This is the comment the Ambassador of Pakistan, Dr. Maleeha Lodhi, made, exclusively to IMRAN INTERNETional / PakistaNews, in response to questions about an editorial that appeared in the Asian Wall Street Journal.
"We have long argued that the Pressler Amendment is an inequitable and discriminatory law and are therefore gratified to note that this fact is receiving increasing acknowledgement. The editorial comment in the Asian Wall Street Journal on February 16, 1995 is the most recent example of this."
The editorial text is included for those who do not have access to it.
The following is the text of an editorial that appeared in the Asian Wall Street Journal on February 16, 1995.
Say what you like about Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, she did the right thing in handing over the accused mastermind of the 1993 World Trade Center bombing. In fact, by extraditing Ramzi Ahmed Yousef to the United States last week, Pakistan not only took a moral stand on the abstract subject of terrorism, but contributed something of even more immediate consequence.
If authorities in several world capitals are correct, Mr. Yousef dreamed of assassinating the Pope, planted the Philippines Airlines bomb that killed one passenger last December, and was preparing to blow up a U.S. Commercial flight out of Thailand. By helping to put him behind bars, Pakistan has probably snatched dozens of people out of the very jaws of death.
Not without risk, either. In the tumultuous world of Pakistani politics, demagogy is the name of the game. This episode, with its sub-text of Muslim man versus the ugly American power machine, is ripe for the picking, Benazir 's enemies have not figured out how to use it yet, but they will.
No one takes seriously the religious Jamaat-I- Islamic party's response to Ms. Bhutto's action, a call for the extradition to Pakistan of Michael Jackson and Madonna, who it calls "terrorists against Muslim feelings." Perhaps they should. But the real threat does not come from mullahs or mobs in the streets.
Even if authorities have nabbed the right man in this case, he is only one head of a terrorist hydra that is undoubtedly stirring now with thoughts of vengeance. In New York, authorities have beefed up security around Pakistan's consulate. In Islamabad, all those involved in the capture operation are vulnerable, and watching their backs.
That said, it's clear that Ms. Bhutto expects to get something in return. The most obvious item on the agenda us the release 38 F-16 fighter bombers that Pakistan purchased for $680 million but never received. That was because the U.S. decided in 1990 that Islamabad was building a bomb. That brought the (Senator Larry) Pressler amendment into play, and disqualified Pakistan from receiving any more U.S. Military support or governmental assistance of any kind.
Strangely, as long as the Soviets were in Afghanistan, Washington failed to detect any nuclear odors in Pakistan, one of its closest Cold War partners. But the Cold War is over and we suspect the real reason Pakistan was presslerized was that, as America's friend, it was easier to squeeze than, say, North Korea.
It's been open season ever since. Various sharpshooters in Washington have drawn beads on Islamabad, threatening to put it alongside Libya and Iran on the U.S. List of terrorist states, and generally treating Pakistan as the epicenter of all the world's addictive drugs, oppressed women and bad Islamic vibes.
Even before last week's anti-terrorist operation, Pakistan was taking steps to clean up its image. It has been rousting the legions of foreign Muslim guerrillas who used the Afghan war to hone their skills for combat against their own governments, and has begun extraditing some of the worst offenders to Egypt. Pakistani police have now arrested four of the seven drug kings on Washington's most wanted heroin traffickers list. Prime Minister Bhutto just unveiled legislation that would bar religious schools, or madrasas, from offering weapons training alongside Koran studies.
To its credit, the Clinton administration has been trying for some time to get the U.S.-Pakistan relationship back on track. U.S. Officials have floated the idea of re-wording the Pressler amendment to remove its focus on Pakistan. But non-proliferationists kicked up a fuss, and Mr. Clinton's people backed off.
They should try again. It ought to be clear by now that the amendment is past its sell-by date. The dreaded "Islamic bomb" will soon be available in Teheran, if it isn't already, and people who want to nuke New York are shopping in Russia for supplies.
Sadly, the good senator hasn't even headed off the threat of a nuclear war in Southwest Asia. As revelations by disgruntled former Pakistani officials make clear, Islamabad already has what it takes to make a bomb. After a trip to the region this year, U.S. Defense Secretary William Perry reported that by weakening Pakistan's conventional forces, the amendment has actually increased Islamabad's faith in nuclear weaponry as a deterrent against nuclearized, and vastly bigger, India.
Pakistanis are fond of saying that their moderate Islamic country has been useful to America in the past and could come in handy in the future as well. They hope that the new Republican Congress will be more receptive than its predecessors to appeals for a new beginning with an old friend. And if the wall comes down, they promise, Pakistan will focus on getting American trade, not aid.
That should be music to Republican ears. Also, Ms. Bhutto's delivery of Mr. Yousef is an earnest that should not be underrated, given the risks she faces.
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