â€œThe Pakistani People Have Spoken: Political Parties Begin To Participate In Newly Formed Governmentâ€: These were the words of Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee, Co- Chair of the Congressional Pakistan Caucus, as she returned to Houston, Texas on February 20th to give a detailed report of her trip to the region as an official observer of Pakistanâ€™s historic February 18th parliamentary elections. Congresswoman Jackson Lee lead a Congressional Delegation to the region from February 17th to February 20th, where she met with President of Pakistan Pervez Musharraf, election commission advisors and key officials in opposition parties including the widower of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, Asif Ali Zardari. Congresswoman Jackson Lee gave a first hand account of the Pakistani elections, and provided an analysis as to how the outcome of these elections will directly affect the United States and the citizens of Houston.
â€œThese historic elections will forever be marked as the day that the citizens of Pakistan united to participate in the process of democracy, giving a profound tribute to one of the world greatest fighters for freedom and justice, the late Benazir Bhutto. My hope is that this newly elected government, decided by the people of Pakistan, will redefine the struggle against terrorism, unify a non-transparent government and become a key resource and asset to the rest of the world. We must understand that the future of Pakistanâ€™s elections directly affect the security of the United States as well as the rest of the global community,â€: Stated Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee.
Aid to be given not through Government but via NGOs
Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee mentioned about the report of the Center for Strategic and International Studies (www.CSIS.Org) titled: â€œA Perilous Course: U.S. Strategy and Assistance to Pakistanâ€ By Project Directors Frederick Barton and Karin von Hippel and Author Craig Cohen. According to this report, for U.S. assistance to be effective in a state such as Pakistan, aid must go in areas like education, health care, economic development (job creation), etc., which are the main causes of conflict, instability, and extremism. Despite more than $10 billion in assistance since 9/11, distrust, dissatisfaction, and unrealistic expectations continue to undermine the U.S. goal of developing a strong, strategic, and enduring partnership with Pakistan. Congresswoman said that in light of this report, most of the future aid to Pakistan should not be given directly to the Government of Pakistan, but should be channeled through Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs).
Paying Respect to Benazir Bhutto
Earlier upon her arrival in Pakistan, Congresswoman Jackson Lee paid her respects to the late former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto. She later met with Asif Ali Zardari, widower of Benazir Bhutto as well as other members to the Pakistanâ€™s Peopleâ€™s Party.
â€œWhile many cast their ballots with a heavy heart and the remnants of the Dec. 27th assassination of this great leader (former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto), the Pakistani people have decided to press forward in hopes of a more stable future for their country,â€: Said Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee. â€œThe Pakistani people have spoken and now this election will either decide for the continuation of the Musharraf government or a consensus government.â€
Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee also met with President Pervez Musharraf, where he assured her and the rest of the world that he plans to work with all newly elected members of Parliament once the election results are in and he will resort to reconciliation rather than confrontation with the new Government, which ever is elected.
Later on Congresswoman Jackson Lee met with Pakistanâ€™s Chief Election Commissioner Retired Justice Qazi Mohammad Farooq. He assured the Congresswoman that he was working to ensure that the elections were fair, transparent, democratic and secure. As an official observer of the elections, Congresswoman Jackson Lee was given election credentials and observed the voting process. The Congresswoman was also shown the election count system, making sure that no fraud was taken place.
â€œWhile this is a good day for Pakistan, we must not forget the many civilians and leaders who risked and lost their lives just to see this day come to fruition. Let us not let their deaths go in vain but valiantly step up to the challenge as a global community to aid Pakistan in reporting the final and most accurate count of the elections, helping Pakistan to begin to establish a new government that will hopefully start to bring peace to this great nationâ€: Concluded Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee.
Port Qasim to be used for Pakistan-USA Trade
During her visit to Pakistan, Congresswoman Jackson Lee also had a chance to visit the International Container Security Project at Port Qasim in Karachi. On return at George Bush Intercontinental Airport Houston, Congresswoman Lee said: â€œPort Qasim represents a vibrant and prosperous facet the great nation of Pakistan has to offer to the world. It is a shining beacon of light and a focal point fro trade and commerce in the region. As Chairwoman of the House Homeland Security Sub-Committee on Transportation Security and Infrastructure Protection, I view the establishment of the International Container Security Project at Port Qasim as an initiative that makes shipping goods in and out of the country safer and more efficient. This initiative is a U.S. and Pakistan collaboration that is working to strengthen homeland security around the world, where good coming into USA from any port of the world will have to be first checked 100% for security at the origin point and that is why each port vying to export goods to USA needs to get equipped by 2009 just like Port Qasim of Pakistan.â€