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Enhanced Cooperation Meets Enhanced Concern

October 12, 2009

At the heels of Pakistan’s offensive against militants in South Waziristan, terrorists brazenly staged an attack on military headquarters this weekend. Commandos responded swiftly, taking out 9 of the militants, capturing their ring leader and freeing 39 hostages. Despite success in ending the siege, the incident demonstrates a worsening Af-Pak situation and beseeches a new strategy.

Our administrations new strategy is defined by an increase in troops to Afghanistan, focusing military efforts squarely on Al Qaeda (less focus on Taliban) and expanded funding to Pakistan by way of the Kerry Lugar bill. And while the troop surge and emphasis on Al Qaeda are debated at length in D.C., the Pakistani media is abuzz on the Kerry Lugar bill. There are calls by The Awami League Party (representing the NWFP regions & a predominantly Pashtun population) that the bill allow for an “uninterrupted flow of non military assistance” while other politicians vouch against the legislation altogether. Tehrik-e-Insaaf chairman Imran Khan  said the bill “enslaves” Pakistan and can only benefit the top echelons of government referring to past corruption allegations on senior government officials. Similarly, pundits were all over Pakistani television in the past week, echoing concerns about corruption, lack of support to the military, too many strings attached to funding, and how the bill threatens sovereignty. This morning Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi flew to D.C. to discuss theseconcerns just as rumours that Pakistan’s Ambassador to the United States is losing his post becayse of not entirely positive comments regarding the Kerry-Lugar legislation. Suffice to say, the Enhanced Partnership with Pakistan Actmeant to  extend a new strategic hand of cooperation to Islamabad is not off to the positive start intend

In fact, Senator Kerry’s office directly responded to popular skepticism in a recent report.

  • Addressing concerns that the bill would invade state soveriegnty: Senator Kerry explains the bill funds “schools, roads, energy infrastructure and medical clinics” and that “those seeking to undermine” a US/Pakistan in that endeavor are doing so to “advance narrow partisan or institutional agendas“.
  • Regarding the idea that the legislation comes with too many strings attached, Kerry emphasizes that the $7.5 billion annual pledge is for “unconditioned non military aid” and comes with “strict measures of financial accountability” referring specifically to Executive Branch oversight on the use of these funds.

This is contentious to Pakistan because it’s maybe the first time external oversight is imposed on assistance from the United States. And while the bill does a great job of outlining funds for social infrastructure intended to find it’s way to everyday citizens, on the issue of sovereigty, the real sticking point is regarding a potential subversion of the Pakistani military. Senator Kerry insists that the bill’s:

  • focus is on nonmilitary assistance to the people of Pakistan” and military aid is contingent to “cooperation on nonproliferation“. However, the bills funding is rooted in “significant efforts towards combating terrorist groups” and the “Pakistani military not subverting the political or judicial process” to ensure “common goals” of “security and democracy“.

This irks Pakistani’s for a number of reasons. Firstly, there’s ambiguous wording. “Cooperation on nonproliferation” is vague enough to translate as potentially linking funds to Pakistan giving up their right to maintain armaments comparable to neighboring India. Similarly, “significant efforts toward combating terrorism” gives no reference for how this will be measured.

On the Pakistan side, the worry is that  “significant efforts”, according to their definition might not match a U.S. definition of success. Plus there might continue to be a disagreement on the idea of “combating terrorism”. It’s a contention we’ve seen play out as D.C. repeatedly called for heightened efforts on combating the Taliban, quitely but surely opposing Pakistan’s attempts at negotiating with those groups rather than employing just a military offensive, (a policy we’re now reverting).

Also, delinking assistance from the military is unprecedented and freightening to some because while it is necessary to develop schools, and social, democratic infrastructure for long term development, in the immediate term there are widespread security breaches with weekly suicide attacks, an ever growing incursion from Afghan militants on the northern border and drone attacks that result in collateral damage.

So Pakistans concerns echo a need for both immediate security and long term development, but not at the expense of one another.

Keep in mind, the widely held, and all but true notion that Pakistan is perhaps the only place where the military controls a country, and not vice versa. That idea is rooted in that their military is historically the strongest, most stable and legitimately accepted institution. Let me emphasize that last part: it’s historically the most legitimately accepted institution in Pakistan in an absence of stable democratic institutions never having developed. Meaning, in times of economic, social and political uncertainty, the military has historically responded most efficiently in alleviating situations since 1947. Whether one accepts the idea that the military creates a perpetual cycle of uncertainty within which to assume power periodically, or the military responds to the shortcomings of civilian governments in the absence of democratic instiuttions (chicken & egg argument), either way, the military’s been relatively effective in handling crises in Pakistan in comparison to civlian regimes. So given the current enviornment of insecurity, people are weary of a hopeful promise for “long term” moves toward “democracy” that might comes at the expense of insufficient assistance to their military who has a capacity to alleviate immediate security concerns.

I think democracy is the ultimate route to security for Pakistan, but despite Executive branch oversight and our “long term” commitment defined by only 5 years of funding, Pakistan’s concerns are understandable. Given a long history of cooperation, Pakistan is more used to US assistance through bilateral relations with a Republican government in DC (think General Zia/Raegan, General Musharraf/Bush, Ayub Khan/Eisenhower, Yahya/Nixon) and the Kerry Lugar bill is a staunch reverasal of our foreign policy with Islamabad. Perhaps finding value in previously crafted policies to Pakistan in combination with our current legislative proposals is an optimal solution to quelling the enahanced concern of our enhanced cooperation.

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12 comments

  1. Here is my view:
    This is the first time that the US seems to be making an open investment in Pakistan’s people and not in the “most stable institution in Pakistan,” the stability of which is questionable in the sense that it keeps veering away from its objective of serving Pakistan’s interest and onto serving what can only be referred to as its own. Let me give you an example which may explain why we have such a problem with Kerry-Lugar and not with other initiatives in the past that have been deflected to line up more Pakistani pockets than anything else. China has been helping Pakistan in one way or another for the past several decades. Granted, that is also for its own interest but nonetheless help has been there. And it has been there not just in terms of Military assistance but also assistance to civilian projects. But there is a fundamental difference. China is not interested in marketing its aid. That is not their cultural or institutional disposition. American government, on the other hand, is all about marketing. Hollywood good guys just can’t stay away from strutting their stuff on world stage. An argument may be that this being a democracy, they can’t shush stuff up, can they? Well, its not as if they have never done that before. Bear in mind, I am not arguing that they should have concealed this aid but I think there was a miscalculation on the part of the American government on how this would get translated in Pakistan. I believe, our good Amb. Haqqani should have helped prepare the ground better for when the rubber attempted to meet the road. I heard his protestations on TV about how Pakistani government had nothing to do with a bill passed in the American congress and almost rolled over laughing. I would like to know what exactly is his job description if not just that of serving the state of Pakistan’s interest in the US.

    Now, Pakistan, since its inception, has lined up with the Arab states idealogically and thanks to the dictatorial rules of our men in uniform, politically. If we had better relations with India, it may not have turned out that way but fantasy land is fantasy land and we can’t all affort to live there. American government, in the perception of the Pakistani people, has always lined up against these Arab states and their other “Islamic Interests” even though the only thing Islamic about Arab interests is that they concern the people in a land we consider holy, by nothing more than siding with Israel. This explains how, even though, we have no fight with Israel, we consider them enemies so much so that our crazies (Zaid Hamid and ilk) always refer to India and Israel together when they spout off their latest conspiracy theories. So America has always been viewed as lining up with Israel and it hurts the Pakistani sensibility that we have to take such marketable aid from someone whom we consider on the other side of the divide, even though we have been taking aid from the US government on the sly or on paper for the past 50 years, soveriegnty or no soveriegnty.

    Internally, this is basically a food fight between the powers in Pakistan that are in control aka the Army and the powers who think they are in control aka zardari and company. This food fight can only end when the power supplying the food (Kerry-Lugar) stop trying to make it a marketing excercize and get on with the job and Richard H. makes a trip to the GHQ and tells Kiyani to shut his trap about affairs of state between the American government and the Pakistani government. That statement from GHQ about Kerry-Lugar bill was irresponsible and a crock of bull.

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