Monthly Archives: September 2010

Obama Administration Stands Behind Pakistan's Government

Predicting the fall of the government has been a popular parlor game in Pakistan. In some ways, this is to be expected – Pakistan has actually existed under military rule for more years than under democratic. But while it might not be surprising that political commentators default to rumors of coups and ‘caretaker’ governments, there is one group of Pakistan watchers that firmly believes the civilian government will not fall – the White House.

According to Bob Woodward’s new book, the Obama administration has made a strategic decision to support democracy in Pakistan for the long haul, reversing past approaches that saw support for military dictators as a way of achieving near-term goals.

But while the end of Zardari regime has often been predicted, it appears that he will remain in place for the foreseeable future. The Obama administration, meanwhile, is aware of how crucial his cooperation remains for the success of the mission in Afghanistan.

When Woodward sat down for his interview with Obama earlier this year, he asked the president if the situation was still that Pakistan is the centerpiece of the U.S. strategy. “It continues to this day,” Obama replied.

This comes shortly after statements by Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, Richard Holbrooke, that the US will only support a democratically elected civilian government, making it quite clear that the official US position is to support democracy in Pakistan.

Pakistan's Foreign Minister Explains Why Open Markets Support Democracy

Pakistani foreign minister Makhdoom Shah Mahmood Qureshi spoke at CFR, where he discussed the regional development challenges that Pakistan faces due to the catastrophic floods, the need for constructive dialogue with India and Afghanistan, the strengthening relationship with the United States, as well as the fight against terrorism.

US: We Will Only Support Civilian Rule In Pakistan

Richard Holbrooke

Despite the military’s continued insistence that it has no interest in coups – soft or otherwise – some reactionary elements in Pakistan’s unofficial ‘Establishment’ (primarily retired military officers and right-wing journalists) have been encouraging just this. Recent comments by Altaf Hussain, head of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) political party inviting “patriotic generals” to to intercede in Pakistan’s civilian government has served as a rallying cry for anti-democratic forces in Pakistan’s media. The US, however, will not repeat past mistakes by either supporting a coup or ‘looking the other way’. This was the message of US Special Envoy Richard Holbrooke during a recent trip to Pakistan.

Mr Holbrooke, who is in Pakistan visiting flood-affected areas, told reporters: “We will only support a civilian, democratically elected government.

“I think the Pakistan government has done a fantastic job [handling the floods] so far – and we are here to help in any way we can.”

However, he added that the US was happy to work with the Pakistani army, “which is a part of this government”.

These statements of support show not only support for the Pakistani government, but also for the military and, most importantly, the people of Pakistan. The US respects the decisions of Pakistani voters, it respects the authority of the elected government, and it respects that the military wants to do what it does best – ensure the security of the state by protecting the people and the stability of their chosen leaders.

As Pakistan struggles to overcome unprecedented destruction from the historic flooding while simultaneously fighting ruthless extremists, it is essential that the people’s right to choose their own leaders not does not fall victim to a lack of support from Pakistan’s allies – especially the United States.

Pakistan's Foreign Minister Talks To Katie Couric

Pakistan’s Foreign Minister, Shah Mahmood Qureshi recently sat down with Katie Couric on CBS News to discuss Pakistan’s response to the devastating flood crisis, the country’s struggle for democracy, the threat of extremist groups – and how the Pakistani military is fighting that threat.

Is PBS Broadcasting Terrorist Propaganda?

PBS NewsHour provides platform for extremist spokesman

Watching PBS NewsHour last week, one could easily believe that extremist groups like Lashkar-e-Taiba (also known as Jamaat-ud-Dawa, Falah-e-Insaniat, and a host of other aliases) are the primary conduits of relief work in flood-ravaged Pakistan. The respected news program featured a segment, Militant Groups Aid Pakistan Flood Victims, that is little more than a public relations campaign by an organization deemed by the United Nations as an international terrorist group.

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Time Magazine Ignores Pakistan Crisis

We have pointed out more than once the problem with media coverage of the flood crisis in Pakistan and the outcomes of this problematic coverage – a lack of attention to the problem that hurts fundraising for relief and recovery efforts, and gives the impression that the US is not concerned with Pakistan’s struggles, despite this being a top priority of the US government. Last week’s edition of Time Magazine exemplifies this media failure.

Time Magazine covers: September 20, 2010

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The ethos of the people of Pakistan is democratic

President Asif Ali Zardari said the greatest threat to democracy is from extremists and militants who want to foist their political agenda on the people by bullet rather than ballot.In a message the President said, “I am pleased to learn that the International Day of Democracy is being observed throughout the world today under the auspices of the United Nations to assess the state of democracy around the world and to reinforce commitment to democratic ideals.” He said intolerance to dissent and disagreement also endanger democracy.

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Promoting democracy in Pakistan, a discussion

The Center for American Progress hosted a discussion yesterday between three experts on Pakistan’s political situation and the effects of US policy in the region. Shuja Nawaz, Director, South Asia Center at the Atlantic Council; Haider Mullick, Fellow, U.S. Joint Special Operations University and the Institute for Social Policy and Understanding; and Moeed W. Yusuf, South Asia Adviser, United States Institute of Peace Center, Center for Conflict Analysis and Prevention addressed what the US is doing to help empower the people of Pakistan to decide their own fate – and what changes to US policy are necessary to ensure that we stay on track for a long and mutually productive relationship.

Media Should Focus On Pakistan Flood, Not Quran Burning Pastor

Pakistan continues to suffer from the historic flooding that submerged over a fifth of the nation.  With over 2o million people displaced by the disaster, and billions of dollars in damage, it is disgraceful how little attention is being paid to the ongoing effects of the floods.

As we posited recently, media headlines – or the lack thereof – are considered a major reason why humanitarian relief is not coming as quickly as it should.

What is more disgraceful, though, is that the American media appears to be giving more attention to the Florida pastor who is organizing an event to burn Qurans than to the needs of Pakistani people.

A search of Google News this morning returned 9,921 links for the keywords “Quran Burning” over the past week, and only 5,854 links for the keywords “Pakistan floods”. This is shameful.

The United Nations has declared the Pakistan flooding the worst humanitarian crisis ever. It presently affects over 21 million people. While the death-toll has, thankfully, been relatively low, the destruction has been immense. With over 20 percent of the nation submerged by flood waters, houses, crops, business, and national infrastructure has been destroyed across the nation. And the disaster is growing.

U.N. Undersecretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator Valerie Amos said earlier this week that,

“Everything I saw and heard today confirmed that this disaster — already one of the largest the world has seen — is still getting bigger.”

The Council on Foreign Relations has warned that, beyond the immediate human suffering caused by the floods, the disaster threatens the stability of a close American ally.

The deadliest floods in Pakistan’s sixty-three-year history have killed over 1,600 and affected nearly fourteen million people. The devastation is sorely testing the government’s capacity, and setbacks are likely in its efforts toward economic growth and development, fight against militancy, and the country’s civil-military relations.

Despite the clear and present danger posed by ignoring Pakistan’s need for relief and reconstruction, the American media has focused more on the publicity stunt of a small-time extremist. Rather than give a platform for the divisive and destructive antics of small-time fanatics, agenda setting media organizations should devote more time and resources to raising awareness and promoting constructive solutions to the needs of our friend and ally, Pakistan, in this their time of need.

Secretary Clinton's Iftar Speech

“Ramadan teaches and reinforces values that are honored by millions and tens and hundreds of millions of people from other faiths and beliefs. So tonight, while we celebrate together, let us consider how we can build broader and deeper bonds of mutual understanding, mutual respect and cooperation among people of all faiths in the year to come, here at home and abroad. And let us also reflect on how we can improve our efforts to ensure that we create more opportunity for more people in more places to live up to their own God-given potential.”

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s Remarks at the Annual State Department Iftar