U.S.-Pakistan: From alliance to active dislike

Discussion in 'International Politics' started by Yusuf, Mar 29, 2013.

  1. Yusuf

    Yusuf GUARDIAN Administrator

    Mar 24, 2009
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    In Pakistan on Tuesday, Islamic militants killed a girls’ schoolteacher in a drive-by shooting. Earlier this month, an Islamic-militant suicide bomber blew himself up in a federal court complex, killing four people and wounding at least 33 more, including a judge.

    An angry Muslim mob attacked a Christian neighborhood of Lahore. They set fire to 150 of the neighborhood’s 200 homes as well as two churches. That same day, a bomb exploded in a mosque, killing at least five people and wounding 28 others.

    Lethal violence of this sort is a commonplace, almost daily event, as militants and jihadists are allowed to roam freely through the state. And Husain Haqqani, former Pakistani ambassador to Washington, blames the United States — indirectly.

    Given that Washington has provided $23 billion in aid since 2002, “In Pakistan, there is always the assumption that the United States is not going to restrict us too much,” Haqqani said. “There should be a price to pay for having jihadists in the country.” But “the U.S. is reinforcing the presumption that they can do whatever they want — they can have their cake and eat it, too.”

    In other words, Haqqani says, the United States is subsidizing his country’s “bad behavior.”

    Not everyone agrees, though among experts interviewed, there is universal agreement that relations between Islamabad and Washington have never been worse. Put simply, neither nation holds much if any respect for the other, and the people of both countries dislike, if not despise, each other, numerous surveys show.

    “The U.S.-Pakistani relationship is toxic,” said Daniel Markey, a former senior State Department official focusing on South Asia, now with The Brookings Institution. “And my sense is that it’s unlikely to change.”

    “Each country considers the other to be a terrible ally,” Haqqani asserted.

    At the center of this totally dysfunctional relationship lies that copious U.S. aid, including $7.5 billion approved in 2009, to be disbursed over the following five years. And when the Pakistani government fell into a major fiscal crisis late last year, it seemed to demand a request for help from the International Monetary Fund. But the government didn’t want to approach the IMF because of the stringent economic conditions the fund attaches to its loans.

    Well, almost out of the blue, $688 million in U.S. military aid suddenly landed in the government’s coffers — “coalition support funds, reimbursement for military action on the Afghan border,” Markey said.

    Well, there had been no significant military action on the Afghan border of the sort the United States has been seeking — and never has been. “So basically, it was just cash support that goes directly into the government pot,” Markey added. That saved the government from having to deal with the IMF.

    “We should have held off on that recent tranche of assistance,” Markey asserted.

    At the State Department, where foreign-aid decisions are parsed and pondered, Pakistan epitomizes the endless debate: Cutting off aid removes any ability to influence Islamabad. But with Pakistan, even after donating tens of billions of dollars, it’s clear Washington wields little if any influence at all.

    “The U.S. aid and the corruption that has ensued has allowed entrenched interests to make themselves more entrenched,” said Yasmeen Hassan, a Pakistani who is global director of Equality Now, an international human rights organization. “It’s very damaging.”

    Haqqani advocates a divorce.

    “Look, these are two countries that have deep misunderstandings of each other, and neither side acknowledges that they have these deep misunderstandings.”

    “Absolutely,” he added, the two countries should go their own ways. “The game is still that each side thinks the other should change. But that’s not based on reality.”

    As illustration, Cameron Munter, who was U.S. ambassador to Pakistan until last summer, recently wrote that the $7.5 billion aid package “has not had the impact its” sponsors “had hoped. There’s plenty of blame to go around, but it’s crucial that the Pakistani leadership step up and admit its failings rather than simply accuse the Americans of inefficiency or bad faith.”

    And when he was chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Adm. Mike Mullen told Congress: “In choosing to use violent extremism as an instrument of policy,” Pakistan “jeopardizes not only the prospect of our strategic partnership but Pakistan’s opportunity to be a respected nation with legitimate regional influence.”

    Haqqani agreed. “Pakistan has all these nuclear weapons, they have all these jihadi groups, and they think that makes Pakistan more secure against India and all,” he said. “But I don’t agree.” Eliminating American aid will force Pakistan to face up to their problems, he insisted. Now, “the U.S. is reinforcing those resistant to change, prolonging the problem.”

    Markey said Haqqani “is not entirely wrong. He argues that we feed their military so they can continue to be a bad actor in the region. I can make the argument that there are, in fact, viable, scalable programs in Pakistan. But the debate has grown so negative that no one wants to hear it, particularly on Capitol Hill.” Pakistan “just looks like another hell hole, and we’re throwing more money into it.”

    Many of the Pakistani actions that make American politicians so angry are egregious human rights abuses — like Equality Now’s recent report that incest is a rampant problem across the state. But even in the rare cases when young girls muster the courage to take their father or brother to court, police or the courts almost always throw the case out and blame the girl instead.

    In cases of both incest and rape, Pakistan’s justice system generally refuses to get involved, Equality Now said.

    “There’s no law against incest in Pakistan,” said Hassan.

    Sahil, a Pakistani children’s rights organization, said 2,252 incest cases were reported in 2010 — a tiny fraction of the total. While Hassan was working there over the past few years, she said she could tell that incest “was prevalent in the country because I talked to doctors and teachers — and gynecologists who reported frequent abortion cases.” All of that is causing “devastating psychological, emotional and physical consequences for the victims,” her group’s report said.

    The incest issue is just one in a host of major human-rights abuses, Haqqani and others acknowledged. Reports of these problems are in newspapers and on television almost every day.

    All of that continues because, “Pakistan is a national security state, which does not allow any questioning of the nation-security paradigm,” Haqqani said. That makes human rights issues secondary at best.

    “There is reason enough to change, but only if the people in Pakistan and the leaders of Pakistan are willing to do it,” he added. “Not because Americans wish it. And so how will the United States make Pakistani leaders realize that they have to change? That’s the debate I want to start.”

    If the United States stops providing aid, Hassan said, Pakistan “will be worse off for a little while. But let us figure it out because you are imposing a mess from outside.”

    American officials, even those who are highly critical of Pakistan, generally don’t accept the idea of a sudden aid cutoff.

    “It’s hard to see that walking away from things will improve things,” Markey said.

    And former Ambassador Munter was even more blunt, saying: “Now is not the time to turn away from Pakistan” despite “the cuts and abrasions we have both suffered in recent years.”

    Joel Brinkley, a professor of journalism at Stanford University, is a Pulitzer Prize-winning former foreign correspondent for The New York Times.


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