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David Miliband(Archived), London
I have spent more time on Pakistan than any other issue in the last few weeks, including two meetings with the newly elected President Zardari. He has one of the toughest jobs in government around the world. In the wake of the Marriott bombing in Islamabad governments around the world want to help - on the economic as well as the security front.
Friday saw the launch of the new 'Friends of Pakistan' group Britain participates but so do the Emiratis, China, the US and half a dozen others. The agenda is central to the success of the new civilian government: economic modernisation, with real investment especially in young people on the back of economic stabilisation, alongside security enhancement to address the huge challenges Pakistan faces. No one can now fail to see that the terrorist threat to British service personnel (and diplomats and aid workers) in Afghanistan is also a threat to Pakistan and its people.
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The accession of President Zardari to the leadership of Pakistan is a key moment for Pakistan. His election with a 68% majority completes the transition to full democratic civilian rule for the first time in 9 years. It is vital that the Pakistan government does not suffer the fate of previous Pakistan governments.
I spoke to President Zardari yesterday and the Prime Minister is speaking to him today to emphasise Britain's commitment to work with the people in Pakistan at all levels, above all on the twin issues of the economy and security. My two visits to Pakistan revealed a country of teeming energy but also unfulfilled aspirations. The striking thing is that political, economic and security aspirations go together. Polling in the FATA shows that politics as well as security are top of the agenda.
Civilian rule needs to show itself up to the task of short term improvement as well as long term legitimacy. Britain can and will help through official channels and development aid and security support, but also through the unofficial channels of people-to-people links from our own British Pakistani community.
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