U.S. Billions Fueling Political Crisis in Pakistan

, Emmanuel Opati, Leave a comment

Analysts are criticizing United States for talking the talk and not walking the walk in the recent Pakistan crisis.

Dr. Marvin Weinbaum said the United States bears some responsibility in this quasi-martial law in Pakistan. “President Musharraf had every reason to believe that we would stand with him in the end and we have,” he said. He added that U.S. has been “giving lip service for support of democratic institutions and making excuses for Musharraf’s manhandling of the constitution and civil liberties.”

Dr. Weinbaum, a scholar at the Middle East Institute, also said, “We have shown no real faith in democracy that we spend so much time praising. We cling to the notion that it takes Musharraf to further our interests and even democratic interests.”

And now, he said, “anything we say is seen by Pakistanis as a smoke screen to disguise our real agenda.”

He indicated that United States described recent events in Pakistan as “encouraging” and “promising,” ignoring the evidence that Musharraf’s actions were despotic.

Scare tactics about the War on Terror

“We have repeatedly allowed ourselves to be influenced by Musharraf’s scare tactics; that only he could confront the terrorist extremism; that only he could hold back the tide of extremism,” he said.

It was pointed out that Musharraf does not share U.S. interests in Pakistan and that he perceives his involvement in the war against terrorism as a return for U.S. aid assistance to Pakistan.

Husain Haqqani, Director of the Center for International Relations at Boston University pointed out that “Pakistani’s military looks upon the U.S. as the check writer.”

He added that the United States often talks about its interests in Pakistan, but has the U.S. ever thought about Pakistan interests in this partnership?

He said Musharraf has not understood the nature of the war against terror and believes it is not a threat to Pakistan as it is for United States. Therefore, he said, “Musharraf has continued to peddle the war against terrorism as something he is doing for America in return for what America gives Pakistan and that is how he has marketed it in Pakistan.”

Speaking at the Heritage Foundation, Weinbaum said, “our policy assumes that Musharraf will bring stability and effectiveness against terrorism and extremism but instead what he has brought to Pakistan is instability.”

“It strikes me that American policy toward Pakistan is in disarray”, he added criticizing the U.S.-Pakistan military cooperation which has seen an increase in military aid since 9/11.

He said that U.S. policy has long been that President Musharraf is indispensable, gaining the cooperation of the Pakistan military to destroy al Qaeda and support allies in military operations of counter insurgencies in Afghanistan. This policy, he said, has been very disappointing in the fight against the Taliban and in some cases counterproductive.

Historically, Pakistan has always suffered U.S. sanctions when under civilian rule and has always received large packages of aid under military rule.

“Pakistan has received $21 billion U.S. dollars since 1954 and $17 billion of that has gone under military governments mainly for military purposes. American has made the army the most important institution in Pakistan,” said Husain Haqqani.

He added that “Pakistan’s political parties have consistently been divided, manipulated and demonized by Pakistani’s Intelligence system.” “The Pakistani’s army desire to control Pakistani politics is far greater than its desire to pursue the war against terror,” he said.

Haqqani added that Pakistan’s army has no training in counterinsurgency but has a lot of training in producing insurgents. They train insurgents for Afghanistan, train insurgents for Kashmir. “They need training for counterinsurgency but before that, they need political leadership and will to see that a counterinsurgence operation is needed”, said Husain Haqqani.

Musharraf imposed a state of emergency on November 3rd, disbanding the Supreme Court and suspending the constitution. This triggered demonstrations in Pakistan where a number of human-rights activists were arrested, including former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, who was put under house arrest a couple of times.

Haqqani pointed out that there is a religious paradox in Pakistan. “Pakistan is a nation whose religious tradition is moderate and yet Pakistan has ended [up] becoming a hot bed of Islamic radicalism,” he said. This is because Pakistan, although geographically South Asian, has always preferred to identify itself with the larger Muslim world of the Middle East.

With increased international pressure, Musharraf released some activists and resigned from the Army but the international community is still calling for more to be done.

“The critical next step of transition will be to create an atmosphere that will allow for truly open and fair elections, that will begin with lifting the emergency conditions, and reinstating the 1973 constitution which protects civilian rights and freedoms,” said Lisa Curtis, Senior Research Fellow of the Heritage Foundation.

“Stifling the democratic parties in Pakistan (although they may be led by imperfect individuals) will only empower, embolden, and strengthen the forces of religious fanaticism”, Lisa added.

There are fears that religious extremists are taking advantage of this political uncertainly to reorganize, given the shift of focus to the political crisis.

Following U.S. pressure, General Musharraf allowed a negotiated return of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto of Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) and later Nawaz Sharif of the Pakistan Muslim League.

General Musharraf came to power in 1999 after staging a military coup that removed the then Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, who was jailed for 14 months and was released on condition that he had to leave the country. He left in 2000 to exile in London.

It is believed that Musharraf agreed to his return as a strategy to check the growing popularity of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto following her return.

On Thursday November 29th, Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf was sworn in for a second term, a day after he stepped down as the commander of the Military.

He has called for political reconciliation, promising to lift the state of emergency on December 16th, ahead of the Parliamentary election in January. He said he was in favor of democracy and human rights. He insisted, however, that they will do it their way.

Former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif announced that he will boycott the January elections if the emergency rule is not lifted. Analysts predict that Bhutto and her party may also boycott the elections, which will jeopardize the legitimacy of Musharraf’s presidency.

Emmanuel Opati is an intern at the American Journalism Center, a training program run by Accuracy in Media and Accuracy in Academia.