Newsweek Opinion: Pakistan’s Double-Cross
BY Sumit Ganguly
Islamabad told Washington one thing and did another. Now it's time for a
Sep 18, 2008
From the Editors (3) Opinion: Pakistan Is Dangerously Close to Collapse The Other Threat To Pakistan India & Pakistan: Still a Potential Nuclear Crisis See All Recommended (6) Is Pakistan Helping the Taliban? Zakaria: The World Isn’t So Dark U.S. Military Should Worry About China In Space Hirsh: Seven Years On, Al Qaeda Has a Nuclear Host India Discovers Homegrown Islamic Terrorists What’s Wrong with U.S. Strategy in Afghanistan See All Topics (3) Pakistan The Taliban Pakistani Armed Forces
A reported American missile strike yesterday in the South Waziristan tribal area, which may have killed six people, has again triggered public anger at the United States across much of Pakistan. It follows an earlier helicopter-borne commando assault into Pakistan, after which a Pakistani military official warned that such incursions would provoke a military response. This time, the Pakistani authorities said that unilateral military action by the United States will not be tolerated.
It's hardly clear if President Bush, in his waning days in office, will halt cross-border attacks in Pakistan that he clearly believes are effective ways to chase Taliban and Al Qaeda terrorists seeking sanctuaries in Pakistan's badlands. Still, such military strikes could undermine the tenuous cooperation that Pakistan has provided the United States in its battle against the reconstituted Taliban and the dregs of Al Qaeda.
Ironically, the United States is paying a price for its own errors. Contrary to popular belief and hoary statements from the White House, Pakistan's cooperation in the "war on terror" has always been fitful. During General Pervez Musharraf's tenure as president, he proved to be extraordinarily deft in dealing with the United States. He handed over a few key Al Qaeda operatives--he turned over the Tanzanian Ahmed Khalfan Ghailani in August 2004 and Abu Faraj al-Libi, a senior member of Osama bin Laden's circle, in May 2005--but the arrests were suspiciously well timed. They tended to occur alongside either important U.S. political events or U.S. criticism of Pakistan for its apparent failure to make much progress on the counterterrorism front.
Though this sleight of hand was obvious to close observers, the administration continued to rely almost exclusively on Musharraf and the Pakistani military. Little or no effort was expended to nudge Musharraf away from military rule. Not surprisingly, he and his military acolytes came to see themselves as indispensable to the United Sates. Thanks to this American indulgence, Musharraf's 2002 election brought an Islamist coalition into power and, under its watch, the Taliban reconstituted itself in Pakistan's western borderlands while other Islamist terror networks flourished inside Pakistan.
The central problem, of course, was that neither he nor crucial segments of the Pakistani military were willing to accept an independent and stable government in Afghanistan. So they used Islamists to destabilize Afghanistan and to needle India in Kashmir. Although a civilian government took power in February, it has not yet been able to shake the military's belief in the utility of the Islamist card. Meanwhile, the United States, facing mounting casualties in Afghanistan, has finally caught onto the Pakistan military's tolerance for Taliban activity on its soil. But striking inside Pakistan and hectoring its military brass won't elicit cooperation. Instead, given the terrain of Pakistan's western borderlands, the strikes are more likely to result in civilian casualties, provoke more public anger, and ultimately fail in suppressing the recrudescent Taliban.
To pursue a viable strategy against the Taliban, regardless of which party wins the White House, the United States must chart a new course. To begin with, it should tell Pakistani military that its continued dalliance with Islamists is unacceptable. Continued American military and economic assistance to Pakistan should then be made strictly contingent upon the visible cooperation of both the civilian and military components of the Pakistani government. Nor should Islamabad be allowed to continue to trumpet the canard that it is changing policy solely at America's behest. Instead, the Pakistani government should admit that its quest for a pliant Afghan regime through the use of a Taliban proxy is hardly in Pakistan's best long-term interests. Nor, for that matter, can Pakistan ever hope to dislodge India from Kashmir through support of Islamist terror. These entities, over time, develop goals of their own quite at odds with their sponsors. The sooner the United States can persuade Pakistan to abandon these noxious policies, the better the prospect of reining in terror across this troubled and critical region.
A Pakistani columnist ‘s Response
Pakistan cannot go back to the future
Tuesday, September 23, 2008
By Mosharraf Zaidi
As Pakistan gets hammered by Taliban and Al Qaeda bombs in Islamabad (the Marriott to be precise), and by Hellfire missiles in FATA, the feeding frenzy in the US press builds to a crescendo. This week Newsweek published an article titled, "Pakistan's Double-Cross" by long-time Pakistan-sufferer, Sumit Ganguly. When Pakistanis read Ganguly's vicious hatchet job on Pakistan (and on history), they should take a deep breath and pause before they react. Despite his boring residual partition rage, Ganguly is not the one that has made Pakistan foreign policy target No 1 for US presidential candidates. It wasn't Ganguly who loathes ordinary Pakistanis so deeply that he thought it okay to reject their overwhelming will, and insist he knew what was good for Pakistan better. It wasn't Ganguly who signed the NRO, or fired the judges. Pakistanis need to learn very quickly that Pakistan's battles will be won and lost by its people, not by Cold War analysts trying to be relevant in Washington DC.
While English-speaking Pakistanis will either seethe with rage at Ganguly, or at the Pakistani "establishment", ordinary Pakistanis will have no reaction at all. It's not just that they can't read English, it's that they can't read period. That's why they don't know what the Magna Carta is. That's why they can't check the roznamcha for a record of their presence at the police station. That's why the FIR system favours the rural and industrial elite. That's why they have to depend on the feudal and industrial elite. That's why they vote for the PPP and the PML-Q. And that is why the rage of these English-speaking Pakistanis is heart-warming but without efficacy. The rage will not free ordinary Pakistanis from the clutches of their political and economic realities.
English-speaking Pakistanis can't change the game, because they don't even know what the game is. Unfortunately, neither do Pakistan's post-modern diplomats. None seem capable of articulating Pakistan's security needs, and the insecurity paradigm it exists in. Instead of driving a Pakistani agenda forward themselves, Pakistani diplomats seem to be like the deer caught in proverbial headlights. Despite his endearing charm, his locomotive train intellect and his superhuman political instincts, the Pakistani ambassador to the US has been most disappointing in his role as Pakistan's primary foreign policy articulator. Even Abdullah H Haroon at the UN in New York seems to have a modicum of tenacity. Conversely, Pakistan's Washington DC office has a sheepish, insignificant and apologetic response to every event of national significance. This has strengthened the false impression in Washington DC that the Pakistani national security establishment is schizophrenic and needs to be beat down and humiliated. That's exactly what's happening in the border areas. And that's exactly what happened at the Marriott on Saturday night.
Whose fault is this scenario? Pakistan's diplomats weren't the ones who decided that they were smarter than 172 million people, nor did they mismanage Pakistan's western borders with gung-ho machismo, nor did they dismantle the tribal codes that could have cooled down the temperatures in FATA.
All that was the fault of retired General Musharraf and the military sub-culture he cultivated that believes it is better than everybody else. There is only one other demographic that thinks as highly of itself. It is, for lack of better terminology, the expats, uncles, aunties and urbanites. This was the demographic that served as Musharraf's primary constituency in 1999 and beyond. Some of us were so sure that the "seven-point agenda" would succeed, we migrated "back home" to make it happen. We can deny it now (because to accept it would be unfashionable) but there was hardly a stammer that night of October 12, 1999 from English-speaking Pakistanis.
It made sense too. We were embarrassed by Rafiq Tarrar's beard, by the incorrigible economic mismanagement of Shaheed Benazir Bhutto's governments, by Nawaz Sharif's Amir-ul-Momineen misadventure, and by our own political and economic irrelevance since the 1970s. We spent the 1980s in the deep freezer, and the 1990s in such a deep sense of shame that Musharraf represented an irresistible escape from the domination of Pakistan's politics by "those" representatives of Pakistan's people: the feudal and industrial elite.
Musharraf's betrayal of the dream of a functional Pakistan, a Pakistani state that is effective, and a Pakistani people that isn't in a constant state of internal strife and angst is a heavy burden. The retired general does not carry it alone. His enlightened moderate cheerleaders carry it with him.
This is why the lawyers' movement was so refreshing and deeply endearing. It was a spontaneous blowback against not only the broken promise of yet another military government, but against the tyranny of whimsical one-man decision-making. It was a validation of the relevance of urban, educated, English-speaking Pakistanis, at home and abroad. For the first time in national history these Pakistanis did not require the military or bureaucracy to back up their sense of superiority. The lawyers electrified English-speaking middle Pakistan in a way that no one, perhaps not even Bhutto Senior, ever had before.
The lawyers won the battle to make integrity politically relevant again. But now that democracy has reared its imperfect and sometimes ugly face, the lawyers can't and won't get everything they set out for. The Pakistani English-speaking set can't believe its all come crashing down so quickly, and that President Zardari has ended up on top. The US media's appetite for hit-pieces on Pakistan (like Ganguly's "Double-Cross" article) only fuels this smorgasbord of angst. And this angst then refuels the fallacy that Pakistani society is unprepared for democracy. This fallacy is borne of impatience, and it needs to be arrested.
Pakistan's economic mess is the fault of bankers being given jobs meant for elected leaders. The national security mess is the fault of generals being too busy reforming local governments, universities, cricket and sports federations to contain threats to Pakistan's national security. The ideological mess is the fault of the diabolical nexus between money and faith, and between money and lack of faith. Amongst all of this, not only is the state more ineffective than ever before, it is now being decimated by the false prophets of the private sector. Events on Wall Street amply demonstrate what the private sector is good for, when left unregulated and guided only by its greed. No, Pakistan's mess is not the fault of democracy.
It is in fact, the fault of the absence of democracy. Ordinary Pakistanis have never had a chance to be fully rid of their default addiction to feudal, aristocratic and family-owned political parties. And the most capable Pakistanis are too busy seething existential anger to understand the nuts and bolts of Pakistan's troubles. Which is why every Iftaar party since 1947 features the same tawdry and asinine prescriptions: "Fix education, and everything will be fixed." "Secularize and everything will be fixed." "Restore the judges and everything will be fixed." Such prescriptions do not belong in serious conversations.
Patriotism does not excuse ignorance and inaction. Columns like this (and responses to it) do not substitute for electoral legitimacy. Long-winded Shakespearian rhetoric does not substitute for substantive knowledge about what's broken and how it will be fixed. Feigning offense and manufacturing controversy over terms like "auntie" and "babu", is just as useless as being enraged at Sumit Ganguly's obvious distaste for Pakistan's dysfunction, and for facts. It distracts from the fundamental challenge Pakistan faces over the next generation. It is whether Pakistan's most capable sons and daughters are going stop being passive participants in Pakistani democracy, and start making real change from the nuts and bolts, up. The alternative is unthinkable. The country can ill-afford another episode of back to the future.
The writer is an independent political economist. Email: mosharraf@gmail. com
Source: The News, Pakistan