Pakistan enjoying well-functioning democratic system: Steffen Kudella

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By Shabbir Hussain

ISLAMABAD, June 08 ( Diplomatic Star): Economic stability interlinked with political stability both were imperative for any country’s sustainable growth rate and in establishing for better and prosperous society.

These views were expressed by the Country Director, Hanns Seidel Foundation Pakistan, Dr Steffen Kudella in an exclusive online interview with HSS Podcast-Global Perspectives regarding  Pakistan’s political development and its regional role after the Taliban takeover in Afghanistan.

Analyzing the situation in which Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan lost a vote of no confidence in parliament in early April, the parliament elected new prime minister. Is this a sign of well-functioning democratic control or What kind of changes do the new prime minister’s supporters expect to see?

Dr Steffen Kudella said, In my opinion, being neutral observer living in Pakistan, the recent change of government shows that institutions here are working as per their constitutional roles and responsibilities.

Everyone knows, he said that many western analysts were concerned that the government crisis in Pakistan might lead to unrest, civil war or even to a military takeover.

However, Steffen Kudella said that nothing of that happened. Instead, Pakistan’s constitution won.

Explaining the whole political episode, Steffen Kudella said that there were attempts of the old Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf led government to avoid or delay the vote of no confidence. But, he said with the support of the Supreme Court the vote finally took place., which he termed a good omen for democracy and political system that led to a peaceful change of government.

To a question regarding HSF relations with Pakistan date back to the early 1980s. Thus, HSF looks back on long-standing relations with Pakistan. How has the cooperation or even the activities of the HSS in the country changed over the years?

Dr. Steffen Kudella said ” HSF is the oldest German political foundation working in Pakistan. We have been active in Pakistan since 1983. We started working here with establishing and managing a technical training center in Baluchistan.”

Ten years later, in 1993, HSF opened an office in Islamabad and with this office we extended our work across the whole country, he informed.

Since around 2012, HSF has increasingly focused on projects related to good governance and regional dialogue. Today, our focus areas include
• Strengthening constitutional structures, which includes work with the Parliament of Pakistan,
• Dialogue within South Asia
• Dialogue between South Asia and Europe,
• Research in the field of non-traditional security challenges. These are challenges without any military.

Replying to another question about Pakistan has an interest in stability in the region. At the same time, from a Western perspective, the country is sometimes acting contradictorily, for example by walking a fine line between supporting and containing the Afghan Taliban. How can the international community help Pakistan meet its security challenges and engage in dialogue and cooperation? And what can HSS contribute to this effort?

Commenting on the first part of the question Steffen Kudella said absolutely right: Pakistan’s main interest is regional stability, and the Pakistani government is willing to pursue any means needed to support this long-term goal. But this goal is very difficult to achieve in a fragile neighborhood.

He said that Pakistan shares its longest borders, thousands of kilometers, with Afghanistan and Iran in the west and India in the east. In the northeast it borders China, in the south the Arabian Sea and Gulf of Oman.

Steffen Kudella said that the border with Afghanistan – the so-called “Durand Line” – is over 2,600 kilometers long, extremely difficult to control, and it has never been formally accepted by the Afghan government. Afghanistan, as you surely know, has been torn by many conflicts since decades.

Another important aspect that Pakistan shared much parts of the border with India – namely in the Kashmir region – are highly disputed too. Kashmir also borders China in the north, which makes things even more complicated.

Steffen Kudella said ” We need to understand that Pakistan is not only a nuclear-armed country, but a regional power, the 5th most populous country in the world and it has the world’s second-largest Muslim population. Beyond doubt, Pakistan has legitimate security interests in South Asia.” The international community needs to engage with Pakistan accordingly., he added.

Steffen Kudella said that Pakistan’s policy focus can be best described as “economic connectivity”, but the country wants more regional economic integration which hopefully will lead to more stability, development and prosperity.

Currently, Steffen Kudella said that Pakistan’s biggest investor is China with its infrastructure project CPEC – China Pakistan Economic Corridor.

However, Pakistan’s biggest export market is the European Union. Due to its GSP+ status, Pakistan can export many good to the EU without paying any taxes, he remarked.

The West needs to remain an attractive strategic alternative to China – without forcing Pakistan into any dogmatic bloc politics.

Sharing details of HSF operations in Pakistan and other countries including Germany, Steffen Kudella said ” the HSF try to support our Pakistani partners internationally, especially in Germany and Europe. And we offer dialogue platforms to address important regional and global issues in a critical, but always constructive manner.”

Engaging youth and promoting educational activities, Dr. Steffen Kudella said that the HSF was offering scholarships for talented Pakistani and Afghan students who study in Pakistan and a network of Young Leaders, for instance with YSAN, the Young South Asia Network.

He said HSF believe that living in a globalized and multilateral world means:
that the more people and governments interact, the more they need to work together. They need to do this in a responsible way and create lasting networks, he added.

Steffen Kudella terming the HSS podcast platform a vital and significant ones which not only youth and public to understand what different perceptions are there on international issues? What can be done to improve mutual understanding? How can we contribute to sustainable development by strengthening peace, democracy, the rule of law and a social market economy.

Steffen Kudella said to change the world, one have to understand the world. With the “Global Perspectives”.

Steffen Kudella said ” the Hanns Seidel Foundation (HSS) offers insights into its commitment in almost 70 countries in Europe and the world. Based on the values of democracy and participation, the HSS supports regional developments and creates opportunities for an active exchange and discourse between stakeholders and those responsible.”