Q. What’s your take on President Obama’s speech?
A. It’s quite a balanced account of the crisis facing the Muslim world in its relationship with the West, a frank admission of Western injustices against Muslims during the colonial period, and before and afterwards, and an attempt to build upon the new discourse on American-Muslim world ties President Obama began soon after entering the Oval Office. He already enjoys tremendous appeal and goodwill among the Muslim people, and I am sure his remarks in Cairo will go a long way in re-assuring Muslims around the world that the United States under a new leadership is ready to chart a new course in its attitude and policy towards them and their issues. Even though I must say that bridge between Muslim world and the West cannot be re-built by speeches alone, however eloquent they are, but by implementing concrete steps.
Q. In this respect, do you see some specific issues that the President raised in the speech?
A. He has comprehensively talked about almost all the issues which often created tension in US ties with the Muslim world, the seven issues that he mentioned, including extremism, Palestine, nuclear, democracy, religious tolerance, women rights, and development. Perhaps the most important point he made was on mutual responsibility: that instead of blaming each other, the West as well as the Muslim world need to look inward, and address indigenous factors that cause tension in ties. Making a distinction between the war in Iraq as a war of choice and the one in Afghanistan as a war of necessity will be equally important in winning Muslim goodwill. So is his proclamation that America does not intend to stay permanently in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Q. How would Pakistani people receive his remarks about helping Pakistan to address terrorism through billions of dollars of US civilian aid?
A. Well, this commitment has already been made in Obama Administration’s US Af-Pak policy announced in March, in which the political objective of the war on terror is narrowed down to defeating al-Qaeda and its terrorist allies, and the possibility of a dialogue with those dissociating from the terror network is left open. At the end of the day, when the military option is sufficiently exercised in Afghanistan and Pakistan’s tribal areas, the bigger task of rebuilding the region will begin. I think if 1.5 billion dollars a year from the United States plus other international aid is properly utilized in rebuilding the country’s areas destroyed by military operations against Taliban, then terrorism could become history in this region.