policy predicaments in Pakistan
The Schisms in United States-Pakistan Relations:
Pakistan has traditionally presented predicaments to the
United States in policy formulations specific to Pakistan and more
largely to American policies in South Asia arising from schisms in
mutual perceptions. The United States has pandered to Pakistan’s
military needs in the past as a ‘quid-pro-quo’ for use of
Pakistan to serve American national interests on a couple of
occasions. But, as Dennis Kux (Author of the book “ The United
States and Pakistan 1947-2000: Disenchanted Allies) puts it :
“US-Pakistan ties have lacked a solid underpinning of shared
same author further amplifies that the “ United States never
shared Pakistan’s perception of India as an enemy” and that when
Pakistan “one of the junior partners refused to play the game of
geo-politics according to Washington’s rules-as Pakistan did in
the 1960s over China-trouble ensued.”
repeated this pattern of strategic delinquency vis-à-vis the United
States, in the 1990s also. Pakistan’ relations with the United
States in the 1990s can be said to have been in a state of freeze
due to : (1) Pakistan’s nuclear weapons and missile build-up with
direct Chinese participation (2) Sponsoring anti-Indian Jehad in
Kashmir (3) Nuclear weapons tests in 1998 (4) General Musharraf’s
military coup despite American warnings (5) General Musharraf’s
military misadventure against India in Kargil in 1999
bypassing the elected civilian government of PM Nawaz Sharif and (6)
more importantly emerging as the Mecca of Islamic Jehad by providing
sanctuaries, training, consular assistance and free flights to the
likes of Osama bin Laden, Al Qaeda and the Taliban-all involved in a
‘state of war’ against the United States.
these patterns of Pakistani strategic delinquency the United States
chose to break this freeze hours after 9/11 when for the first time
instead of cajoling Pakistan, General Musharraf was given an
ultimatum to submit without delay to American demands, namely (1)
Pakistan to provide bases for United States military forces in the
war to liquidate the Taliban in Afghanistan (2) Dismantle all Pak
terrorist training camps on Pak-Afghan border and (3) Launch
military operations to seal Pak-Afghan border to prevent escape of
Osama bin Laden and the hierarchy of Al Qaeda and Taliban.
Musharraf, visibly shaken, complied with the American dictates to a
degree, justifying it to his nation on two grounds: (1)
Pakistan’s survival was at stake, and (2) The holy Koran
sanctioned temporizing commitments under pressure but which could be
reneged upon at the first opportune moment.
the two years since 9/11, despite United States pressure, the
picture emerging today is : (1) Pakistan Army permitted the escape
of Osama bin Laden and the terrorist hierarchy into Pakistan (2)
Pakistan selectively handed over
top Al Qaeda terrorists to USA at carefully crafted intervals to
extract political mileage from USA and (3) General Musharraf has not
fulfilled any of the repeated pledges given by him to USA to
stop cross-border terrorism whether against India or Afghanistan.
Schisms seem to be emerging once again in Pakistan’s approach and
sensitivity to United States interests and policies.
once again presents policy predicaments to United States policy
makers. The United
States today is facing an Islamic onslaught and Pakistan is the most
untrustworthy candidate to combat it on America’s behalf having
been the spearhead of Islamic Jihad for over a decade.
Further, Pakistan itself is divided by internal strife
endangering the future
of this militarized nation
state. Therefore, the
United States options in Pakistan today are limited and basic. But
before this is analysed, it would best be to take a brief looks at
the schisms that exist in the United States about perceptions of
Pakistan between what is officially articulated by the US
Administration (presumably because of political reasons) and the
analysis of American think tanks and political analysts as to what
events portend about the ongoing situation in Pakistan. The United
States Administration officially likes to maintain that Pakistan is
in the forefront of the global war on terror and that General
Musharraf is a “ courageous fighter against terrorism.” The
United States think tanks think
of Pakistan- The Schism Between the United States Administration and
American Think Tanks, Journalists, Analysts and Academics:
Within the United States there is a marked schism in the
perceptions of Pakistan, between the United States Administration
and the American think tanks, journalists, analysts and academia.
The prominent ones have serious reservations and concerns about the
US Administration’s change in policy in South Asia and the future
of Pakistan, as the sampling below would indicate:
on the US policy change he observed: “It’s a tragedy because
it will greatly complicate the US role in South Asia as a whole
and India in particular, if we have to get back in bed with
Pakistan.” Further he advocated that Pakistan’s cooperation
should be obtained by taking a tough line instead of buying them
Perkovitch. Advised caution by the United States stating that:
“ The real concern for the United States should be Pakistan. There
is a real potential for civil war”. Implicit in the above, that
Pakistan was a failed state, unlikely to contribute strategically to
the United States, when it itself was on the brink of a civil
The question for Pakistan is whether it is too late to draw back
from the abyss, its own misguided deeds have opened up. Clearly,
General Musharraf is running scared….. and the detention of
several of the leading terrorists upon whom his ( General
Musharraf’s) Government had conferred largesse, coupled with the
serious unrest sweeping Pakistan, tells us that a coup is feared and
indeed may not be far down the road, no matter what he does to try
and prevent it .”
he adds: “.. the next coup will undoubtedly succeed through a
marriage between the military and the fundamentalists given the
widespread inclination towards fundamentalism in the lower ranks
of the Army and among at least a few of the Generals who sit
quietly and non-committedly around Musharraf’s round
these sorts of perceptions and perspectives on Pakistan, by American
analysts it is, intriguing as to what impelled the current United
States Administration to edge back towards a permissive relationship
with Pakistan and continue with it, when the following factors are
Pakistan was a failed state upto 9/11.
Pakistan Army’s middle ranking officers and lower echelons have
strong fundamentalist leanings.
Pakistan Army is a highly politicized army in which now both
politics and Islamic Jehadi ideology get rolled into one.
General Musharraf till the morning of 9/11 was reputed to be
a leading light of the clique of Pakistan Army Generals with strong
Islamic Jehadi leanings and linkages with Islamic Jehadi parties.
This also extended to Osama bin Laden, Al Qaeda and Taliban.
States Three Options in Pakistan Today:
Since what the United States Administration has done in the years
since 9/11 cannot be undone, the
next question that needs to be analysed now is as to what are the
options open to the
United States today in Pakistan in terms of its policy formulations,
keeping in mind the prospects of military coup, civil war and
fragmentation of Pakistan. These options basically center on the
means to achieve stability in Pakistan through:
Option I. Stable General Musharraf
Option II. Stable Pakistan Army.
Option III. Stable Democratic Pakistan Nation State.
three of the above cannot be considered as synonymous. They carry
separate implications for both Pakistan and United States which are
States Option I- Stable General Musharraf. United
States seems to be presently pursuing this option, convinced because
of the following factors:
Removal of General Musharraf from power by whatever means would
bring Islamic fundamentalists into power in Pakistan.
General Musharraf’s opportunistic character would ensure that
United States strategic interests would be well served, with his
continuance in power.
this be the United States preferred option for the moment, it
carries the following implications:
General Musharraf’s hold on Pakistan and Pakistan Army stands
greatly weakened today due to what the mass of the Pakistan Army and
the Pakistani nation perceives as his “sell-out to America”.
No amount of US economic assistance, military largesse and vocal
American support for General Musharraf, personally, can bolster his
continuance in power,
General Musharraf may be indispensable for current American
interests, but he is not indispensable for the Pakistan Army or the
masses that throng Pakistan’s bazaars and mosques.
Too much hue and cry and alarm has been raised that the arrival in
power of Islamic fundamentalist parties in Pakistan is inherently
destabilizing. They could not be more de-stabilising than an Islamic
fundamentalist General Musharraf at the helm of affairs (It is
juvenile logic to assert that in a photo-session to journalists,
carrying two lap dogs in his arms makes General Musharraf a moderate
and a liberal).
Musharraf today is at odds with the Pakistani polity, the Pakistan
Army and the Islamic fundamentalists. The more the United Sates
attempts to bolster General Musharraf’s perpetuation in power in
Pakistan to serve US interests, the more counter-productive are
bound to be the results for USA.
United States, in this connection, should pay heed to historical
precedents, as to what happened to the Shah of Iran as a result of
such policies. The same could happen in Pakistan. The United States
should dispense with this option forth with.
States Option II- Stable Pakistan Army: Seeing the volatile
trends in Pakistan today and the mounting opposition to General
Musharraf, within the Pakistan Army and without, the United States
is likely to be tempted into adopting Option II i.e. Acquiesce to
the removal of General Musharraf from power by any combination of
forces within Pakistan, but ensuring that Pakistan Army’s hold on
the Pakistani nation state continues to be stable to deliver on
American strategic interests.
States predilection for this option seems to rest on a number of
fallacious assumptions, namely:
Pakistan’s military hierarchy is secular. Pakistan Army
military hierarchy today is not of the same mould as General Ayub
Khan’s genre holding on to the secular traditions of the old
British Indian Army. General Musharraf included, the Pakistan Army
hierarchy today is predominantly Islamic fundamentalist in
Pakistan Army is a military effective fighting force ready to serve
America’s strategic needs. Historically, armies which have tested
political power rarely
remain military effective.
Pakistan Army is popular in Pakistan. It is not so. There is
widespread resentment in Pakistan not only against military rule but
also for the disproportionate perks appropriated by the Pakistan
Army hierarchy for its personal gratification.
Pakistan Army is the glue which holds Pakistan together. Not so, as
would the opposition to it in
NWFP would indicate and also the resolution in Balochistan
Assembly asking for reduction of Pak Army cantonments in
Balochistan and also reduction of Pakistan para-military forces
If Pakistan Army was secular and the glue which held Pakistan
together and was a popular Islamic Army of Allah, as they like to
claim then why the widespread massacre of Shias by the Sunni
majority in Pakistan and the atrocities on Christian and other
Pakistan Army’s hold on nuclear weapons reduces nuclear conflict
chances in South Asia. Not so, because the opposite is true. It is
General Musharraf and the Pakistan Army that has resorted to nuclear
brinkmanship and nuclear war mongering.
of the above fallacies should discourage the United States adopting
Option II. The United States opting for Option II would entail
pandering by America for the Pakistan Army’s insatiable thirst for
weaponry to reduce its asymmetry with India. It was tried in 1950s
and thereafter with active US military aid and the
consequences have been unfavourable both for the Pakistani nation
state and the United States. The Pakistan Army has not allowed
anyone to question its own military defeats at the hands of India,
corruption and military ineffectiveness.
Option II adoption by United States and its fall-out could lead
India to impose an arms race on Pakistan which Pakistan could
ill-afford and nor
could the United States subsidise
such a Pakistani defence
build-up. This Option also endangers the successful culmination of
the emerging US-India strategic partnership.
importantly, this would reinforce the image of the United States in
Pakistani minds of United Sates standing with the Pakistani Army in
between them and opposing the return of democracy to Pakistan.
States Option III- Stable Democratic Pakistan:
Stable and democratic
Pakistan entails what? It entails that a political climate is
engineered in Pakistan by the United States which could ensure the
Pakistan Army role in the political and foreign affairs of Pakistan
be marginalized and Pakistan Army is forced to return to the
Restoration of Parliamentary ( not Presidential) democracy in
Pakistan in elections initially to be conducted in presence of
foreign observers to pre-empt rigging by Pakistan Army and its ISI.
Pakistan Army be made subservient to the Parliamentary system.
De-jehadisation of Pakistan as an essential pre-condition for
economic aid from international
bodies and foreign investments.
United States has within it the power, muscle and coercive pressure
to force the release of the Pakistan Army stranglehold on the
Pakistani nation state. It is bewildering for people in South Asia
to witness within South Asian countries, the United States following
double standards. The United States clamours for democracy in
Myanmar and political emergence of Aung San Suu Kyi. Yet the United
States is silent on restoration of democracy in Pakistan and has
never made any statement for the return from exile of former
premiers Nawaz Sharif and Benazir Bhutto.
democratic Pakistan in full civilian control, however disorderly to
begin with, due to prolonged spells of Pakistan Army misrule, will
be at peace with itself, peace with its South Asian neighbours and
more amenable to United States advice and directions.
historical precedents are to go by, then the United States would
find it very difficult to adopt Option III,. unless Cold War
mindsets are changed in the civil and military bureaucracies in
Washington. For them it is easy to deal with military rulers of
III of the United States will be stoutly opposed and impeded
by General Musharraf and by the Pakistan Army. The Pakistan Army for
its own survival as the commanding elite in Pakistan can distract
the United States from Option III by even de-stabilising Pakistan
using Islamic Jehad or even opt for regional destabilization by
indulging in war with India. But the United States can bring the
Pakistan Army on its
knees by cutting off all Western economic aid and military
assistance to Pakistan.
it is imperative that the United States adopts Option III for its
own long term good in terms of its political standing and
strategic interests in South Asia.
Observations: As per the tenets of the United States new
national security strategy formulations, if there is one state that
demands ‘regime change’ by United States intervention, it is
decidedly Pakistan. The Pakistan Army-commanded Pakistani nation
state has excelled in state-sponsored terrorism across borders on
both its western and eastern peripheries, nuclear weapons
proliferation, nuclear war-mongering and has forced Pakistan’s
slide into a ‘failed state’ status.
Bennet Jones of the BBC in his recent book has made the comments on
the Pakistan Army as follows: “ Pakistan Army enjoy a better
reputation than it deserves. Both on the field of battle and in
periods of military rule its record has been far from glorious. If
Pakistan is, as many Pakistanis believe a failed state, then the
army (Pakistan Army) must take its fair share of the blame.”
on General Musharraf, Jones states: “ General Musharraf’s regime
has another problem. It faces a fundamental contradiction. A man
who assumed power illegally, and whose legitimacy depends on
military forces, has argued that he alone can restore democracy to
above would indicate that the Pakistan Army and General Musharraf
are the main culprits contributing to the ills that plague Pakistan
and impeding its emergence as a moderate Islamic state at peace with
itself and its neighbours. Therefore in terms of excercising United
States options in Pakistan, the US Administration
needs to dispense with Option I and II analysed above. It
would be in America’s long term interests to adopt Option III i.e.
bringing about a politically stable, moderate and democratic
United States has the political and military standing to ensure the
restoration of parliamentary democracy in Pakistan. The United Sates
should refrain from manipulating the perpetuation in power of the
Pakistan Army to serve its geo-political strategic interests. That
is the only honorable course of action for the United Sates.
it is for the United Sates to act forthwith and act now before
Pakistan in its downward slide under Pakistan Army rule becomes
irretrievable and beyond redemption. Caution here can best be
expressed in the words of John Norris, Special Advisor to the
International Crisis Group who states: “ The world community
should approach Pakistan and its problems with open eyes. Offering
tacit support for quasi-military rule into the indefinite future may
make it more difficult, not less, to tackle the foundations of
author is an International Relations and Strategic Affairs
analyst. He is the Consultant, Strategic Affairs with South
Asia Analysis Group -- courtesy of which this article appears