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Enhancing the US-Pakistan
Partnership with Respect

 

The Pakistani American Leadership Center (PAL-C) strives to represent the views of the Pakistani American community on issues of concern both domestically and internationally and to provide policy solutions to address those issues. We are constantly engaging the stakeholders and providing them with access and representation to the decision-makers so the voice of the Pakistani American community is heard. It is an ongoing process of education, grassroots organizing, political advocacy and public diplomacy. We hope you join PAL-C and contribute, so we can carry our mission forward and ensure that Pakistani Americans have a seat at the table.

  Taha Gaya

Executive Director of the Pakistani American Leadership Center (PAL-C)
Posted October 28, 2009 | Pakistan Link

Click for article in Pakistan Link

Here in America, but especially in Pakistan, we have grown accustomed to calling the US legislation "The Kerry Lugar bill." The real short title is, of course, the "Enhanced Partnership with Pakistan Act of 2009." It would do both governments well to pause for a minute and really reflect on what that title means, to reflect on what is meant by an enhanced partnership between the US and Pakistan.

The bill makes a brilliant start towards promoting an enhanced partnership by tripling US economic assistance to Pakistan to $1.5 billion every year for the next five years. This is money that will be spent on development and infrastructure projects including healthcare, education, water management and energy programs; those sectors in Pakistan that will truly affect and uplift the average Pakistani

There are no conditions on this assistance, it is a true and sincere recognition of the sacrifices Pakistan has made in protecting our freedom and security through its efforts combating terrorism and extremism, and it is a pledge from the American people to the people of Pakistan that we will stand together now and in the future when the threat has passed and the time has come for Pakistan to grow, progress and rebuild.

It is vitally important that the people of Pakistan expressly recognize this gesture of goodwill so that the two countries can start from a foundation of friendship and mutual cooperation, a "trust surplus," which will make tackling the differences much easier.

On the US side, it is incumbent that we realize the constraints of legislation to achieve our diplomatic and strategic objectives vis--vis Pakistan. In a country where 59% of Pakistanis consider the US to be the greatest threat to Pakistan and every US move is scrutinized, it behooves the US government to move very cautiously in the public domain.

This is not to say that the US should abandon its legitimate concerns regarding the ability and effectiveness of Pakistan's security establishment in combating terrorism, or that it should ignore past Pakistani involvement in nuclear proliferation activities, or that it should not engage itself in the promotion of Pakistani governance and democratic institutions, it is to say that there are more effective vehicles to achieve success with regards to these objectives than very public legislation that appears accusatory, arrogant, and to borrow a phrase from Pakistan's Chief of Army Staff, "insulting" to the people of Pakistan.

For example, when the legislation states that Quetta in Baluchistan and Muridke in Punjab remain a sanctuary for al Qaeda and the Taliban, it immediately puts Pakistan on the defensive. US interests would be much better served by publicly recognizing, through the legislation, the successes of the Pakistani armed forces in Swat, successes that continue to be reaped at the time of this writing with the death of Nisar Ahmed - a top aide of Tehrik-e-Taliban Swat leader Maulana Fazlullah, while simultaneously providing Pakistan with actionable intelligence on militant activity in Muridke and Quetta and promoting specific action through the proper military-to-military channels.

To be absolutely clear, we are not suggesting that the US use back channels and closed-door meetings as a way of subverting the Pakistani democratic political process, we are simply suggesting that the US significantly decrease its public footprint in Pakistan though a campaign of public support for positive Pakistani initiatives, such as the recent Rah-e-Rast operations in Swat, while communicating our legitimate concerns privately in closed door sessions. This allows our Pakistani partners the needed space to create and communicate a strategy that they can then take full ownership of, rather than one that is seen as the result of US intervention and coercion.

Indeed the US has a strong interest in the promotion of Pakistani democracy, but both Congress and the Administration, while seeking to distance themselves from the legacy of so-called "Bush-Mush" relations, must be careful not to overreach and swing the pendulum too far in the opposite direction by trying to impose our own vision of civil-military relations on a democratic Pakistan.

The current Pakistani Chief of Army Staff, General Kiyani, has consistently demonstrated a commitment to the non-interference of the Pakistani military in civilian affairs (by extension, this includes the ISI which de facto falls under Army control). While the bill has a five-year outlook and therefore may want to guarantee that this status quo continues, to publicly require the US conduct an "assessment of the extent to which the Government of Pakistan exercises effective civilian control of the military, including a description of the extent to which civilian executive leaders and parliament exercise oversight and approval of military budgets, the chain of command, the process of promotion for senior military leaders, civilian involvement in strategic guidance and planning, and military involvement in civil administration," is to bring about the kind of sharp rebuke from the Pakistani security establishment that is now endangering the US-Pakistan partnership.

On the eve of Pakistani operations in Waziristan, an operation the US has long been pushing for, but the Pakistani Army has been resisting until it could achieve the necessary grassroots support from the people of Waziristan that was so crucial to their success in Swat (any counterinsurgency operation lacking the support of the people in the operational theater will eventually relapse into guerilla warfare) is it really wise to antagonize our Pakistani partner by arrogantly trying to micromanage their internal affairs in this way?

With the debate on the US troop presence in Afghanistan intensifying, it is becoming increasingly obvious that the US will be relying more and more heavily on the Pakistani Army as the most successful troop presence in the region to continue the fight against al Qaeda and the Taliban. Now is a time when we should be minimizing differences and maximizing support to the Pakistani security establishment.

Pakistan will do the right thing independently and of its own volition. The US simply has to give it the space and the respect to do so.

Taha Gaya is the Executive Director of the
Pakistani American Leadership Center (PAL-C)
He can be reached at taha@pal-c.org

 

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