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Testimony on Pakistan

Richard A. Boucher, Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs
Opening Remarks Before the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform Subcommittee On National Security and Foreign Affairs
Washington, DC
July 12, 2007

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ASSISTANT SECRETARY BOUCHER: Thank you, Mr. Chairman, Mr. Shays, other members of the subcommittee. It's a great pleasure to be here today and I thank you for holding a hearing that is both topical and timely and I appreciate the effort that you all put into supporting and working with Pakistan and the travel that you've made out there to help further our policy goals.

I'd like to give a, sort of, abbreviated introduction because I'm sure that with the breathtaking complexities that Mr. -- that you referred to, that we'll probably get to a lot of different things during the course of questions. But if I can, I'd like to lay out, sort of, the basic framework of how we see Pakistan and what we're doing there.

As you noted, Pakistan is a vital ally to us in a very broad variety of ways. Our goal is to see that Pakistan succeeds as a democratic nation, a prosperous people, and a moderate Muslim society. First of all, Pakistan is vital to the war on terror. We all need to do everything we can to prevent attacks that could come from this part of the world. Second of all, Pakistan is vital to the fight in Afghanistan. We all know we won't have civility in Afghanistan unless Pakistan is stable and vice versa. The militants say the extremism can move both ways across the border and that's something that leaders in both Pakistan and Afghanistan recognize.

Third, in a more long-term strategic way, Pakistan is vital to opening up the flow of people, energy, ideas, and trade between South and Central Asia. That's a strategic change that can reverse hundreds of years of history and open up opportunities for the countries of Central Asia as well as South Asia. We have and will have a long and very enduring strategic relationship with Pakistan to work together for its success in all these areas, but achieving our goals in Pakistan is going to take time.

So how can we help Pakistan succeed politically, economically, and militarily? I talked about the 4 Es: education, economy, energy, and elections. First, we're supporting the renewal of Pakistan's public education system. If you look at all the various money we've put in through project assistance, through the Fulbright program, through their own budget, it's well over $100 million a year, because we put it into reform and expansion of education in Pakistan.

And that's a small part of their own efforts to reform and expand their education system. They have, I think, gone from $1.3 billion a year on education from the federal budget in 2003 to about $2.3 million -- billion a year spent on education from their own federal budget. And our assistance helps support that.

Second is the reform and expansion of the economy. The economy's been growing at six, seven percent a year based on the open investment climate, open economy, and that's doing quite well. We want to support and continue that.

The third is helping them support the diversification of their energy supplies. One of the problems that Pakistan faces, particularly this year, is called load shedding. It's basically brownouts, cutting the power to a lot of people, and that's one of the things that you see a lot of comment on in the press and in politics. And we're trying to work with the government and work with other nations to bring energy down from the north in the form of electricity from Tajikistan and other places, as well as to help them develop new sources of energy in coal or alternate energy systems.

The fourth E is elections. Pakistan is poised now for a peaceful transition this year from military rule to the civilian government. We are doing everything we can to support free and fair elections. We've put about $20 million this year into supporting the election commission doing basic poll-watcher training, political parties training, things like that. And we've been very active and outspoken in pushing for an open election and trying to help look at some of the areas where they can do better in terms of making sure that everybody has a choice and that the choices of the voters of Pakistan are respected.

We've also made clear we think this election is important for the body politic of Pakistan; not just for the choices that people have, but in order to form a more stable, moderate center to Pakistani politics. And we've tried to encourage that for the moderates to come together at the center so that they're better poised to fight extremist elements in the society.

And there's a fifth E, which is the danger, and that's extremism. It afflicts Pakistan, it's a threat to the people of Pakistan, it's a threat to the national goals of modernizing Pakistan. This manifests in a number of ways, but let me start with the tribal areas. The tribal areas of Pakistan have never been governed by the same arrangements as the rest of the country. Going back to British days, these were covered under, sort of, hands-off arrangements and during the modern period, those arrangements were never changed. So it doesn't -- the government doesn't have the full authority and rep in those places. They operate through agents and through tribes.

Nonetheless, the government is interested in trying to bring these places into the national system, into the national economy, one of the reasons being to give people alternate ways of earning a living than smuggling and picking up guns. So they've developed a very comprehensive development plan for the tribal areas. Pakistan Government is going to put $100 million a year for 10 years into the development of these areas and we've told them we will come up with $150 million a year for the next five years to support the economic development of the tribal areas.

In addition, we're trying to open up some economic opportunity for the border areas of Pakistan and Afghanistan and as said, we are going to propose to the Congress reconstruction opportunity zones. We hope that there will be a legislative opportunity for that in the coming months and we hope that members will support that legislation when it appears because it's -- again, the idea is that if you can have economic development in these regions, you can use the economic development to bring people into the national economy and to get them to take up different occupations than the ones many of the young men there have been following.

The second big thing going on in the tribal areas has been the security efforts. Now Pakistan, as I said, has been a strong ally in the fight against terrorism. They have captured more al-Qaida than any country in the world, lost more people in doing that. They've been key to the efforts that have been made over the last five years. You've also seen, perhaps over the last six to nine months, more of a focus on the tribal areas of Pakistan, the border areas of Pakistan.

And indeed, they've had a number of successes. Several major Taliban leaders have been captured or killed this year so far; Mullah Osmani in January, Skeikh -- Mullah Obaidullah, Mullah Dadullah Lang, and some of these gentlemen killed in Afghanistan, but these are all joint efforts with Pakistan that led to the elimination of some of the top Taliban leaders who have been operating from Pakistan to support the insurgency in Afghanistan.

In addition, you saw earlier this year, the tribal leaders with some support from the government, turned on the -- what they call the Uzbeks, the -- some of the foreign militants who have been in these areas associated with al-Qaida engaging in trading, engaging in bombing, and engaging in fighting alongside the Taliban and those -- hundreds of those people were expelled from the tribal regions this year with the support of the government.

The government has now made clear to the tribes that all the foreign elements and the foreign militants are a danger to those areas, are a danger to Pakistan, and need to be expelled. And you've seen very strong warnings from President Musharraf, about two weeks ago in Peshawar from Governor Orakzai, the governor of the northwest region, in recent days warning the tribes that they need to expel the foreigners and not allow the Taliban to cross the border or to cross into the settled areas of Pakistan. And that's been a big concern throughout Pakistan, that the Taliban were somehow trying to expand their influence into settled areas.

So you've seen steps that the government has taken in terms of moving troops into the region, putting up better checkpoints near the borders. They've had -- built more border posts, they've equipped the people there better, and we've tried to support and will try to support that as we go on.

Another manifestation of extremism that we have seen the government deal with is the Red Mosque controversy. This mosque is -- I think I looked it up on the internet; it was founded in 1965. It really grew over the last 20 years into a major center for extremist use, extremist ideologies and has been accused over the last year or two of many attacks, abductions, forays against policemen or people in society and really has led to a -- you might say a popular backlash. A lot of Pakistanis see this activity, a lot of Pakistanis have seen the activity of the Taliban in some of the settled areas and really risen up and said no, you know, "We want video stores, we want barber shops, we want to have a normal, modern life."

The government tried to contain this problem for a long time, was very reticent about going after the mosque or going into the mosque because of the large numbers of women and children who were there. But they found, in the last couple weeks, that they were not able to do that anymore because the militants were coming out and attacking policemen and others and trying to seize weapons. So the government did react. They've spent the last nine days, I think it is, in a military operation to clear the place out and it looks like it's pretty much over today. There was some loss of life. We don't yet know the final numbers on how many people might have been killed in the operation. Some soldiers, some militants in the -- inside the mosque.

But I would say that considering the difficulty of the operation, the scope of the operation, and the refusal of the people inside to negotiate and lay down their arms and come out peacefully, the government did ask for the -- they did act with a relative amount of restraint and care as they conducted this operation.

Let me say again, Mr. Chairman, these are all elements in stabilizing Pakistan, everything from education and energy, elections, to dealing with the problems of extremism. They're all part of helping Pakistani people achieve better lives in a more modern society. This is the direction that President Musharraf is leading the nation and we're proud to work with him. It's a fundamental direction, it's important to us and important to him and important to the Pakistani people. And we work with the government, we work with people, we work with people -- civil society, political parties who want to lead Pakistan in this direction.

If they succeed, Pakistan can not only be a stable anchor for the region, a prosperous nation for its people, but it can also be a model to others in the developing world, particularly in Muslim countries. So it is important that we help Pakistan succeed, especially in making the transition this year to civilian government, and to a democratic government for its country.

And as I said at the beginning, I'm pleased to see the interested members of Congress and very happy to be able to work with Congress as we go forward in trying to achieve these goals. So thank you very much, Mr. Chairman, for your time. I'll be glad to take questions.

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