‘US must remain engaged with Pakistan in curbing terrorism’

WASHINGTON: Cory Booker, who is the ranking member of the United States Senate Foreign Relations Committee and for-mer democrat presidential hopeful, shared his views on several issues being faced by Pakistan including the recent terror issues.
Speaking during an exclusive interview with Geo News, Booker talked about Afghanistan, the out-lawed Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), Paki-stan’s deal with the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the looming threat of bankruptcy and the role of American-Pakistanis in the US administration.
Here is the transcript.
Interviewer: Before we talk about Pakistan, let’s talk something about US politics.
Q: When I go through your website, I find a quote where you say that the ‘American dream is not real for anyone unless it is within the reach of everyone.’ Lately, we have seen that Pakistani Americans have played a crucial role in midterm elections and your election as well. But we don’t see them much in the Biden admin-istration. Why? Is that dream not within the reach of Pakistani Americans?
A: First of all, you will have to understand what I believe is that one of the strong, influential and critical communities for the United States is the Pakistani community. You can’t live in New Jersey without seeing the import and the impact Pakistani Americans are making in medical sciences, in the world of business, en-trepreneurialism, and in many professions. More than that, culture, faith and food are now a very big part of my state. I am happy that Pakistani Americans in New Jersey are starting to rise up into elected positions as well. One reason I am here today is that this wonderful organisa-tion, American Pakistani Public Affairs Committee (APPAC), has been a partner of mine in trying to change or accelerate the reflection of the Paki-stanis and their influence and their import and impact on what we see in our government.
APPAC came to me and said we have never in American history had a Muslim article 3 judge and it was stunning to me that we had never had that all in our history not to have a Muslim judge so we worked togeth-er to find a number of qualified candidates to make a recommendation to President Biden. Now, today the first Muslim American judge.
Q: I can understand that you made history by recommending Zahid Qureshi as the first Muslim Pakistani American Judge. But are you satisfied with the level of proportionate representation of Pakistani Americans in the Biden administration because there are almost one million Pakistani Ameri-cans living across the United States?
A: I wouldn’t put it to one administration. I am not satisfied as we are not seeing across America the kind of proportionate representation we should be seeing in the highest level of government. Let me give you an ex-ample. I am only the fourth black person in the history of the United States ever elected to the US Senate. We have not seen a proportionate representation. Yes, Asian Americans, Muslim Americans, Latino Americans, and women even. We know this. Look at Pakistan, look at many countries that had women rise to the highest ranks. We have for the first time a woman vice presi-dent but we never had a woman president. So this idea of proportionate representation for the Pakistani community as well as for many other communi-ties is what we all need to work on. Why? Not for window dressing, not for bragging points. We know by looking at the research from Harvard Uni-versity and others that diverse organisations are strong organisations. America is strong because of diversity. Our American government will be stronger if it has more proportionate repre-sentatives of the diversity of people.
Interviewer: Let’s talk something about Pakistan and of course Afghanistan.
Q: We have seen that during the Trump administration, Pakistan helped America secure Doha Peace Deal with the Taliban. Now, the US is out and is secured. But Pakistan is facing the brunt of terrorism recently by the TTP. Do you see any space for the Biden administration to put pressure on Af-ghan Taliban to tackle the TTP somehow?
A: Terrorists work in a way that they do not threaten one country, they are threatening the world order. As terrorists get stronger in one place, they are a greater threat to others. This is not an act of charity. The United States should be very engaged in stopping the terrorism of the Taliban. And, there-fore, a key ally in that ef-fort must be Pakistan. I love that the Pakistani Americans come to me and say that you have got to find a way to strengthen the US-Pakistan relationship not for Pakistan’s benefit but for America’s benefit and safety. And that’s what I am very much interested to do.
Q: If Pakistan takes action against the TTP, Pakistan’s economy is not strengthened enough. And it is bending backwards to meet IMF demands. and still, the deal is yet to be signed. Do you think there is some space for the Biden administration to put pressure on the IMF or encourage the IMF to soften the deal or give Pakistan some leverage to avoid something Sri Lanka has faced like bankruptcy?
A: Yes, I mean look, this is the reality of that region. You have the Chinese there and you have an obvious problem with Russia. Pakistan is in a critical neighbourhood and we have to find ways to create a deeper bond and deeper friendship. If not, then it can go for partnership with nations that do not share the same democrat-ic principles or ideals. This is why I have been a voice for strong aid to Pakistan, especially coming out of a climate disas-ter, not of their own making.
Q: Our former prime minister Imran Khan has blamed the United States for toppling his government and installing the present coalition government. Do you buy the argument that America played some role in top-pling the Khan-led regime or is it propaganda politics?
A: My perspective is simple. The Pakistani people deserve a vibrant and fair democracy. This should be al-ways the American position to support not a party, not a politician but the people of Pakistan. There is a strong and deep commitment in this incredible country towards democracy. We should be supporting them in that journey. America has had hundreds of years now developing and deepening our democratic principles and ideals. It was in my grandmother’s generation that women couldn’t vote. It was in my parent’s generation that blacks were prevented from voting. We continue to find ways to deepen and broaden our democracy. We must support Pakistan in that journey and focus on the incredible people of that country. And that as an American leader, as the leader on the foreign relations committee and as United States Senator, this is what my focus would be. –Agencies