Cooperation, Not Bombs
Note to Creators.com readers: We are offering Benazir Bhutto's complete collection of syndicated columns for the interest of our readers. Please visit our news page for a complete chronological list, or you may browse our archives by month with the drop down menu on this page.
Last Sunday, more than 50 of my countrymen lost their lives in the cold-blooded bombing of a Lahore bus taking families home for Eid al-Adha, one of the most important feasts in the Muslim calendar.
Women and children burned to death, and witnesses were unable to approach the shattered vehicle for hours due to the extreme heat. It was a senseless tragedy that leaves us wondering about the kind of world we live in.
Although we do not know the identity of those responsible for this heinous act, the preliminary findings indicate that it might have been from outside the country and externally sponsored. It may have been an effort by enemies of Pakistan to step up activity in the important province of Punjab."
The ultimate irony is that this comes at a time when all the nations of the world should be overcoming differences and learning to cooperate in the quest for peace and economic prosperity.
It has been more than four decades since the last great war tore the globe apart and led to a world carved into competing ideological camps. Economic interests took a back seat to Cold War competition, as Soviets and Americans used developing nations as pawns on a global chessboard.
But, as the Berlin Wall crumbled and the nations of the world were freed from their ideological prisons, real cooperation for economic prosperity became a viable option. Nations have joined in regional alliances that allow them to enlarge their markets, more rationally divide labor, pool research and development resources, and generate a higher investible surplus.
One only has to look as far as the European Union and ASEAN to see the potential benefits of this type of cooperation. And, recently, trade alliances such as NAFTA, APEC, ECO and others have continued this trend.
But the success of regional alliances depends on the promotion of a common interest, mutual confidence and a spirit of equality among big and small neighboring states — the type of brotherhood that can be so easily shattered by a terrorist's explosives.
We must also remember that regionalization can also be used as a barrier to change and peace, when nations organize to insulate themselves from the salutary impact of globalism.
We must not let these potential dangers deter us from our attempts to build successful regional alliances, however. The economic well-being of our people is too important for such fears.
In addition, the very economic cooperation we should be seeking to promote can help lead to greater regional security. The ASEAN economic alliances, for instance, led inevitably to the Asian Regional Forum, which has greatly enhanced the peace and stability in Southeast Asia, an area only recently mired in bloodshed.
This success should serve as an example for the two organizations to which Pakistan belongs, the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation and the Economic Cooperation Organization.
Unfortunately, while ECO is a model of successful interaction, as member states as disparate as Turkey and Iran work to overcome their differences, the SAARC a battleground of political posturing. The denial of the right of self-determination to the people of Jammu and Kashmir casts a dark shadow on the efforts to promote economic cooperation. And with the recent tragedy, it will be even harder to build the trust and good faith that such cooperation requires.
Even when agreement exists, the most basic problem — lack of necessary funds — presents itself. In short, although a wide range of ideas is on the table in both organizations, the means to set these proposals into action lie beyond our grasp.
In ECO, where there are only minor political problems, the planned creation of such useful infrastructure as an integrated communication network, energy pipelines and other joint ventures lack the necessary capital to get them off the ground.
It is necessary, then, for the more prosperous nations of the globe to ask themselves: Would the European Union have been able to make progress without the earlier years of patronage from the United States? Could ASEAN have been the success it is without Japan's stable hand?
Surely, the nations encompassing ECO and SAARC are of equal importance to regional and global peace and prosperity. Side by side, the world must assist us to overcome our political problems — problems that, once solved, will help us create a world where the bombing of innocents is a thing of the past.
COPYRIGHT 1996 CREATORS SYNDICATE, INC.