Pakistan needs $100 billion to fight terrorism, set up alternatives to radical islamic schools and repair its economy, President Asif Ali Zardari said yesterday in London. “The world does not have the money,” he acknowledged, but he will still take his demand for urgent funds for education to a meeting with President Obama in New York next week. “Years of dancing with the dictators has encouraged the crisis of today,” he said, blaming Pakistan’s former military rulers for sowing the seeds of violent extremism, and their backers in the West for tolerating them. “I need at least $2 billion in educational support,” he told an audience, calling most pressingly for money to help drive back the Islamist teachers and their madrassas.

President Zardari, speaking at the International Institute for Strategic Studies, added that Benazir Bhutto, his late wife and twice prime minister, who was assassinated nearly two years ago as she campaigned for election, “would have done all this much better”. He said that the radicalisation of children in Pakistan was “an ideological monster created by us sitting here in the free world”. “When my wife was Prime Minister there were not so many madrassas,” he said, adding that the schools were “created by very intelligent minds” for military purposes — fighting in Kashmir and on the Afghan border — and that they needed to be countered with better schools and colleges. This theme was favoured by Ms Bhutto while she wss Prime Minister, although the achievements of her government lagged the rhetoric by some way. Two of their three children came to the speech — Bilawal, now a student at Oxford University, in traditional Pakistani dress, and Asifa, one of two daughters, in an elegant jacket and black slacks. Speculation has hovered over their ambitions for politics, given the magic of the Bhutto connection within the ruling Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), but so far they stayed clear of any involvement. Mr Zardari notably avoided criticism of operations by the US and other countries in Afghanistan, saying “We all broke Afghanistan together, let’s make it [right]”. He also declined invitations from Pakistani journalists to say that General Pervez Musharraf, his predecessor as President, and now living in Bayswater, London, should be prosecuted. In a display of statesmanship which his predecessors have not always managed, he avoided what he called “blame-gaming” towards India. President Zardari will co-chair with Gordon Brown a meeting next Thursday in the wings of the UN General Assembly in New York, in which he will make another call for “market access to the countries of the European Union".

By: The Nation