Most Ukrainians associate the cooperation between Ukraine and Pakistan only with the famous Pakistani tank agreement. Besides, for some Ukrainians Pakistan is an example to follow, because this Islamic country gained a nuclear status whereas Ukraine voluntarily refused from the world’s third largest potential. Is nuclear status justified for Pakistan, having rather friendly relations with its northern neighbor China? Can Islamabad see any threat from Iran’s possible gaining of nuclear status? What is Pakistanis’ attitude towards to the systems of collective security and how do they estimate the role of NATO? Is Islam capable of modernizing and what relation does this religion have to suicide bombers? What is the potential of Pakistan’s cooperation with Ukraine and, in particular, what mega projects could be interesting for Ukrainian investors? These and other questions are raised in The Day’s exclusive interview with Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Islamic Republic of Pakistan to Ukraine Gazanfar Ali KHAN.
In Ukraine some sort of discussion exists whether Ukraine should regain its nuclear status. Is nuclear status helpful for your country?
“Acquisition of nuclear technology by a country is a matter of its policy and strategy based on the ground realities; the needs and requirement which best serve its national interest and objectives. Similar is the case with the choice i.e. the policy decision whether to use this technology for production of nuclear weapons. To have nuclear status or not is a moot point. As said earlier, each country has to have its own policy and strategy to serve its own interests. Reasons for Pakistan to acquire this capability were two- fold. One is that we want to use this technology for peaceful purposes. I will not go in detail of these as they are well known. The second is Pakistan’s peculiar security environment. When we decided to acquire nuclear capability, the security situation was very serious and volatile. Still it remains sensitive but thank God much better than before. We have unresolved issue of Kashmir on which a number of UN resolutions have been passed and are on record of the world body. According to these resolutions people of Kashmir have to given right of self determination to choose their future. Whether they want to be part of Pakistan or India is their choice, but unfortunately they deny this basic human right. Both countries i.e., Pakistan and India have gone to war three times since their independence. Both the countries can not afford to wage such wars any more. We are a much smaller country in all respects as compared to our eastern neighbor to ensure our survival as an independent sovereign state we have to maintain an effective level of defensive balance. In order to respond to the need of our defensive strategy, Pakistan opted to have nuclear weapons which should be a deterrent against any foreign aggression. And as it’s well understood that in order to have an effective and credible deterrence, one must have the capability and the will to use such means. Pakistan today has both of them. In our case this strategy has worked effectively in deterring wars between us and our adversaries. As for Ukraine, your country has its own needs, and it depends how the government of Ukraine perceives threat to its independence and sovereignty. You gave up nuclear weapons voluntarily the government understands this issue better than any one else. Ukraine showed to the world that it wanted to be denuclearized. But when it comes to the question of justification to have such a capability or not, it remains prerogative of the people and the government of Ukraine. Go for, what ever is in the best interest of your country.”
What do you think about Iran intention to get full nuclear cycle and possibly develop atomic weapon?
“Every country has the right to acquire modern technologies that are available to them. Stately, Iran wants to have nuclear capability for peaceful usage. Hence they have all the right to develop this technology for peaceful purposes. What influence can this have on this region? As it is known Iran claims not to have any plans to manufacture nuclear weapons. They are signatory to NPT. Hypothetically speaking and stretching it too far if they ever do have this capability in the future, my personal view is that it shouldn’t affect Pakistan in any way. We don’t feel threatened as we have good neighborly relations with Iran. It may rather bring in stability in the region.”
Mr. Ambassador your country has very good relation with China. Even recently between your countries were signed 10 Memorandums. So why not rely upon big friend to secure integrity of Pakistan?
“While giving answer to this question I can mention General Ayub Khan (a former president of Pakistan) who in his book Friends not Masters writes: ‘Nobody gives you freedom, you have to fight for it and nobody fights for you, you have to fight yourself.’ This refers to all sovereign and independent states. Each of them wishes to be self sufficient in this regard. When it comes to defending your sovereignty, you have to do it yourself rather than looking over your shoulders to someone else to help you. Of course, in case of need your friends may come forward to help. But you can’t base your defense strategy and plans on presumptions that someone will come and fight your battle or war. You must have the basic capability to defend yourself. And in case of some unforeseen eventuality if you need some help, friends are meant for this job.”
So you don’t believe in systems of collective security?
“Collective security systems or arrangement are different things. Such systems are very useful in case you are part of one of them. At the moment Pakistan does not take part in any system of this kind.”
By the way, your country is an ally of United States.
“Yes, at present Pakistan enjoys a special status as a military ally of USA outside NATO. This is in the perspective of our participation in global war against terrorism in which Pakistan is a front-line state fighting side by side with NATO troops on our side of Afghan border. Pakistan has been providing unabated operational as well as logistic support to NATO operations in that area since US invasion of Afghanistan after Sept. 11, 2001.”
What do you think about NATO role today and in future?
“Outwardly, one thought NATO was more relevant to the cold war scenario and was centric in times of the Warsaw Pact. The Warsaw Pact exists no more. However, in view of the current geopolitical situation of the world, where new centers of power are emerging, NATO has assumed a different role. It is one of the important military instruments of application in support of the global policies being pursued by the sole super power i.e., USA and its allies wherever need be. It can play a useful role in bringing about peace and stability in disturbed regions of the world.”
Why do you think Russia is strongly against NATO?
“Answer to this question is best reflected in the recent statements of Russian leadership against Ukraine’s participation in NATO. As per them they don’t likes a military shield near their border, when they are not part of it. It is a natural reaction from Russia and such statements reflect its true opinion and feelings.”
May there appear something like South-east Asia NATO?
“I cannot offer a concrete comment on this issue, because I do not see this happening in the nearest future. In South East Asia, ASEAN is an association which is mainly concerned with political and social cooperation amongst the member states. A threat perception emanating from a common adversary is not evident as of today; hence no military alliance like NATO is going to appear in that region. By the way, Pakistan is not a member of this Association so it is not that much relevant to us from the point of view of defense.”
President Musharraf has become civilian head of state and promised that Pakistan would be democratic country but in its own way or a sa facon as it was reported by Agence France Presse. May you say how one should interpret democracy in its own way or Pakistani way? What impact can have the Pakistani example of introducing democracy in the country on its neighboring countries and especially on the situation on the border with Afghanistan as well as inside Afghanistan?
“While talking of modern democratic systems, one must consider its historical perspective and development or evolution. All big democracies of the world were not all that democratic a hundred years ago. They have all evolved into the present shape by going through different and difficult stages. Pakistan is going through one of those stages of democracy. What President Musharraf said was that democracy has no standard format which suites every country alike. In fact it has to be tailored to the requirements of the people, and to the ethos of the people of any country. The best of the western democracies may not be best suited to Pakistan’s social environment characterized by peculiar structure of society based on big families/clans and head of families still have an important say in day to day affairs, where literacy level is still 50-60 percent, where 70 percent population still live in rural areas. We still have reserved seats for women and minorities in the Parliament. So we should not be too much critical of the procedures and processes involved in democratic dispensation as long as the ultimate objective is being met. Procedures may be different, for example, to decide on whether the candidates are eligible. Today we have a condition that a person should be at least a graduate of a university to be eligible for running in parliamentary elections. Other countries may not have such a restriction and so on. Being an internal issue, the democratic model in Pakistan, no matter of what kind, should not be a matter of concern for any other country.”
Some experts say that we are now living in epoch of war of civilization. Why, in your opinion, Western and Islamic civilizations do not understand one another?
“First of all, let me say that there are people, who call this clash of religions, not civilizations. I think this opinion or perception is being spread by extremists or fanatics on both sides. I don’t think that there is any war or clash of civilizations. The basic rules and tenants of all religions of God are common. The two big religions i.e. Islam and Christianity preach peace and harmony. They both preach love, mutual understanding and good relations between people at individual as well as social levels. Of course, there are people who belong to the category of obscurantist, who go to extremes and do so much harm to the need of inter-faith harmony. I, as a Muslim, have no reason or right to criticize you for your faith. We are taught to rather respect feelings and beliefs of all other human beings.”
How, in your opinion, may be explained such phenomenon as suicide bombers?
“This is a very important and sensitive issue. These are irresponsible extremist elements of society who encourage such tendencies. Religion has nothing to do with this. In Islam, suicide is strictly forbidden. It’s a sin. You are not supposed to take your own or some one else’s life. Only God is responsible for making you live or die. Those who compel anyone to kill others are ignorant of real spirit of the religion. These suicide bombers are uneducated and raw minds who have poor understanding of religion, who are given an illusionary understanding of good and bad and of the life here after. Teenagers misled by others represent 90-95 percent of people who blow themselves. Beside religious fanatics, unfortunately, there are other foreign elements that are supporting such activities to serve their gory interests. Such elements are spending millions of dollars to motivate the raw minds to perform such criminal acts. They promise huge sums of money to the families of such derailed minds. Let me assure you once again that the phenomenon of suicide bombing has nothing to do with religion its being exploited by local and foreign elements having political aims and interests in harming Pakistan.”
What you think about image of Islam in the world and whether Islamic world is capable to modernize or change in the today’s world which changes very quickly?
“Islam is the most modern religion. It is a complete code of life the whole humanity for all times to come. So we don’t need to modernize Islam. It does not stop you from anything good; it only prevents you from doing bad and particularly doing bad things to others. It takes care of the modern concept of human rights. There is no distinction between color and creed. There is no distinction between men and women when it comes to education. Islam ensures the equality of women. Islam teaches to treat women even better than males. Since they are a weaker sex, one has to take a greater care of them. Look at the status of a woman; she is a mother, daughter, sister or a wife. Islam does not forbid women to receive education. It rather preaches strengthening and development of this institution of women as they play an important role in development of the society as a whole. In Pakistan women have been specially empowered. They have all the rights of an equal citizen. They can work anywhere they meet the criterion, they can be members of the Parliament and hold any position allowed by the law of the country what is desired the most is that where ever woman work, they should not be exploited. Shutting down of women in houses is strictly undesirable and forbidden. Let me reiterate that it is misnomer to say that Islam forbids women to participate in social development or it stops from being a useful member of nation building activity. Islam is a modern religion that safeguards your rights in all respects. It provides you with the freedom of action as long as the rights of others are not jeopardized, may it be playing sports, enjoying music and so on.”
Ukrainian mass media reported that Ukrainian president said during meeting with you that there is huge potential in relations between Ukraine and Pakistan. In your opinion, why this potential is not realized? Or may we see in future such a big contract as famous Pakistan tank contract?
“I see a big potential for further cooperation between Pakistan and Ukraine. Besides cooperation in the defense sector there are host of other areas that we can mutually benefit from one another. Besides dealing in hard ware it’s about time that we have a more meaningful cooperation in high-tech areas. I think both countries have a huge potential to cooperate in We have more than a dozen draft agreements covering different fields: education, extradition arrangement, aviation, protection of investment, avoidance of double taxation, visa abolition etc. Most of these agreements are in the process of finalization for long time. We are working hard to facilitate the process and hope to finalize them soon. It will certainly provide the required boost to trade and investment activity between both countries. Mega projects like oil and gas exploration, oil and gas transit, railway construction, social sector development, and electric power generation are worth to be mentioned again.”
What about the investment climate in Pakistan? Is it attractive for Ukrainian investors?
“Why not? Unfortunately, the year 2007 has been a year of parliamentary elections for both Pakistan and Ukraine. Political governments in both countries are in the process of settling down. But that should not hold back the mutual activities in respect to our mutual cooperation. There are a number of foreign companies successfully operating in Pakistan. The government takes all required measures to provide security and safety to all those working there.”
Can you tell about the level of Ukrainian investor’s involvement in Pakistan?
“The participation of Ukrainian investors is rather small at present. I think investors should look at the prospect of establishing joint ventures in Pakistan and serve markets of that region. There is a large scope and potential to find such markets say Middle East, Far East etc. As said earlier, there are bright prospects for Ukrainian friends to cooperate in Oil and Gas sectors development in Pakistan. They may participate in building of railways like the one planned from Gawadar Port going northward to Central Asia. Gas transit Project IPI (Iran Pakistan India) could be another lucrative investment.”