- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 13, 2001

Americans have become accustomed to thinking of the battle against terrorism as being waged on two fronts: Afghanistan and the United States. But the war against terrorism is also being waged in other places, such as Pakistan, where its leaders are working hard to show Pakistan's citizens that they made the right choice in standing with the United States against the forces of terror.

Pakistan's support for the U.S.-led global coalition against terrorism is of tremendous importance. It frustrates the ability for terrorists to characterize this campaign as a war against the Muslim world. It also gives us an opportunity to demonstrate our commitment to being a loyal friend to those nations that take risks in supporting our cause.

Unfortunately, millions of Pakistani workers risk losing their jobs, destabilizing the economy and potentially the entire government, because of the collateral effects of the military activity in neighboring Afghanistan. The United States did not create this problem for Pakistan, but we can help solve it and we should.

Pakistan's economy is built on exports mostly apparel and textiles and its biggest single customer is the United States ($2.2 billion last year). But importers in our country, worried about potential instability in the region, have stopped ordering clothing. For the first three weeks of October, the Pakistani government estimates that textile orders from the United States have dropped as much as 40 percent compared with the same period a year ago. At least 10,000 workers have already lost their jobs, and Pakistan estimates it will lose $2 billion annually in textile export revenues if U.S. buyers don't come back.

One of Pakistan's problems is perception the erroneous impression that because Pakistan is close to Afghanistan, it is also in chaos. In fact, I visited Pakistan just a few months ago and can confirm what other visitors and the State Department already know: Pakistan's economy is operating normally. Factories are running, roads are open and ships are being loaded.

The other problem is more tangible: higher costs to Pakistani exporters and ultimately, their customers, for insurance and shipping again, associated with its proximity to a war zone. The textile industry operates on low profit margins, and if costs are higher in one country, importers are quick to shift to another. Many leading U.S. retailers have asked the Bush administration to find some way to ease spiraling insurance costs for U.S. companies doing business with Pakistan.

More substantively, the United States can help level the playing field for Pakistan by lowering duties and easing quotas on goods imported from that country. The European Union has already acted, announcing Oct. 16 that it would eliminate close to $150 million in tariffs on Pakistani clothing and increase quotas by 15 percent.

U.S. tariffs on textiles and apparel average about 17 percent. Eliminating those tariffs would help Pakistan's exporters overcome higher shipping and insurance costs, and also would result in lower costs for U.S. customers.

I am encouraged that the Bush administration has asked Congress to suspend duties on imports of Pakistani textiles and apparel. We should act quickly. As Maleeha Lodhi, Pakistan's ambassador to the United States, recently pointed out: "The time to act is now. You don't act when an industry is dead."

You also can't choose your neighbors (and Pakistan didn't choose to be Afghanistan's neighbor), but you can choose your friends, and Pakistan has chosen to stand with us. The United States can and should stand with Pakistan to help it economically.

This is not just a matter of fairness; it is a matter of enlightened self-interest. A stable Pakistan is a crucial ally against terrorism; if its economy collapses and its government falls, we not only lose an ally, but we risk its replacement with a hostile government one armed with nuclear weapons. Extremists currently are a small minority in Pakistan, but unemployed workers, disillusioned over supporting the United States, could easily swell their ranks.

We have already made one mistake in the region, turning our backs after the Soviets retreated from Afghanistan in 1989 and leaving Pakistan to cope with 2 million refugees and an impoverished, unstable neighbor racked by civil war. We cannot afford to repeat the error. For Pakistan to remain an ally, its people need jobs, and America needs to be its customer.

Sen. Jon Kyl, Arizona Republican, is a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee and ranking member on the Judiciary Subcommittee on Terrorism, Technology and Government Information.


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