months of turmoil, including the death of an important national
figure, Benazir Bhutto, and the civil unrest that followed, Pakistan
has successfully carried out a critical election -- balloting that was
a milestone in our nation's 60-year history.
transition to democracy is essential to achieving reconciliation
among our people. The government worked tirelessly to ensure that
Monday's vote would be free, fair, transparent and peaceful. A broad
range of new procedures were put in place -- such as the public
counting of ballots at each polling station -- to make certain that
this would be the fairest election ever held in Pakistan.
historical significance of this election makes this the right moment
for an honest discussion of the challenges and opportunities
confronting both Pakistan and the United States, whose interest in a
stable, democratic government in Islamabad
is matched by that of the Pakistani people.
nation faces three main tasks: defeating terrorism and extremism;
building a stable and effective democratic government; and creating
a solid foundation for sustained economic growth. Because these
goals are shared by the vast majority of Pakistanis, I am certain we
can and will accomplish them, and I stand ready to work with the
newly elected Parliament to achieve these objectives.
we still face challenges? Of course. Do great opportunities lie
ahead? The answer is an emphatic yes. Our economy is strong -- and
growing stronger. Our armed forces are dedicated, professional and
committed to maintaining both public order and the integrity of our
political system. Most important, the overwhelming majority of our
160 million people are firmly committed to a moderate view of Islam
and to the national prosperity that only modernization can bring.
terrorism, let me be perfectly clear: Pakistan faces and fights this
menace with full dedication. How could we not? Al-Qaeda
and its affiliates have declared war on the civilized world, and the
moderate government and people of Pakistan are prime targets. Some
have questioned our commitment to the fight against extremism. In
fact, more than 1,000 Pakistani troops have lost their lives
fighting al-Qaeda and Taliban
forces over the past four years, and 112,000 troops are fully
engaged in the regions along our border with Afghanistan.
We will continue to work closely with our longtime American allies
in our common struggle to rid Pakistan and the world of militant
as the U.S. experience in Iraq
has shown, military force alone is not sufficient. A successful
counterinsurgency requires a multi-pronged approach -- military,
political and economic. Our political strategy emphasizes separating
terrorists from those citizens living in the regions bordering
Afghanistan. Our economic strategy is bringing education, economic
opportunity and the benefits of development to those same areas. As
history has clearly taught us, when people see improvement in their
daily lives and the lives of their children, they turn away from
violence and toward peace and reconciliation.
our success will require the continued support of the United States.
I would ask Americans to remember that building democracy is
difficult in the best of conditions; doing so in a complex country
such as Pakistan -- with its uneasy political history, with its
centuries-old regional and feudal cleavages, and with violent
extremists dedicated to the defeat of democracy -- is even more
challenging. As history has shown, a peaceful transition to
democracy requires the leadership of government and the willingness
of the population to embrace democratic ideals. The people of
Pakistan on Monday demonstrated that willingness; now it is time for
government leaders to work together and do our part.
writer is president of Pakistan.