In an interview with DW, Sherry Rehman, leader of the opposition in Pakistan's upper house of parliament, shared her views on the upcoming election, freedom of press, global terrorism and deteriorating US-Pakistani ties.
DW: Will the general election in Pakistan be held on time?
Sherry Rehman: There is no reason to delay the July 25 polls. They should be held on time in accordance with constitutional requirements.
Pakistan is facing many challenges and cannot afford more political instability. The international community is observing the situation in Pakistan.
Former PM Nawaz Sharif has taken on an aggressive stance against the military dominance. Some analysts say that your party, with its long history of challenging the powerful generals, should side with Sharif this time. What is your take on it?
The Pakistan People's Party (PPP) does not believe in hate-driven politics. We also don't agree with Sharif's politics. Unlike him, we have ideological clarity, especially on how to counter violent extremism in Pakistan.
In the past, Sharif had bypassed democratic norms as well as parliament. We supported his government in 2013 in order to stabilize democracy in Pakistan, but he mistook it for personal support.
The former premier does not represent democracy, especially when we know that his party and his lawmakers made a mockery of parliament. Sharif only talks about democracy when he needs to bail himself out.
The five years of Sharif's Pakistan Muslim League (PML-N) rule has left behind huge debts and acute water and power shortages. The PPP will align with only those that support democratic practices, not those who invoke democracy when they are in hot water.
The media in Pakistan have come under immense pressure, with rights activists saying the military establishment is attempting to stifle voices that oppose its dominance in politics. Does it not amount to pre-poll rigging?
With dramatic shifts in power structures — not just in Pakistan but also globally — those who dare to challenge them, find themselves in a tough spot. As a parliamentarian, it's my duty to ensure that constitutional rights are not violated in my country. The Senate's Committee on Human Rights is available to all media persons so that they can lodge their complaints to the body. We are against constraints on media and we stand for freedom of expression.
How do you view the political role of your party's chairman Bilawal Bhutto?
Bhutto is young but undaunted and very clear about empowering the downtrodden. He wants to empower the youth so that they can contribute to Pakistan's economy and society. His vision has attracted people in all four provinces of the country. We are seeing a surge in the political participation of young and educated people in Pakistan.
Ties between the US and Pakistan have been deteriorating for quite some time. As a former Pakistan ambassador to the US, what do you think needs be done to remedy the situation?
I think that responsible nations like Pakistan and the US should always try to approach conflicts rationally. The future of global stability lies in bilateral solutions to our problems.
Recently, Pakistan and India agreed to revive the 2003 Kashmir border ceasefire agreement. Is it a sign that Indian-Pakistani ties could be improved?
If Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi's government wants to move past hostilities, I believe Pakistan will not walk away from any multilateral dialogue. A thaw in relations is necessary for the two nuclear-armed nations to address challenges in the South Asian region.
The incumbent Indian government needs to understand that blaming Pakistan for global problems like terrorism will not benefit anyone. It also needs to reevaluate its Kashmir policy.
Pakistan, which shares a long, porous border with Afghanistan, is fighting terrorism on its own. Terrorism, in my opinion, is almost always linked to violent extremism. The latter is increasingly becoming a new global norm, evident by the rise of hyper-nationalisms in many parts of the world. In India, for example, Muslims are being targeted by extremists, while secular India struggles to fight back.
We admit that we need to do more to provide security to our citizens. But terrorism is not just a regional problem, but a global challenge.
Sherry Rehman is Pakistan's leader of the opposition in the Senate (upper house of parliament). She had been Pakistan's ambassador to the United States from 2011 to 2013.
The interview was conducted by Beenish Javed.