Conference on Pakistan emphasizes need for long-term Pak-US strategic relationships

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Washington, Mar 31 : A day long conference on Pakistan at the John Hopkins University on Sunday emphasized the need for Pakistan and the United States to build a close and long term strategic relationship.

Rifaat Hussain from Colombo told the conference, "The US must evolve a broad-based strategic framework for its interactions with Pakistan. Human rights organisations, civil society and the media must be recognised as important stakeholders in an effort to transform Pakistan - and the US should not block it from being a sovereign democracy."

He urged US to help making competitive state-run schools in Pakistan especially in rural and underdeveloped areas.

He also said that the Pakistan military is keen to reduce its visibility, but the defence budget must be scrutinised by parliament.

Bushra Aitzaz said, " For the first time, the higher judiciary in Pakistan had demonstrated that it would not provide legitimacy to illegitimate rule. Pakistan's democracy is "back with a vengeance" and nothing can roll it back."

Hasan Askari Rizvi said one-party ruling has ended in Pakistan. A political system that responds to the needs of the people needs to be brought into being and it must be one that is decentralised. The lawyers' movement has restored the confidence of the people in the power of civil society. People today feel that they can bring about change."

Professor Akbar Zaidi told the conference that the economy is going to be the main issue for the new government. Pakistan is no longer an agricultural country as the sector represents only 26 percent; nor is the majority of its population rural, since 55 percent of the people live in urban areas."

A Princeton physicist, Zia Mian called for a number of steps to strengthen civilian control over nuclear weapons.

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