WASHINGTON: Pakistan People’s Party Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari has proposed creation of a mutually acceptable verification mechanism to be arrived at between Pakistan and Afghanistan with international assistance to investigate allegations of cross-border intrusion of militants, according to a statement issued by the party on Wednesday. While addressing scholars and researchers at the Woodrow Wilson think tank in Washington, the PPP chairman said it was a ‘credible’ and ‘doable’ way forward to address concerns about militants crossing over borders with impunity that has bedeviled peace in the region. “Extremists and militants of any persuasion who seek to advance their security and foreign policy agendas are a threat to peace and security and must not be allowed a foothold anywhere,” he said. Bilawal said Haqqani network must be dismantled and disarmed which can be done by concerted and coordinated action both by Pakistan and Afghanistan based on a credible and verifiable mechanism and not by resorting to blame game.The interactive session at the Woodrow Wilson institute was attended by former ambassadors, former State Department officials and researchers and experts on peace and security issues in the South Asian region. “Bilawal pleaded for burying the bitter past and looking forward to overcome the challenges that threaten our very existence today,” the statement said. Besides Pak-US relations, the PPP chairman also spoke about fragile civil-military relations, the state of democracy and human rights, mysterious disappearances, upcoming general elections in the country, reforms in tribal areas, need for economic revival and fighting militancy in a holistic manner. The use of religion as a weapon of war in Afghanistan and turning a blind eye to the emergence of non-state actors in the name of religion was a grave strategic mistake, he said.Political will and sincerity of purpose is required to contain the consequences of disastrous policies of the past which can come only by making a clean admission of the blunders already made, he added. Bilawal said President Trump’s tweets generated heat instead of throwing light on serious foreign policy issues. Strong-arm tactics and coercive diplomacy gravely undermines rationality in public discourse, he said, adding that serious foreign policy issues could not be addressed through tweets.Bilawal reminded the audience that the US was no less responsible in creating the monster of militants and jehadis. “I have seen photographs of former Jehadi commanders feted by President Reagan in the White House where they were greeted by the US president as moral equivalents of George Washington,” he said. “Today, the so-called moral equivalents of George Washington have held my country and the region hostage,” he added.Published in Daily Times, February 8th 2018.