Expressing concern over the peace deal between the Pakistani government and tribal leaders in the remote northern areas of the country, the United States has said that the frontier regions of the country were a hotbed of extremism.
Addressing the House sub-committee on appropriation, US Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice said that Washington continues to have concerns over the peace deal worked out with the tribal leaders of Northern Waziristan and the government in Islamabad.
"When you come to the frontier regions, this is an area that's never been governed in Pakistan, wasn't really, frankly, governed by the British and hasn't been governed by the Pakistanis. And so it is remote, it is cut off, it is underdeveloped, and it is a hotbed for extremism," Rice said.
Justifying the $800 million in allocation to Pakistan in the State Department's Fiscal budget for 2008, the top administration official maintained that Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf has come a long way from 2001 and is trying to push his country into a more moderate course.
"I think it's fair to say that five years ago or six years ago now, Pakistan was a country that was really on the verge of going over to extremism. I think that is not an overstatement.... And we know that Pakistan was a transit point and that a lot of the radical elements simply stayed.
"And so this was a country that was in very deep trouble and I think well on its way to being given over to extremism. And given the modern nature of Pakistan, that would have been a real blow in any efforts to fight terrorism," Rice told lawmakers during the interactive session.
"We have in President Musharraf someone who, as of December, 2002, publicly said that extremism and modernism could not exist side by side in Pakistan, and I think has been proceeding to try and bring Pakistan to a more moderate course.
Now, it is very difficult, particularly given all of the constituencies in Pakistan, including radical elements," Rice said.
"What we have been trying to do is to help this ally on the war on terror to deal with those extremist elements in the following ways. You mention the madrassas.
We actually have an education programme with Pakistan that we've funded each year to help Pakistan to modernize its teaching and modernise its curriculum in those madrassas," the Secretary of State said.
"If people have no other prospects, they will turn to extremism. And that is really what this funding is intending to do; it is intending to modernise schools, it is intending to bring health care and development to people; it is intending to try to have, to the degree that we can, women's empowerment in an area that is, as you might imagine, very much in the other direction. This is a Pakistani effort, but we think it deserves our support," Rice said.
"We, too, have concerns about the deal that was done between the Pakistani government and the tribal leaders in the region, where I think there are some concerns that the possible safe haven for terrorism there has to be dealt with," the Secretary of State said.