strong support and friendship for your government and your people in the circumstances which you confront.
QUESTION: I’m Tahir Akhbar from Royal Television. My question is very simple, different from these two questions. It is, why has the tentative dialogue between U.S. and Pakistan, been delayed? Because last time, we talked to Mr. Kasuri, Foreign Minister of Pakistan, he said that we are ready from the last maybe couple of months. And you, you just stated in your statement that a mutually, mutually suitable time.
DEPUTY SECRETARY NEGROPONTE: What happened was, there was a meeting, an initial meeting, of the dialogue, about a year ago. And there was supposed to be another meeting last fall. You may recall that my predecessor, Mr. Robert Zoellick, resigned last June. And therefore as a result there has been a gap in the leadership at the top of the State Department. As a result of that, it has proven difficult to schedule a return visit to reciprocate the visit of the Pakistani delegation which came to Washington last year.
So, my message was intended as a positive and a constructive one, which was to say that we are prepared to resume that dialogue. And that I, the Deputy Secretary of State, will be the person leading the discussions on our end. And that we are ready to resume those talks as soon as we can find a mutually acceptable date. But I can assure you that it will be sooner rather than later, and we’re looking at something like the months of September or October to resume these talks. And we already had some preliminary discussions today, at my meeting with Foreign Secretary Khan, about the kinds of subjects that we would probably want to discuss at the upcoming dialogue meeting.
QUESTION: Yes, my name is (inaudible) I work for Daily Dawn. And two brief questions. There are a lot of reports in the local and the foreign press that say America is, America would facilitate some kind of relationship between Musharraf and Benazir Bhutto. Second, the opposition people are here expressing their concerns about the future setup. They are saying that the elections will not be held in a free and fair manner. Did you discuss this issue with the Pakistani (inaudible)? Thank you.
DEPUTY SECRETARY NEGROPONTE: Well, only in the most general terms; certainly, not to get into the particulars of the different individual relationships within the Pakistani political arena. That’s really not something that I would feel comfortable discussing. Nor do I think it would be appropriate for a foreign government official to enter into that kind of detail.
What I did say in the commentary that I made was, that we felt it was important that the political process that has been outlined for Pakistan, that is to say, the upcoming elections which are expected to take place sometime this fall, or at the latest, the first thing next year, that we strongly believe that those should go forward. We think that that would be a positive development in the advancement of democracy here, and that it would be important that these elections be carried out in a fair, free, and transparent manner.
QUESTION: What about Benazir?
DEPUTY SECRETARY NEGROPONTE: As I said, I’m really -- don’t feel in a position to comment on that kind of issue. This is something that I think is going to be resolved between the Pakistani political actors themselves.
QUESTION: My name is Nadeem Malik from CNBC-Pakistan. What would be your reaction if President Musharraf decides to continue his uniform even after the elections? Secondly, you have interacted with ISI* in different capacities. What you would describe the control of ISI as far as the Afghan situation is concerned?
DEPUTY SECRETARY NEGROPONTE: How would I describe...?
QUESTION: ISI’s control.
DEPUTY SECRETARY NEGROPONTE: With regard to you first question, again, I think this is something the President himself is going to (interrupted inaudible). Well, as I’m about to say, that I think that’s something that President Musharraf will, himself, want to decide, and this is a matter that is up to him. And I’m sure that he’s going to make that decision based on all the considerations that he considers to be relevant with respect to the situation as he sees it.
With regard to the ISI, let me say that as the former Director of National Intelligence of the United States, that we very much value our cooperation with the ISI. We think they play a very important role in the war against terrorism and that we constantly seek to deepen and strengthen the cooperation we have with that organization.
QUESTION: Mr. Negroponte, I’m (inaudible) with the Financial Times newspaper. This is a two part question. The first part is that, was it a deliberate choice on your part not to meet with any opposition leaders because they were certainly very keen to meet up with you and that’s what they said to some of us here – in other words, did you receive any requests and you chose not to meet with them at this time, if so what was the reason?
DEPUTY SECRETARY OF STATE NEGROPONTE: Let me answer your first question first, which is that I haven’t yet completed all of my meetings, and in fact I will have a meeting with various civic society leaders this evening. The Chargé d’Affaires has very kindly arranged a reception at which I will meet with many of the civic leaders of Pakistan, so that will, if you will, complete the sort of round of meetings that I intend to hold. I just didn’t have the opportunity to do that prior to my press conference.
QUESTION: The second question directly flows from the first one which is that opposition leaders have been claiming lots of human rights violations here, especially in the last three months. Is that something that you’ve taken up with any of the officials? People arrested in large numbers, according to the opposition, and still in jail; stories of people disappeared in the War on Terror, as well as for reasons related to domestic politics, a whole range of things which I’m sure would be very upsetting and in fact are very upsetting to some of your politicians who have spoken out. I mean we have seen stories in newspapers, what’s your view on that entire sort of domestic political situation and the humanitarian angle to that situation?
DEPUTY SECRETARY OF STATE NEGROPONTE: My view is the following: first of all, you asked me did the subjects come up? Well, they came up in the sense that we talked about the importance of moving forward in the area of respect for democracy, of consolidation of democracy, of advancing democracy, and of respect for human rights. The other point I would make is that this is also a subject that is constantly monitored by our own embassy and it’s an issue that we raise in our bilateral context through our embassy with various government officials. And you no doubt have read our annual human rights reports and we also report extensively on this subject.
But I would urge that as you reflect on this issue that one also look at some of the positive things that have happened, the growth of the free media, including large numbers of television stations, and increased print media and various other aspects of the human rights situation in this country which I think one could fairly say have improved in recent years.
QUESTION: I just wanted to know, you said that your government was willing to give $750 million for FATA over 5 years, and also that the situation in the frontier came up for talks, how serious do you feel the situation is in the frontier? And secondly, is this aid going to be conditional or non-conditional? Thank you.
DEPUTY SECRETARY OF STATE NEGROPONTE: Well, on the question of the five-year program and how serious we view the situation, obviously when one is prepared to dedicate $150 million a year in foreign economic assistance to deal with a particular area or situation it is a reflection of the importance that one, we attach to that situation and that area. So, we want to help the government and the people of Pakistan address what we understand to be some real problems of development in the FATA area. It’s an area that has been neglected in the past, as we understand it, and has tended to be isolated from the rest of the country and has not had some of the benefits of modernization that have occurred elsewhere in the country. So, in that sense, and given the fact that it is a sensitive area on the border between the two countries of Afghanistan and Pakistan, we felt it was important to make this kind of a contribution, not only for the benefit of the citizens and the people of the FATA area but because we think it would also make a positive contribution to the War Against Terrorism.
As far as conditionality, I’m not sure to, exactly to what you refer. But we do have various legislative caveats, if you will, with respect to the provision of aid, but nothing particularly exceptional or unusual. And I’m sure that if the Congress continues to approve the money for the FATA program that we will be in a position to dispense it.
QUESTION: I’m from (inaudible). Not quite far back in January of 2007, as the head of the spy agencies, you presented a report before the Senate committee, in which it was the first time that an official has pointed finger at Pakistan that still we are harboring Al Qaeda people and Islamic terrorism. And not only from there, we’re also sort of propagating or pushing their agenda in Europe and North Africa and other Middle Eastern countries. Has the situation changed since you have become now the Deputy Secretary of State? What do you think, what is your take now on Pakistan’s role as far as this border area is concerned since you are going there with $750 million? And the second question will be again from a little bit back, will you be able to tell us that Pakistan has given so many Al Qaeda operatives and also FBI “Wanted” with money on their heads, that money has gone to the Government of Pakistan or to individuals who helped captured them? Would that be possible for you to give us where the money has actually gone? Thank you.
DEPUTY SECRETARY OF STATE NEGROPONTE: On your first question, I think you’re referring to a hearing that I had when I was the Director of National Intelligence. I was reminded yesterday when I was discussing this subject with one of my interlocutors that there had been a context to my statement. And the context was that there has been excellent cooperation with the government of Pakistan, that the government and the people of Pakistan have made great sacrifices in this War on Terror, and that we value our friendship and our strategic partnership in, with the government and people of Pakistan. I did say in that same context, that I felt that Pakistan could do more with respect to the cross-border situation, and particularly with respect to the fact that some support for the Taliban in Afghanistan is provided from this side of the border. But I think it’s also fair to say that we all can do more in the War Against Terrorism in order to bring it to a successful conclusion, but this was no way, in no way intended to diminish the great sacrifices and the great efforts that are being made here in this country in this effort.
As for the other question, I simply don’t know the answer to it. I’m sorry.
QUESTION: My name is Zahir Hussain from Wall Street Journal and Newsweek. My question is how do you view Pakistan’s new strategy in dealing with the militancy in the tribal areas. Last year Pakistani authorities have reached an agreement with the local tribesmen but it has been a very controversial one. There has been quite a lot of criticism and there are also some reports suggesting that it has led to more insurgency, incidents of insurgency across the border in Afghanistan. And President Musharraf has recently said that this isn’t really working. So what is your view on that?
DEPUTY SECRETARY OF STATE NEGROPONTE: Well, first of all as I mentioned earlier and as we have discussed here in some of the Q’s and A’s, we have this rather substantial program to assist in the border areas, the $150 million a year over a five-year period, and in that sense, we are supporting the Pakistani government’s approach to development of that region and we think our assistance can be an important contribution to our efforts in that area.
The second thing I would say is that my understanding, and I don’t want to comment on the details of the arrangements that have been reached there, but my understanding is that this is a subject that is kept under constant review, that efforts are being made for example to strengthen the Frontier Corps, and we are also looking to see if it’s possible for us to provide some assistance to strengthen the Frontier Corps, and this, in other words we are in a dynamic situation, if you will. But in any event, I think the two key points to make are that we support the government’s efforts to help develop the region on the one hand and we support their commitment to fix and prevent terrorism and the sources of terrorism from thriving in that area.
QUESTION: Javed Raman from Al-Jazeerah Arabic. My question is how do you look at, after 9/11, Pakistan’s extremism trend? Dozens of people have turned out to be suicide bombers because of the policies of the U.S. after 9/11. Don’t you think that this is the time that more political measures needs to be taken to replace the military approach to settle events in Afghanistan and Iraq, which indirectly somehow or the other is also encouraging extremism in Pakistan? And my second question is what if General Musharraf, in case he gets himself elected from this parliament which is dying politically now, and doesn’t shed his military uniform, what will be --
DEPUTY SECRETARY OF STATE NEGROPONTE: I think that – I don’t think you’re going to get any significantly different answer to that question than I gave to the previous one from the other gentleman.
But with respect to how to deal with extremism, I think we all agree that these are, this is an issue that must be dealt with holistically, that terrorism has got to be addressed through the entire range of means all the way from the cultural and the social and the economic development on the one hand, and then from the point of view of the legal and the political and even the military if necessary. I don’t think there is any one single answer to dealing with these issues, and I think that all of these elements of statecraft, if you will, have got to be applied to dealing with this issue. But again, let me stress that we are very supportive of the Government of Pakistan’s efforts in this regard and we value very much the partnership that we have with them on this subject.
Thank you very much.
* Federally Administered Tribal Areas
* Inter-Service Intelligence