Pakistan's Foreign Minister Says 'Blame Game Is Counterproductive'

Sep 27, 2011
Originally published on September 28, 2011 7:11 am

In an interview with Morning Edition's Steve Inskeep, Pakistan's foreign minister said her country and the United States "need each other" and "are fighting against the same people" but "Pakistan's dignity must not be compromised."

Hina Rabbani Khar spoke at a time of increased tension between the two countries and as the United States ratcheted up its rhetoric against Pakistan. Last week, Mike Mullen, the outgoing chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, put Pakistan on the defensive when he told Congress that Pakistan was "actively and passively" supporting militant groups that were responsible for the attack on the U.S. Embassy in Kabul, earlier this month.

Steve asked Khar why Pakistan had reacted so strongly to Mullen's comments. Khar said 30,000 Pakistanis have died as a result of the war on terror.

"Imagine, how the U.S. would react? We have 6,000-some soldiers who have died in the battle," she said. "Imagine how the U.S. would react if such a number had lost their lives and then comments would come from other countries, which said that you are the problem, you are part of the problem."

But very much in the spirit of the speech she gave in the United Nations on Tuesday, Khar emphasized unity in the fight against terrorism.

"Maturity demands, the complexity of the situation demands that we are able to look at this as a common problem. I'm am convinced that is a common problem. I'm just not so convinced that your people are convinced we are in it together," she told Steve.

While she said she had "strong reservations" about Mullen's comments, she said that the "intelligence world is a complex world." She also seem to pin Mullen's words on politics.

"We must be very careful ... when we are conducting our domestic policies, when we are trying to reach out to our people," she said. "I would be the most popular person in Pakistan if I were to reach out to my people by saying negative things about the U.S. But it's not in my national interest and I'm convinced of that."

Today, The New York Times reported that in 2007 Pakistani intelligence agents and military officers were part of a group that opened fire on American Military officers. The paper reports that a Pakistani soldier "opened fire with an automatic rifle, pumping multiple rounds from just 5 or 10 yards away into an American officer, Maj. Larry J. Bauguess Jr., killing him almost instantly."

Khar first questioned the report's authenticity and asked, "Why is this coming out now?"

"Should we take it to mean that there is some concerted campaign against Pakistan? I hope not," she said.

Steve asked her what she would tell Americans who open the paper to see Bauguess' face and read about the Pakistani tie to his death.

"And what would you say to the Pakistanis who would see a photograph of thousands of dead bodies that are there in Pakistan... who see young school-going children between the ages of seven and 12 who are attacked, fired by the Talibans and who read in The New York Times that they are part of the problem?" Khar asked.

Khar said her country is trying "not to be reactionary" in this situation. She emphasized on different occasions that the United States and Pakistan are on the same side.

"This incident [the Mullen comments] has only strengthened one hand," she said. "That of the militants. If we are able to understand that, realize that I'm quite sure that we would understand that there are no unilateral solutions."

"The blame game," she said, "is counterproductive."

Much more of Steve and Khar's conversation on Wednesday's Morning Edition. Tune into your local NPR member station to listen. We'll also post the as-aired version of the interview later in the day Wednesday.

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DAVID GREENE, Host:

It's MORNING EDITION from NPR News. Good morning, I'm David Greene in Washington.

STEVE INSKEEP, Host:

And I'm Steve Inskeep in New York. In recent days, some Pakistanis acted as if they expected war with the United States. They're responding to an accusation.

GREENE: The top American military officer says Pakistan's intelligence agency still supports militants. Admiral Mike Mullen says that includes men who attacked the U.S. embassy in Afghanistan.

MICHAEL MULLEN: In choosing to use violent extremism as an instrument of policy, the government of Pakistan - and most especially the Pakistani Army and ISI - jeopardizes not only the prospect of our strategic partnership, but Pakistan's opportunity to be a respected nation with legitimate regional influence.

GREENE: Facing this allegation, Pakistani newspapers warned of conflict while Pakistani generals held emergency meetings. There was talk of recalling the foreign minister from a visit to the U.S.

INSKEEP: In the end she stayed, spoke at the United Nations, and sat down with us. Hina Rabbani Khar is 34, new on the job, and defending Pakistan's military.

HINA RABBANI KHAR: We are both fighting this very, very complicated, complex situation in the region. We are both fighting against the same people. Pakistan has lost 30,000 of its men, women and children to the same war that your country is fighting. Imagine how the U.S. would react if such a number had lost their lives and then comments would come from other countries which said that you are the problem, you are part of the problem.

INSKEEP: Granting the sacrifices that Pakistan has made?

RABBANI KHAR: Mm-hmm.

INSKEEP: ?that you have described, when I visited Pakistan, discussions of links between the Inter-Services Intelligence and militant groups are very common, almost common knowledge. You hear about it on the street, you read about it in the media. Why is it even a why is it even a subject of controversy?

RABBANI KHAR: You know, there are links of any intelligence agency - and I can assure you that your intelligence agency would have links with the same people, maybe - does that mean that they are involved in an attack which was made on your embassy? I just saw a picture where Jalaluddin Haqqani was the state guest at the White House. Does that mean that your country still supports what they're doing?

INSKEEP: You're referring to this group leader whose group dates back to 1980, when the U.S was allies?

RABBANI KHAR: Of course. Of course. And these people were created at that time, and they were created with your financing. You see, so if you want to look at it unilaterally, I think it's counterproductive.

INSKEEP: Although Admiral Mullen, the man who made this statement, is perhaps the most engaged of all U.S. officials over the last several years with your country, has visited again and again and again, which is one of the reasons the statement was given so very much weight.

RABBANI KHAR: You know, the intelligence world is a complex world. I won't be in the right if I were to sit here and make any aspersions on your intelligence. I would not choose to do that. I would be maybe the most popular person in Pakistan if I were to reach out to my people by saying negative things about the U.S. But it is not in my national interest.

INSKEEP: Has this incident strengthened the hand of the military in your country, where there is always, we should emphasize, a push and a pull between civilian and military control?

RABBANI KHAR: And there's a general debate in your country about how much Pakistan is being assisted. I would like to share with you that this war has cost us $68 billion. Most of the money that comes is reimbursement for money that Pakistan has already spent. So let's not look at it as an aid syndrome or a country or a relationship which is determined by how much, who is giving to each other.

INSKEEP: Given those numbers you laid out, would Pakistan be better off not allied with the United States?

RABBANI KHAR: Pakistan would be better off with a peace and secure neighborhood. Let me just assure you that Pakistan is in the forefront of this because this is important for Pakistan's own future. I would hope you would take the time to read out the speech that I just delivered in the General Assembly, because on that I wanted to give out a very strong message that this is our fight. We are not ? we do not need encouragement. We do not need to be encouraged to fight them because we have to fight them for our own future, for the security of our own children.

INSKEEP: I'm glad you mentioned your speech before the United Nations General Assembly. In that speech you spoke of - and I'm quoting here - a democratic, progressive, prosperous Pakistan. What is one thing that's holding your country back from that being a fully true statement?

RABBANI KHAR: Lack of peace and security. This has a real effect on the life of every Pakistani - on the president of Pakistan, on the shopkeeper of Pakistan, on the girl what tries to go to school and who doesn't have school because we have to spend on more on operations on the Western borders. So, how are you able to ignore all these realities about where Pakistan is? The only thing I can say is that despite all of these efforts that Pakistan has made, the challenges are just still very daunting. What does that tell you? That tells you that you need to engage further, that you must not disengage.

INSKEEP: Foreign Minister Khar, thanks very much.

RABBANI KHAR: Thank you.

INSKEEP: Hina Rabbani Khar is Pakistan's top diplomat. Tomorrow, we meet the American admiral whose accusation caused a furor in Pakistan. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.