The ‘Push on Pakistan’

Almost a year ago, I wrote an op-ed for Lahore’s Daily Times discussing an intensifying phenomenon I described as the “push on Pakistan.”  [The paper's editors took out the word "on" and made a 'liberal' (pun intended) edit or two.]

But, in light of the heightened pressure on Pakistan from Washington and the increased role of the Pakistan-Afghanistan conflict in the U.S. presidential campaign, here’s a link to that piece.  Some points I made were particularly prescient.  Others not so — but we can forget about those:-)

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U.S. Foreign Policy Experts Split on Unilateral Action against al-Qaeda in Pakistan

Pakistan is again the focus of The Atlantic Monthly in its regularly surveying of American foreign policy experts. It asked 41 foreign policy authorities:

  • Should the United States unilaterally go after al-Qaeda leaders and training camps in Pakistan?
    • Results: 50% Yes; 50% No
  • How likely is a U.S. incursion into the tribal areas in the next two years?
    • Results: 65% Somewhat Likely; 18% Highly Likely; 17% Highly Unlikely

It should be noted that none of those surveyed were Pakistan or South Asia specialists.

Some selected responses to the first question:

  • Yes:
    • “While it was a reasonable balancing of risks to give the Pakistanis the time and space to deal with the re-growth of al-Qaeda base on their territory, that time has now passed as it has become clear that they have neither the will or capability to do so. It would certainly be better to do this with stealth than with a large footprint operation, but the time for a direct response is now.”
    • “As al-Qaeda gets stronger in Pakistan and as its leaders elevate their public profile in the shadow of Musharraf’s troubles, the pressure on the administration to do ‘something’ will be high, and it is possible that they will carry out some action to respond to domestic pressure during an election year.”
  • No:
    • “Unless we can be (and how could we be?) 100% sure of finding and capturing Osama Bin Laden himself, the downside—in Pakistan above all but [also] in the Muslim world at large—of being seen to trample on Pakistani sovereignty and to attack and kill Muslims in a Muslim land would be immense, with no comparable gain.”
    • “[It is] better at this point to seek joint operations with Pakistani forces. Unilateral operations by the United States, except in the event of a devastating terrorist strike in the United States shown to emanate from the tribal areas, would be hard to justify and [would] produce a counterproductive backlash in Pakistan.”
    • “Even the best planned raids and air strikes come with probabilities and risks attached, but we should have learned that American unilateralism, especially when other people die, invariably comes with a heavy price tag.”

Participants: Graham Allison, Ronald Asmus, Samuel Berger, Daniel Blumenthal, Stephen Bosworth, Daniel Byman, Warren Christopher, Wesley Clark, Ivo Daalder, Douglas Feith, Jay Garner, Leslie Gelb, Marc Grossman, John Hamre, Gary Hart, Bruce Hoffman, Laura Holgate, John Hulsman, Robert Hunter, Tony Judt, Robert Kagan, David Kay, Andrew Krepinevich, Charles Kupchan, John Lehman, James Lindsay, Edward Luttwak, John McLaughlin, William Nash, Joseph Nye, Carlos Pascual, Thomas Pickering, Paul Pillar, Kenneth Pollack, Joseph Ralston, Susan Rice, Wendy Sherman, Anne-Marie Slaughter, James Steinberg, Shibley Telhami, Anthony Zinni.

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Joe Biden’s Pakistan Policy

In an address earlier this morning at a New Hampshire college, Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden, announced a fairly comprehensive Pakistan policy — the first candidate to do so.

It consists of four main elements:

  1. Triple non-security aid, to $1.5 billion annually.  For at least a decade.  This aid would be unconditioned: it’s our pledge to the Pakistani people.  Instead of funding military hardware, it would build schools, clinics, and roads.”
  2. Condition security aid on performance. We should base our security aid on clear results.   We’re now spending well over $1 billion annually, and it’s not clear we’re getting our money’s worth.  I’d spend more if we get better returns—and less if we don’t.”
  3. Help Pakistan enjoy a ‘democracy dividend.’  The first year of democratic rule should bring an additional $1 billion — above the $1.5 billion non-security aid baseline.  And I would tie future non-security aid — again, above the guaranteed baseline — to Pakistan’s progress in developing democratic institutions and meeting good-governance norms.
  4. Engage the Pakistani people, not just their rulers.  This will involve everything from improved public diplomacy and educational exchanges to high impact projects that actually change people’s lives.

His speech’s conclusion is noteworthy:

“I believe that Pakistan can be a bridge between the West and the global Islamic community.  Most Pakistanis want a lasting friendship with America.  They respect and admire our society.  But they are mystified over what they see as our failure to live up to our ideals.

The current crisis in Pakistan is also an opportunity to start anew… to build a relationship between Pakistan and the United States upon which both our peoples can depend – and be proud.”



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U.S.-Pakistan Relations: State of Emergency?

  • Bush: Musharraf must hold elections and resign from army
  • Rice criticizes imposition of emergency rule; states U.S. aid to Pakistan “under review”
  • Musharraf meets with U.S. ambassador
  • Martha Raddatz/ABC NEWS: CENTOM chief “visibly upset” after leaving Friday meeting with Musharraf
  • Tuesday’s U.S.-Pakistan defense talks delayed
  • WEDNESDAY: Deputy Sec. of State Negroponte to testify before House on Pakistan

The trio of the United States, China, and Saudi Arabia constitutes Pakistan’s most important foreign benefactors. All eyes, however, are on Washington this week as observers are looking to see the Bush administration will change its Pakistan policy in response to Pervez Musharraf’s imposition of emergency rule.

Washington’s reaction is highly important because of the strategic necessity of bilateral cooperation for both countries – especially at this time and juncture.


ECONOMIC AND MILITARY AID: Pakistan is a leading destination of U.S. foreign aid (total — not per capita). It has received approximately $10 billion in assistance from Washington since 2002. This figure was dished out a lot on the Sunday talk shows and is probably included in every presidential candidate’s talking points now. Expect to hear it repeatedly incessantly as Pakistan remains a hot issue in the U.S. over the coming months.

Washington’s aid serves to compensate Islamabad for costs incurred in its support for the war on terror, subsidize the modernization of Pakistan’s military, and provide macroeconomic stability. It helps further the Musharraf regime’s primary policy objectives: structural economic reform; maintaining conventional military parity with India; and ensuring the support of current and ex-military brass by distributing the spoils from the war on terror.

SOLE SUPERPOWER + REGIONAL FOOTING: At a broader level, Washington is a global hegemon with footprints in Pakistan’s proximity and serious long-term interests in the region. It does not serve the interest of Pakistan, nor any other state for that matter, to incur its unfettered wrath. Non-state actors, in contrast, have a different calculus marked by far less territorial and infrastructural risk.

There is a naive belief in Pakistan, including lately with some of Musharraf’s supporters, that — if necessary — they can ditch the United States and totally rely on China. But this route would only buy the current regime a few months. It’s not tenable beyond that. Pakistan would sent on the path of Myanmar — a pariah run by a military junta. In 1971, the army wrongly assumed that China would offer support after India’s entry into Pakistan’s civil war. But China did little for them then and expectations of what it can and will do now should be measured.


In the past, Washington wiped its hands clean of Islamabad upon the temporary cessation of the latter’s strategic utility. But in the short-term, and indeed beyond, it remains in the U.S. interest to have strong ties with Pakistan.

STABILIZING AFGHANISTAN: In the short to mid-term, the Pakistan-Afghanistan region along with Iran and Iraq constitute the three major strategic-military arenas for the United States. Pakistan shares a 1600 mile border with Afghanistan and provides critical supply routes for NATO forces in Afghanistan. Its frontier and tribal areas are an extension of NATO’s war in Afghanistan. Stabilizing Afghanistan, to some extent, requires a resolution to the Pak-Afghan border dispute and Pakistan’s crisis of governance in the northwest.

IRAN: Pakistan might provide critical air space in a future U.S. military campaign against Iran. IPI pipeline. More on Iran.

EMERGING ECONOMY: Pakistan is a massive country with a population over 160 million. A majority of its population is poor and illiterate, but Pakistan is an emerging market with one of the world’s best performing bourses and a growing — but increasingly strained — middle class.

NUCLEAR POWER: A nuclear power, elements within Pakistan’s military-intelligence complex have been part of the most active proliferation network. Though Pakistan’s nukes are firmly in the hands of its military and secured by a solid command and control structure, it is in Washington’s interest to ensure that these weapons are in the hands of individuals least likely to utilize or lend them.

MUSLIM DEMOCRACY: The world’s second largest Muslim country, Pakistan has greater democratic credentials than its Arab brethren and – with a mix of good policy and luck – can become a model Muslim democracy.

ENERGY CORRIDOR: Strategically located between Persian Gulf and Central Asian energy suppliers and growing consumers India and China, Pakistan and its new port city of Gwadar promises to become vital trans-Asian energy corridor/transit point in the coming years and decades.


In assessing Washington’s ‘final’ response to emergency rule in Pakistan, I would take the words of Tariq Fatemi, a retired senior Pakistani diplomat, as a guiding reference. He stated Sunday morning (New York time) on GEO that the U.S. and other western countries will express “regret and expectation of improvement”, but in the end it will be business as usual. Their primary interests in Pakistan, he added, center on three things:

  1. The war on terror;
  2. Continuation of military campaigns along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border;
  3. Ensuring Pakistan’s help in a war against Iran.

Indeed, this theme was echoed by conservative commentator Brit Hume on Fox News Sunday. Describing Musharraf as a “bulwark” for the U.S., Hume noted that the current crisis presents a huge foreign policy dilemma for Washington, but there could be a plus side: Musharraf could more effectively help the U.S. under the current arrangement, i.e. emergency rule. In the end, he says, “We’ll make statements, issue urgings, and hold our nose and go on.”

But the situation in Pakistan is highly fluid and both the courses taken by the administrations in Islamabad and Washington will depend largely on the level of the street protests in Pakistan.

British Foreign Secretary David Miliband stated in a press conference earlier today,”Now is not the time for threatening aid that effect the Pakistani people.” He stated that the “next few weeks will be critical [for Pakistan” — the time frame he mentioned suggests this is perhaps the window Washington is giving Musharraf to resolve things.

However, it might not take too long to get a sense of the path Washington takes on Pakistan. By the middle of the week, we’ll perhaps have come a long way from CENTOM Chief Admiral William Fallon’s long meeting with Musharraf, which — according ABC News’ Martha Raddatz — he left “visibly upset” after failing to convince the Pakistani president not to impose emergency rule.

On Wednesday, Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte testifies before the House Foreign Affairs Committee on “Democracy, Authoritarianism, and Terrorism in Contemporary Pakistan.” He will be grilled by Tom Lantos, Gary Ackerman, and Dana Rohrabacher in a full committee hearing. In anticipation, Negroponte and State will likely have to ready to produce some concrete positions and not simply dance around in diplomatic language.

An important factor could be whether Rice feels she has been ‘burned’ by Islamabad. Emergency rule was imposed despite her warnings against it. Moreover, it was implemented while she was busy in Turkey mediating between Turkish, Iraqi, and Kurdish parties.

Another factor are the rivalries within the Bush administration. Its Pakistan policy has been shaped significantly by the office of the vice president, which has proven to be recklessly obstinate and could advise “staying the course.” Moreover, Rice has her hands full with the ‘revived’ Israeli-Palestinian talks and Turkey-Iraq-Kurd problem. She reportedly had difficulty reaching Musharraf today — but did eventually manage to speak with him. An overwhelmed Rice could be more patient with a beleagured Musharraf, perhaps letting Cheney’s office remain in the driver’s seat. Alternatively, she could put on her black skirt and stiletto boots and make an impromptu visit to Islamabad and play hardball with Musharraf (she is in Jerusalem after all).

In short, the Bush administration hopes for things to settle down and for Musharraf to reverse his extra-constitutional moves, resign from the army, and continue as president. However, Musharraf has likely moved beyond the point of no return. Washington should help construct a safe, immediate exit for him and leverage the current climate to help produce a democratic Pakistan in which strong political parties, judiciary, and army work in concert to tackle the country’s many challenges, including terrorism, poverty, illiteracy, and establishing the rule of law.

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An Idiot’s Guide to Pakistan

If the stakes weren’t so high, the segment of above could simply be seen as an exercise in stupidity. But with U.S. engagement with Pakistan at perhaps an all-time high, both countries entering important political transitions and facing multiple intersecting security threats, the laughter should perhaps be followed by tears.

Richard Miniter, a right-leaning polemicist cum-”expert on terrorism,” appeared on the Fox News Channel’s Hannity and Colmes show Friday night (the second highest rated cable news program in the U.S.) to discuss the attempted Bhutto assassination. While the print media has extensively quoted Pakistan and South Asia specialists, H&C decided in favor of the author of related (and quite fair and balanced!) books, “Losing bin Laden: How Bill Clinton’s Failures Unleashed Global Terror” and “Shadow War: The Untold Story of How Bush is Winning the War on Terror.”

Producers at the most popular cable news network in the United States decided it was best for a partisan hack to brief the American public on an already critical country that recently experienced a monumentally important event. Miniter proved to informed viewers (if there were any) that he was ignorant of Pakistan save for a Wikipedia entry he perhaps skimmed before coming on the show.

Here’s a re-cap of his misadventure into Pakistani history:

Ludicrous Statement No. 1: Former Prime Minister Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto was killed “partly for corruption, but also because of political dissatisfaction.”

Correction: Though corruption is endemic in Pakistan’s politics, Z.A. Bhutto was executed after being convicted (in a questionable trial) of ordering the extrajudicial killing of a political opponent. Are corruption and political dissatisfaction grounds for execution anywhere? It’s like saying JFK was assassinated because of his extramarital affairs.

Ludicrous Statement No. 2: Next, Miniter stated that if Benazir Bhutto “stayed in her home in Morristown, NJ,” Friday’s carnage “wouldn’t have happened.”

Correction: First, let me just say that Benazir staying out of Pakistan for security reasons is a slippery slope. If she decided to postpone her return and the threats continued, her self-exile would perhaps be never-ending. BB can, however, be faulted for actions taken after her return: having an absurdly long procession and a mediocre security detail surrounded by untrained young boys who literally were guarding her with their bodies and nothing else.

But where in the world does Miniter get that BB has a home in Morristown, NJ? The Harvard and Oxford graduate has assets that, in some estimates, exceed a billion dollars. She inherited leadership of a Sindhi feudal family and Pakistan’s largest political party. Her main homes are in expensive areas like Dubai and Karachi’s Clifton area. There’s also her family feudal home in Larkana, and she presumably has access to her husband’s luxury condo in Manhattan. So why would a landed, Ivy League educated, two time prime minister of Pakistan have a home in a middle class town in central Jersey?

Ludicrous Statement No. 3: Alan Colmes, the program’s meek co-host, decided to get into the mix and asked Miniter of Benazir, “Didn’t she make a deal with Karzai to come back and have some kind of a unity government?”

A puzzled Mintier asked, “With Karzai of Afghanistan?”

Colmes attempted to correct himself, “Ah, uh I’m sorry, with Sharif.”

Mintier scored a point, informing Colmes that Pakistan’s ruler is “Musharraf.”

Ludicrous Statement No. 4: Miniter reverted back to old form, stating that Pervez Musharraf, “siezed power from Sharif, who was the same member of Benazir’s political party and that political party was suspected in the 1990s of taking money from al-Qaeda.”

Correction: Nawaz Sharif leads an altogether different party — his own faction of the Pakistan Muslim League. Sharif is a center-right politician, a Punjabi businessman. Bhutto is a center-left politician and a Sindhi feudal. They fiercely competed against one another throughout the 1990s and the bitterness remains. Miniter’s statement would be similar to saying that Hillary Clinton and George W. Bush are part of the same political party. I won’t even get into the al-Qaeda comment.

Ludicrous Statement No. 5: Mintier topped it off with this gem: “And so really the people of Pakistan have the choice between Islamists, either radical or not, and corrupt Marxists… there isn’t much of a political debate despite those ends of the political spectrum.”

Correction: Wow. Marxism fizzled in Pakistan in the 1950s. Perhaps it re-emerged in the late 1960s into the 1970s, but the tendency were co-opted by Bhutto’s People’s Party, a populist social democratic party that was overtaken by feudals not too long after its founding. The Soviet invasion of Afghanistan and rise of Zia bid adieu to Marxism for good.

The three major centers of power in Pakistan are Musharraf’s liberal authoritarianism and center-left and center-right quasi-democratic parties. Islamists are on the second tier along with liberal constitutionalists. Marxists are not even on the radar. That’s like calling Hillary Clinton a Marxist — wait, some already do.

Ludicrous Statement No. 6: Mintier: “even now when he [Musharraf] flies, he flies [with] a foreign air crew and foreign security force protects him, not Pakistanis…”

Correction: This is a case of the ‘Musharraf is threatened from within’ paradigm gone mad. He’s no Karzai. Pakistan is no Afghanistan. Plain and simple.

Ludicious Statement No. 7: Guest co-host Mark Steyn asked, “Who’s going to be able to re-assert Pakistani sovereignty over [Waziristan]?” Then he followed by asking, “Why don’t we just go in there when we have to?”

PS: The Fox News Channel appears on many cable television providers in Pakistan.

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Arif Rafiq, a Washington, DC-based consultant on Middle East and South Asian political and security issues. [About]

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Arif Rafiq regularly appears on the John Batchelor Show Friday nights from 09:30-10:00pm Eastern Time. Tune your dial to 770AM in New York or 630AM in DC. The show appears on affiliates in other cities. Listen live online at WABCRadio.com.
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