Bhutto Urges U.S. To Maintain Alliance Honor Arms Contract By Lisa Mastny Addressing an audience of dignitaries, faculty and students, and quoting liberally from U.S. presidents Kennedy, Lincoln and Franklin Roosevelt, Pakistani prime minister Benazir Bhutto made an impassioned plea to strengthen U.S. relations with her country in a recent speech at Hopkins' Nitze School of Advanced International Studies. The 45-minute presentation last Monday, Ms. Bhutto's only public appearance in Washington while on a working visit to the United States which began April 5, came after several days of lobbying on Capitol Hill and one day before the prime minister's scheduled meetings with President Clinton and members of Congress. "We have honored our Contract with America," Ms. Bhutto said, reminding the audience of her country's unwavering commitment to freedom and the containment of communism throughout the Cold War. "We want America to honor its contract with us." The United States owes Pakistan more than $1 billion in military equipment, including 28 F-16 fighters, but has barred delivery of the supplies since 1990 after uncertainties arose about the direction of that country's nuclear program. U.S.-Pakistani relations have also been tense following recent terrorist attacks and the murders of two American diplomats in the capital city of Karachi last month. The prime minister warned the United States not to overlook the breadth of Pakistani sacrifices over the past 47 years, including her country's virtually single-handed support of the almost 2 million Afghan refugees who took sanctuary in Pakistan after the 1985 war and who are now depleting financial and forest resources as well as taxing the social infrastructure. Pakistan has also suffered the most casualties of any nation in UN peacekeeping efforts in Cambodia, Bosnia, Somalia, Haiti and around the world, Ms. Bhutto said. "On democracy, human rights, international peacekeeping, Afghan refugees, drug trafficking and terrorism, from the 1940s to the 1990s, Pakistan continues to honor its contract with the civilized world, and its Contract with America," she said. "Our steadfastness and consistency must be remembered as we go through a remarkable period of political transition." Ms. Bhutto told the audience of more than 450 people that the end of the Cold War places Pakistan in an extremely important geostrategic position as a role model for the newly independent states of Central Asia. She also considers her country to be the most progressive Muslim nation on issues of human rights, the free market and democracy. Despite its strong human rights record, Ms. Bhutto said, Pakistan is not without its lingering problems, especially with neighboring countries such as India. "It would be irresponsible, and yes even immoral, for me to come to the capital city of the free world and not raise the pressing political and human rights issue which divides South Asia," she said. "In the age of political miracles--from Gaza to South Africa--Kashmir remains a political nightmare, a symbol of the abuse of power, the denial of self-determination and the denial of political choice." Her country's dispute with India over the Kashmiri territory has raged since the division of the Indian subcontinent and the creation of Pakistan in 1947. Throughout her visit and in her speech, Ms. Bhutto sought to clarify her government's position on the conflict as well as to gain reassurances that such tensions would not jeopardize a Pakistani-U.S. partnership for the future. "Just as Pakistan and the United States have been allies during the last half-century, we must be partners in the new millennium," she said. "That is why I am here. That is why I am in America. That is why I am in Washington, and at SAIS." Following her speech, the prime minister responded to a number of questions drafted by SAIS students and read by Dean Paul Wolfowitz. Students expressed concerns about issues of population control, relations with India and issues of international security, including efforts to fight fanaticism and religious extremism. After the question and answer period, Dean Wolfowitz presented the prime minister with the President's Medal of The Johns Hopkins University, recognizing her unwavering support of democratic principles and financial and economic reform, as well as her efforts to improve the quality of life of women and children in her country.
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