Tag Archives: Asif Ali Zardari

Obama, Zardari meet at NATO summit in Chicago

President Obama meets with Pakistani President Asif Zardari and Afghan President Hamid Karzai in Chicago

Counter to numerous media reports that President Obama “snubbed” or “shunned” Pakistani President Zardari, the two met twice during the NATO summit in Chicago, including a brief one-on-one conversation according to media reports – and the White House itself.

The two presidents did not have a formal bilateral meeting in Chicago, but this was likely a function of the fact that, despite Pakistan’s central role in resolving the Afghan conflict, neither side wanted ongoing US-Pakistan negotiations to overshadow the broader issues related to stabilizing Afghanistan and transferring control of that nation’s security to domestic forces.

When Presidents Obama and Zardari did meet, they each conveyed the priorities of their constituencies: President Obama reportedly “emphasised to Zardari that Pakistan “has to be part of the solution in Afghanistan,” while President Zardari told Obama “that unless drone attacks were brought to an immediate halt, things would not return to normal.”

Meanwhile, the White House expressing confidence that US-Pakistan negotiations are on a positive trajectory, and a solution that satisfies the concerns of both sides is near.

Domestic Politics, International Effects

On Tuesday, Pakistani journalist Zahid Hussain spoke at the Wilson Center on the topic of Pakistan-US relations. During the course of his speech, Mr. Hussain touched on several important issues including blowback from increased drone strikes, differences in priorities vis-a-vis Afghanistan, and the burden of perceived historical rebuffs. One issue in particular, though, stood out – the effect of domestic politics on foreign policy.

Domestic politics is a reality that affects foreign policy not only in Pakistan, but in all countries. Recently, President Obama was overheard telling Russian President Dmitry Medvedev that he will have “more flexibility” after this year’s elections are over. The situation in Pakistan is no different.

Earlier this year, by elections and Senate elections in Pakistan boosted the Pakistani People’s Party’s (PPP) representation in parliament. But general elections for the National Assembly scheduled for next year puts the majority of seats in play. As a result, politicians are under intense scrutiny not only by the public, but by their opponents as well.

It is through this lens that we should view debates about redefining terms of engagement with the US taking place in Pakistan’s Parliamentary Committee on National Security (PCNS). Recommendations from the PCNS were expected weeks ago, but the process has been slow due to both boycotts by opposition parties and a general cautiousness about tackling sensitive issues such as drones and re-opening NATO supply lines with elections looming.

Despite taking longer than anticipated, however, the committee appears to have achieved a breakthrough as the PPP and opposition parties have managed to find consensus on tough issues. Pakistan’s Ambassador to the US, Sherry Rehman, remarked at the beginning of the process that the parliamentary review of US-Pakistan relations was “a success for democracy,” and it appears she was right. Democracy has never been fast moving, but by building consensus among political parties, it is the only way to develop sustainable policies.

Not all foreign policy decisions can be made through pure consensus, though, and it is in this area where political leadership is put to the test. In 2009, President Barack Obama demonstrated took the extraordinary step of addressing the Muslim world from Cairo, seeking “a new beginning between the United States and Muslims around the world; one based upon mutual respect; and one based upon the truth that America and Islam are not exclusive, and need not be in competition.”

Obama’s speech drew sharp criticism from many American conservatives, including Mitt Romney, for “apologizing” for past American mistakes.

Similarly, Pakistan’s President Zardari transcended historic mistrust last weekend when he became the first Pakistani head of state to visit India in almost a decade. Right wing organizations in Pakistan vocally opposed the president’s trip. Zardari made the trip anyway, and a few days later India’s Foreign Secretary Ranjan Mathai told The Wall Street Journal that his country is willing to open a new dialogue with Pakistan about resolving issues over the disputed area of Kashmir.

In the modern world, domestic politics is rarely confined to domestic issues. Complex issues of international relations are widely reported and discussed among local populations, and political leaders must make decisions based not only on what the believe is in the best interests of their country, but within a range of policies that can receive domestic support.

In mature democracies, this means that foreign policy is informed by consensus derived from the people’s elected representatives, and executed by the country’s leadership. The people of Pakistan have long cried out for change in relations with both the US and India. Recent events give reason to believe their democracy has matured to a stage that can deliver it.

Q&A: Contempt Charges Against Pakistan’s Prime Minister?

Pakistan's Prime Minister Yousaf Gilani

The latest battle between Pakistan’s elected officials and its judiciary heated up this week when the Supreme Court announced plans to indict the Prime Minister on charges of contempt of court. We wanted to find out what’s behind the latest battle, so we asked comparative law specialist and features writer for Dawn, Waris Husain, for some insight and he was gracious enough to accomodate us.  

Q: The New York Times reported on Thursday that Pakistan’s Supreme Court has announced plans to charge the Prime Minister with contempt of court. What did the Prime Minister do, exactly?

A: The Supreme Court held in 2009 that an ordinance passed by then President Pervaiz Musharraf which gave immunity to many political figures was unconstitutional. Since the decision was handed down, the executive branch dragged its feet in implementing the court’s holding overturning that the National Reconciiliation Ordinance (NRO). President Asif Ali Zardari was one of the individuals who benefitted from the ordinance as he had been facing criminal cases in Pakistan as well as a corruption case in Switzerland. The court has continually asked the Prime Minister and other individuals to follow up with the Swiss case against President Zardari by writing a letter to Swiss authorities requesting that the case there be reinstated. The Prime Minister has not written this letter, and thus he is being held in contempt of court for not executing the court’s order.

Q: The Prime Minister’s lawyer, Aitzaz Ahsan, made an interesting observation recently. He said the Prime Minister is a government official acting under the advice of his counsel. If government officials can be held in contempt for following the advice of their lawyers, what sort of precedent does that set?

It certainly can set a dangerous precedent. In the U.S., several Supreme Court decisions allow for a president to be immune from prosecution so long as he acted in good faith at the behest of his counsel. This is to allow the President, who has to make very complex decisions at a high frequency, the ability execute the functions of his job without worrying about pending litigation. This principle is taken far further by the Pakistani constitution which guarantees absolute Presidential Immunity in Article 248. The “legal advice” Mr. Ahsan was referring to was that the Prime Minister could not write a letter to the Swiss authorities about Zardari because such an act woud violate the immunity the President enjoys.

However, the real issue at the core of the court’s order against PM Gilani is the question of who is the final judge of the constitutionality of an act. Though Ahsan raised the issue of legal counsel, the tribunal responded that Gilani could have disregarded any advice that was contrary to the court’s order. Throughout its decision, the court relies on its power of judicial review to be the ultimate decider of the constitutionality of laws, and they implicitly argue that the Executive needs to implement that decision without critically examining its legality.

What about the government’s claim that the president enjoys immunity from prosecution during his term in office? The court seems to be questioning that, but highly respected Pakistani jurists seem puzzled by this. The wording of the Constitution does seem pretty clear.

The American courts developed presidential immunity over time, finding that it was necessary in order to give the President the ability to carry on all the responsibilities he has been constitutionally tasked with. As I said earlier, Pakistan is unlike the U.S. because its constitution has an article guaranteeing absolute immunity to a sitting head of state – and the language is clear. Therefore it is striking to see the court focusing so aggressively on Gilani’s inaction in the Swiss case where the President enjoys immunity. This is partly because the general attitude of the court has been one of growing frustration at the lack of implementation of its orders by the current administration. In many ways, the court feels its credibility is being attacked by Gilani refusing to send the letter, even though doing so would seemingly violate the presidential immunity clause in the constitution.

An article published last month in The Express Tribune (The New York Times’ sister newspaper in Pakistan) reported that the so-called ‘Swiss cases’ could not be re-opened. In fact, a 2008 Reuters report quoted Geneva’s chief prosecutor, Daniel Zappelli, saying that he had no evidence to bring Asif Zardari to trial.

Yes, in fact Ahsan reported to the court’s dismay that he had confirmation from the Swiss authorities that they would not pursue the cases against Zardari.

Some argue that many, if not most, of the charges brought during the 1980s and 1990s were politically-motivated – government officials using the courts as a political weapon against their opponents.

I am not certain about the numbers, and others are far more qualified to speak on that issue than myself. However, from a legal perspective, the court has a valid point in exercising its judicial review over the NRO. The decision to grant a pardon or excuse an individual should only come after a judicial body has held some sort of hearing on the case. The NRO essentially erased all charges that existed without allowing for review by the proper judicial bodies as to whether the charges were legitimate or not – which is the duty of the courts.

It could be that many of the individuals who were accused or convicted of crimes before the NRO were actually innocent and that the charges were politically motivated, but the court attacked the random selectivity of the process. Essentially Musharraf was handing get-out-of-jail-free cards to the politicians he needed to ‘reconcile’ with, and those individuals distributed the cards to their supporters. It is possible that many of the individuals were completely innocent; however, the right to determine which were innocent and which were guilty is the right of the court, not the executive.

There were over 8,000 individuals who received amnesty under the NRO, but the only case that seems to be given any serious consideration is the one against the president. Is this just because his is a high-profile case, or is the court targeting him specifically?

I believe the court is targeting Zardari specifically, and it is also disregarding the thousands of other pending criminal cases that need to be resolved. Some will claim this had to do with a personal enmity between Zardari and Chief Justice Chaudry, as the former hesitated in reinstating the Chief Judge after Dictator Musharraf was removed. Others will claim that the court is merely attempting to assert its role in the future of the nation, and is biting back against the non-cooperation of the ruling administration.

The timing is also interesting. With Senate elections expected next month and general elections within the next year, many are asking, why now? Why not let the people have elections without tarring politicians with legal brushes in drawn out court cases.

There seems to be a perfect storm brewing with regards to the coming elections. Elections should be entered into with all the institutions working together, rather than fighting and impugning the character of potential candidates because this would not benefit Pakistan’s democratic future. However, the NRO decision was passed three years ago, and so the Supreme Court has been awaiting an adequate response from the government since then, and has not been satisfied. Much of this is due to Zardari and Gilani’s own strategy of avoiding the implementation of the court’s decision, and making the court play the waiting game. So now that the court feels that its credibility and legitimacy is on the line, it is unwilling to pull back from the confrontation now.

Nixon vs. Zardari: Presidential Gates Abound

Waris HusainMany Americans can recall the political turmoil that came with the Watergate Scandal in 1972, but few understand its correlation to events currently unfolding in Pakistan. Just as Richard Nixon was brought down from the highest seat of power through allegations of corruption, President Asif Ali Zardari is facing threats from political opposition and the Supreme Court over his involvement in Memogate. However, the major difference between the travails of Nixon and Zardari is the Pakistani military, which has historically stood as an unchecked political force willing to sabotage democratic regimes. Thus, before the U.S. turns away from Pakistan completely, Americans should understand differences between Memogate and Watergate, in order to understand the ramifications of the current controversy embroiling the nation.

The Memogate controversy has its origins in the aftermath of the Osama Bin Ladin raid, where accusations were lodged by the U.S. against the Pakistani Army and its intelligence agency, the ISI, for harboring Bin Ladin. Fearing that the military’s culpability in hiding Bin Ladin would be revealed, the military leadership purportedly asked for permission from various Arab monarchies to perform a coup.

Asif Ali Zardari purportedly concluded that the military had decided to remove him from power, and it is alleged that he had conversations with Pakistan’s Ambassador to the U.S., Hussain Haqqani. These conversations allegedly resulted in a memo being written and sent to the U.S. government asking for help in stopping a potential military coup. In exchange for the American support, the memo promised that Pakistan’s civilian government would work more aggressively to pursue a wide range of American interests.

Soon, the memo, its contents, and its source were revealed by Manzoor Ijaz, who allegedly acted as a liaison between the U.S. and Pakistan government. Hussan Haqqani resigned from his post and returned to Pakistan, and the Pakistani Parliament took notice of the issue. Concurrently, the Supreme Court of Pakistan took notice, asking petitioners to explain their claims and under what basis the court had jurisdiction. While direct allegations against Zardari or Haqqani have not been leveled by the Court, the Court’s order did note possible charges of treason for guilty parties, and Haqqani has been placed on the Exit Control List, prohibiting him from leaving the country.

“If the facts were the same in Watergate, and Nixon was caught trying to stave off a coup by the CIA, he would be lauded as a national hero...”Though the Pakistani Supreme Court has drawn on the case of Nixon v. U.S. as legal precedence for launching an inquiry on the role of the President in this controversy, one should step back and compare the acts of Zardari and Nixon. In Watergate, President Nixon and his aides hired burglars to break into a political rival’s headquarters and illegally wiretap them. Nixon and his associates thereafter tried to cover up their involvement in the scandal and paid “hush money” to the individuals arrested.

On the other hand, Zardari, an elected president, was attempting to stop an unconstitutional military coup from taking place. Rather than holding the military officers who conspired against the civilian government responsible, the media and courts seem to blame Zadari for continually attempting to ‘sell-out’ to the Americans. If the facts were the same in Watergate, and Nixon was caught trying to stave off a coup by the CIA, he would be lauded as a national hero, rather than face treason charges, as is the former Ambassador Haqqani and possibly President Zardari.

However, politics and law in Pakistan is always subject to manipulation by the Army and ISI, and Zardari knows this. This is one of the many reasons why the President refused to answer the court’s request, claiming absolute sovereign immunity. Under Article 248 of Pakistan’s Constitution, a sitting head of state is immune from criminal prosecution. Though President Nixon did not enjoy the same constitutional guarantee of immunity, the U.S. Supreme Court had granted sovereign immunity to Presidents so long as they acted within the scope of their job in good faith. The only way to punish the wrongdoing of a President, either in Pakistan or the U.S., is through impeachment by the legislative branch.

Anticipating the sovereign immunity defense, the Pakistani Supreme Court cited to U.S. v. Nixon in its Memogate order, because, in that case, the U.S. court rejected President Nixon’s blanket claim of immunity. However, it is important to note that the U.S. Supreme Court was not contemplating a criminal prosecution for President Nixon. Prosecutors had already determined that Nixon would enjoy immunity from criminal prosecution while sitting as president, but they were continuing with a case against his aides and required evidence from him. Nixon took the case to the Supreme Court, where he argued that absolute immunity protected him from being forced to produce evidence before the court, which the justices rejected.

In the end, Nixon capitulated to the court, but his resignation came in order to avoid impeachment by Congress, not because of a potential criminal prosecution. However, in Pakistan, it is not clear what the Supreme Court has envisioned for its end-game. The petitioners in the case have justified jurisdiction under Article 5 and 6, which speak to loyalty and treason. The question that must be asked: if the Supreme Court finds that Zardari is guilty of treason, what action can they take?

The American Supreme Court never considered deposing the president or putting him in jail for corruption, as the Constitution assigned this duty to the legislative branch. The same goes for Pakistan, where the Parliament enjoys the exclusive constitutional right to impeach the president, a power which the Supreme Court does not possess.

“Pakistan’s military has always been a looming shadow willing to stunt the growth of democratic governance and snatch up power.”Finally, the consequences of any destabilization of Pakistan’s civilian government are far graver than in America, even in the chaos of the 1970s. Unlike the U.S., Pakistan’s military has always been a looming shadow willing to stunt the growth of democratic governance and snatch up power. There is certainly no love-loss between Zardari’s Administration and the military, especially considering last weeks’ statements by Prime Minister Gilani rejecting the Army’s status as a “state within a state.” Therefore, while the chorus of disapproval for Zardari from political opponents and the Court resembles the sound of democracy, they are all playing the military’s tune. And the Army stands in the wings ready to enjoy the rewards of toppling another civilian government.

In the meanwhile, the United States has halted most of its aid to Pakistan, as trust for the nation is wearing thin from the White House to Capitol Hill. However, before turning a cold shoulder to the nation as a whole, it is imperative to note that it is not democratic institutions which control foreign policy in Pakistan, but the military. Most of what the U.S. bemoans about Pakistan being duplicitous or sabotaging American attempts to reconcile with the Taliban emanate as strategies from the military.

Political analysts have not found a common interest shared by the U.S. and Pakistan because they have failed to delineate the civilian from the military power structures. If one realizes that the U.S. and the civilian government are both being sabotaged by the military, then abandoning the nation completely as an ally seems impractical. It is through comparisons like Watergate and Memogate that one understands the benefit of a having democracy free from the will of an unelected army. But more importantly, it should bolster America’s resolve to contribute civilian aid to a government in crisis, not because it is the most capable or most transparent government in history, but because the other option has been tried before and is so much worse.

The writer holds a Juris Doctorate in the US and is a researcher on comparative law and international law issues.

Rep. Todd Young: A trade-based strategy with Pakistan

Regarding Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari’s Oct. 2 op-ed, “Talk to, not at, Pakistan”:

Rep. Todd Young (R–Ind.)A bipartisan group in Congress would readily lend its support to a trade-based, rather than aid-based, Afghanistan-Pakistan economic strategy. Such a plan should explain how Afghanistan and Pakistan can develop the homegrown financial wherewithal to support themselves, and fend off violent extremists, with minimal American financial assistance. This might take the form of a bold effort such as the negotiation of free-trade agreements with Afghanistan and Pakistan, combined with a diplomatic offensive aimed at increasing trade between the two countries and India. Alternatively, the United States might advance a more modest approach, such as establishing the so-called Reconstruction Opportunity Zones mentioned by Mr. Zardari, which have been debated in recent Congresses.

Potential benefits to the United States include a reduced aid burden; a check on corrupt aid distribution; job creation to reduce recruitment of violent extremists and illegal poppy production; and enhanced credibility for civil authorities at the expense of Pakistani military leaders, the latter having demonstrated a penchant for giving aid and comfort to our enemies.

Todd Young, Washington

The writer, a Republican from Indiana, is a member of the U.S. House of Representatives. This letter appeared in yesterday’s Washington Post.

Pew Poll Raises More Questions Than Answers

Pew Research Center, Global Attitudes ProjectThe latest Pew poll of Pakistani attitudes towards the US and the war on terror raises more questions than it provides answers. While several numbers from the annual survey of Pakistani attitudes are sure to make headlines, what the poll actually reveals may be lost in the numbers.

The poll’s overview begins with a made-for-headlines statement:

Most Pakistanis disapprove of the U.S. military operation that killed Osama bin Laden, and although the al Qaeda leader has not been well-liked in recent years, a majority of Pakistanis describe his death as a bad thing. Only 14% say it is a good thing.

Such a statement will inevitably play to pre-existing suspicions of Pakistan, but what do the poll results really mean? Consider the question posed about Osama bin Laden’s death:

Regardless of how you feel about the U.S. military operation, do you think it is a good thing or a bad thing that Osama bin Laden is dead?

The results are that 14 percent replied, ‘Good thing’; 55 percent replied, ‘Bad thing’; and 32 percent either didn’t know or refused to answer.

Many Americans will read this as evidence of Pakistani sympathy or support for the terrorist leader, but such a conclusion requires assumptions that are not supported by data in the poll. Pew asked respondents whether Osama bin Laden’s death is “Good” or “Bad”, but they never asked why the respondent answered that way. Someone could have answered that Osama’s death was “good” because it would rally extremists, and other could have responded that it was “bad” for the same reason. We don’t know what any of the respondents intended, but are left to interpret the responses through the lens of American attitudes.

Georgetown professor C. Christine Fair explains this phenomenon in her response to Christopher Hitchens’ latest piece on Pakistan for Vanity Fair:

Hitchens is correct in noting that Pakistanis of all strata are deeply outraged that U.S. Navy SEALS came into Abbottabad — a garrison-town — to catch bin Laden without hindrance and with impunity. However, his outrage at Pakistani outrage is misplaced. Of course, Pakistanis should feel so violated because they were. As an American, I support the raid that eliminated this terrorist. However, from the optic of many Pakistanis, they first had to contend with the notion that bin Laden was in their country and second that the United States stormed their airspace, conducted a firefight for 40 minutes in a garrison town and then escaped with its dead quarry all before the Pakistanis could even scramble their F-16s.

Pakistanis themselves began wondering whether their military could protect them from India and whether the United States could act with equal ease to eliminate their nuclear program. Needless to say, all of this came on the back of years of drone attacks against terrorists in Pakistan’s tribal areas. While the facts about the drone program in Pakistan are grotesquely distorted and obscured by Pakistani and American officials, ultimately perception matters more than reality. Pakistanis, especially beyond FATA, loathe them as weekly assaults upon their nation’s sovereignty. The bin Laden raid was just the latest and most brazen of assaults on the country and demonstrated the incapacity or will of the military or intelligence agencies to stop the United States. Who would not be demoralized and outraged by these events?

There are similar methodological problems with the way Pew asked about Pakistanis’ views of political leaders. According to the poll’s findings, the most favored political leader in Paksitan is Imran Khan. This may come to a surprise to many Pakistanis since Imran Khan’s political party, Tehreek-i-Insaf Pakistan (PTI), has never won more than 1 percent of the vote in an election. Is Imran Khan a rising star in Pakistani politics? That’s not what the poll actually tells us about Pakistani politics.

In surveying Pakistanis about their views of political leaders, Pew limited the field of “Pakistani leaders” to six individuals: President Asif Zardari, Prime Minister Yusuf Gilani, Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry, Chief of Army Staff General Ashfaq Kayani, Nawaz Sharif and Imran Khan. Notice anything about this list? Only two of the figures Pakistanis were asked about are not current office holders – Nawaz Sharif and Imran Khan.

With ongoing terrorist attacks, a struggling economy, and incidents such as the Raymond Davis shooting and the Abbottabad operation fresh on people’s minds, is it any wonder that sitting politicians would come under greater scrutiny than those on the sidelines? Even the higher numbers for Imran Khan must be weighed with the consideration that Nawaz Sharif has served as Prime Minister twice, and therefore carries the baggage of past decisions while Imran Khan has never held any political office and has no record for people to judge.

The other strange thing about Pew’s list of political leaders is that they chose to include Imran Khan, but did not ask about political leaders from opposition parties that actually have more support at the polls. Noticeably absent from Pew’s list are Chaudhry Hussain, head of the Pakistan Muslim League – Quaid faction (PML-Q) which has 76 seats in parliament; Altaf Hussain, head of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) which has 32 seats in parliament; Asfandyar Wali Khan, head of Awami National Party (ANP), which has 19 seats in parliament; or Maulana Fazl-ur-Rehman, head of the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam – Fazlur Rehman faction (JUI-F) which has 16 seats in parliament and was recently awarded the post of opposition leader in the Senate.

Rather than ask Pakistanis about the political leaders and parties that they are actually voting for, Pew skipped much of parliament and asked about a former cricket celebrity who has never held elected office. Additionally, Pew admits that the sample surveyed was “disproportionately urban” and excluded Federally Administered Tribal Areas, Gilgit-Baltistan, Azad Jammu and Kashmir, and parts of Khyber Pakthunkhwa and Baluchistan. Perhaps this further explains the disproportionate popularity of Imran Khan despite his inability to secure actual votes come election time.

This year’s Pew poll is not the first to come under criticism as being inherently problematic. Following the release of last year’s poll results, Kalsoom Lakhani noted of Foreign Policy’s AfPak Channel blog that “quantitative data cannot capture the nuances and complexities of identity and society.” It seems that, unfortunately, this problem continues to plague Pew’s annual poll.

Repeating Past Mistakes Will Repeat Past Failures

Sen. Carl Levin

Senator Carl Levin told Foreign Policy magazine’s blog ‘The Cable’ that lawmakers are considering scaling back civilian aid to Pakistan in the wake of the discovery of Osama bin Laden in Abbottabad. Though Congress has concerns about the possibility of militant support networks within Pakistan’s military and intelligence agencies, however, lawmakers are not considering cuts to military, but civilian aid. According to Sen. Levin, helping develop a stable democracy in Pakistan is “also in our interest but not as clearly.”

A 1962 article for Foreign Affairs argues the opposite – that the shortest path to peace and stability is through strengthening civilian institutions, not military.

In this large context of peace and war, the fundamental aim of economic assistance is, therefore, to build up stability in unstable states. This cannot be done by piecemeal patching up, by casual subsidies and handouts. The most successful of all programs of economic aid so far-the Marshall Plan-clearly illustrates the need for change in depth. If the nations of Western Europe had simply been restored to where they were before the Second World War, they would inevitably have repeated yet again their melancholy inter-war cycle of economic isolationism and national rivalry. It was America’s insistence upon a joint solution of their problems that opened the era of technical modernization, supra-nationalism and interdependence. What has saved Europe has been not the reconstruction of the old order but the bold projection of a new.

We don’t have to go back to 1962 to understand the importance of investing in a strong and stable democratic Pakistan, and how disastrous it can be to turn our backs on the civilian institutions. In fact, we can look at a time as recently as the 1990s.

When President George H.W. Bush could no longer certify that Pakistan was not actively pursuing nuclear weapons, aid to Pakistan was suspended as required by the Pressler Amendment. Suspending aid to Pakistan may have made a moral point, but the practical result was to convince Pakistan that it’s national security would have to depend on options outside US cooperation. Rather than pushing Pakistan towards a policy of nonproliferation, cutting aid as India demonstrated nuclear capability likely increased Pakistan’s resolve to demonstrate it’s own nuclear deterrent.

The other byproduct of aid suspension was Pakistan’s military and intelligence agencies looking more to irregular forces as a means of strengthening Pakistan’s defenses. It was terrible, but rational decision: If Pakistan could not count on the support of it’s ‘most allied ally’, it would have to find support where it could.

This scenario could easily repeat itself if Congress repeats this past mistake again.

“You risk undermining the whole edifice that the United States has been trying to support in Pakistan,” warned Shuja Nawaz of the Atlantic Council, an independent policy institute.

Moreover, the U.S. aid lies at the heart of Obama’s strategy to help stabilize a deeply impoverished country of 170 million struggling with a growing Islamic insurgency, soaring ethnic and sectarian tensions, mounting joblessness and failing education, health, energy and other services.

US-Pakistan relations may be suffering from a severe trust deficit, but his lack of trust did not develop on May 1st or when Raymond Davis shot two men in the streets of Lahore. It is the result of past failures by US policymakers to foresee the inevitable perception among their Pakistani counterparts that the US could not be trusted to support them in their time of need.

Despite these setbacks and the discovery of Osama bin Laden in Abbottabad, today presents a unique opportunity to remedy past mistakes and help Pakistanis stabilize their young democracy. Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari has expressed his determination to reign in Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence spy agency by placing it under civilian control, but as yet has not received the political support necessary to do so.

The discovery of Osama bin Laden on Pakistani territory has resulted in open discussion of a civilian inquiry by both coalition and opposition politicians in spite of insistence by military leaders for an internal review. In order for change to take place, however, the civilian institutions must have the support necessary to stand up to and reform the outsized influence of Pakistan’s military and intelligence agencies. Cutting civilian aid to Pakistan will only reinforce a failed status quo. The US should reaffirm it’s commitment to civilian democracy in Pakistan – the bold projection of a new order.

Pakistan’s Democratic Government Under Attack Following US Raid

While the US is asking tough questions about how Osama bin Laden was able to live undetected just outside a major military base, it is important to move forward with an eye not only on the past, but the future as well. Pakistan’s President Asif Ali Zardari recently wrote that he is “fighting terrorists for the soul of Pakistan.” Following the US military operation that killed Osama bin Laden, that fight has intensified, and pro-democracy forces in Pakistan are under assault from all sides.

In Sunday’s Washington Post, Senior Fellow at the Brookings Institution, Bruce Riedel, wrote that the greatest threat to the fight against global terrorism is Pakistan falling into the hands of extremists.

Bin laden and his likely successor, Ayman al-Zawahiri, increasingly believed that Pakistan is their best chance at a global game-changer: a coup that delivers to the global jihad the world’s sixth-most-populous country with the bomb.

And judging by recent events in Pakistan, that may be exactly what the militant groups are attempting to do. Using a strategy honed in Iraq, extremist militant groups in Pakistan are launching sectarian attacks that divide the people while fan the flames of violence and extremism.

A deadly pattern is emerging: the terrorists are going ahead full-throttle in a murderous rampage against Pakistan’s minority sects and demonstrating their disturbing willingness to make the daily lives of the people of Quetta, and beyond, a pawn in their armed agenda.

May 4 2011 Anti-Government CartoonUnfortunately, it’s not only extremist militants who are jumping on the opportunity to divide and conquer a confused and frustrated public. Some opposition politicians have launched attacks on the civilian government for allegedly failing to secure Pakistan’s sovereignty. The News, an English-language daily owned by the same company that the Washington Post compared to “a political opposition group”, has published a series of articles and cartoons criticizing the civilian government, despite the fact that Osama bin Laden was found living next door to the nation’s largest military academy.

In addition to Pakistan’s activist media, some opposition leaders are also using the situation to advance their own ambitions. Opposition leader Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan, whose Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz faction) has been accused of funding the very militant groups the government is trying to crack down on, has called on President Zardari and Prime Minister Gilani to resign. This call for civilian resignations has also been picked up by former government minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi who said the government should have a “no foreign boots on our land” policy, despite the fact that as Foreign Minister until earlier this year, Qureshi would have overseen the increased cooperation between US and Pakistani military and intelligence that led to last week’s raid.

Karin Brulliard, writing in The Washington Post, says these calls for civilian resignations likely reflect an attempt to divert attention from the nation’s powerful military and intelligence agencies noting that Shah Mehmood Qureshi in particular “is viewed as close to the Pakistani military, and his demand was widely though to reflect that institution’s thinking.”

While this might be the thinking of the military establishment, pro-democracy forces within the civilian government are

Appearing on This Week, Pakistan’s Ambassador to the US, Husain Haqqani, told Christiane Amanpour that Pakistan’s government will conduct a full investigation into how Osama bin Laden was able to enter and stay in Pakistan undetected.

“Heads will roll once the investigation has been completed,” Haqqani said. “Now if those heads are rolled on account of incompetence, we will share that information with you, and if, God forbid, somebody’s complicity is discovered, there will be zero tolerance for that as well.”

Later on the same show, former Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Liz Cheney said that “we cannot afford to walk away. We walked away once at the end of the 1980s and we saw what happened…It’s very important that we deal with this relationship in a very well advised way going forward and we not jump to the conclusion that we’ve got to walk away.”

Past strategies of attempting to isolate Pakistan have weakened the civilian government and pro-democracy forces in the country, allowing extremist groups to move in and gain influence. It is no coincidence that these militant groups turned their sites on the Pakistani state following the election of the present pro-democracy government in 2008. This same government The US should not repeat past mistakes of walking away from Pakistan in a time of crisis, but should

Bruce Riedel identifies the way to prevent Pakistan from falling into the hands of al Qaeda and its affiliates: Supporting the pro-democracy forces in Pakistan’s civilian government.

It is easy to get angry with Pakistan, but that’s not a strategy. We need a healthy Pakistan that fights terrorism. That means helping democratic forces, such as President Asif Ali Zardari, despite their shortcomings.

Advice decision makers in Washington would do well to heed.

US, UK Leaders Call For Greater Support For Democratic Forces In Pakistan

 

Speaker Boehner

US and UK leaders are calling on their respective governments to expand engagement with Pakistan following the successful US mission against Osama bin Laden earlier this week. While media reports continue to create confusion about Pakistan’s role in the operation, top leaders are warning against rash decisions and calling for greater support for pro-democracy forces.

The Wall Street Journal reports today that Pakistan has been a crucial partner in the fight against terrorism, and that statements by Pakistani officials expressing concern about the US operation are intended to address domestic public opinion that is largely suspicious of American motives.

“Pakistan is a partner—a key partner—in the fight against al Qaeda and terrorism,” White House press secretary Jay Carney told reporters. “They have been extremely helpful, and we look forward to cooperating in the future”

In private, a number of senior U.S. officials urged caution in casting blame on Pakistan’s government or President Asif Ali Zardari. “If multiple people at any level [knew], I think we would have found out by virtue of the amount of information gathering we do” in Pakistan, a senior U.S. official said. He suggested officials are going back to review their intelligence and see if they missed any signs.

In a joint statement Tuesday afternoon, U.S. and Pakistani militaries said the raid “underscores the importance of cooperation” in antiterrorism efforts. “Both sides affirmed their mutual commitment to their strong defense relations,” the statement said.

Pakistan’s rebuke of the raid appeared aimed at quieting mounting discontent among middle-class Pakistanis, many of whom are virulently anti-American, for what they have seen as a violation of Pakistan’s sovereign space.

Speaker Boehner expressed to reporters the importance of expanding cooperation with Pakistan.

Brushing aside much of the criticism heaped on the Pakistanis after the killing of Osama bin Laden, Boehner said Pakistan was a critical ally.

“We both benefit from having a strong bilateral relationship. This is not a time to back away from Pakistan,” Boehner said. “We need more engagement, not less.”

Speaker Boehner’s sentiments were also expressed by Britain’s Prime Minister David Cameron on Tuesday.

“Pakistan’s political leadership…are staunch in the fight against extremism and terror, and they’ve done huge amounts in their own country to try and combat it.

“Pakistan has suffered more at the hands of terrorism than virtually any other country on Earth.

“It’s in our interests to back those democratic forces within Pakistan, and the stronger that democracy can be the more the whole country will work together to deal with terrorism.”

Pakistani Foreign Secretary Salman Bashir revealed that Pakistan alerted the US to suspicions about the compound in Abbotabad in 2009. Osama bin Laden is believed to have been hiding there for several years before then, but that was under military dictator Gen. Pervez Musharraf. It was not until the present government came to power that the compound was brought to the attention of the US.

As American and British leaders have clearly stated, now is the time to increase engagement with Pakistan, not turn it away. By strengthening democratic forces within Pakistan’s government and security services, the US can help provide the political space Pakistan needs to disentangle itself from the web of militant sympathizers that spread under the supervision of past dictators, protecting American and Pakistan’s shared interest in a safe, secure, and terror free world.

Bin Laden Operation Underscores Need to Support Pakistani Democracy

The death of Osama bin Laden during a US special forces operation on Sunday night brought a sense of closure to many people the word over. Though all agree that the struggle against bin Laden’s brand of violent extremism will continue after his death, grassroots movements across the Arab world have demonstrated that it is through peaceful democratic organizing and not terrorist violence that dictators will be unseated and justice spread. The US should support pro-democracy movements across the world, especially in Pakistan where a fragile democratic government is under imminent threat from extremist militants.

Details of the operation that eliminated bin Laden are trickling out slowly, and there seems to be much confusion about Pakistan’s role in tracking and killing the al Qaeda leader. Recent statements from Pakistan’s government say that they had no role in the operation, but this claim strikes many analysts as unlikely.

It is even less likely that, as U.S. counterterrorism czar John Brennan claimed in a press conference today, Pakistani authorities did not know about the military operation that killed bin Laden until it was over. Abbottabad’s Bilal Town neighborhood where bin Laden lived and died was virtually around the corner from the Pakistan Military Academy at Kakul — Pakistan’s West Point, where future General Kayanis and General Pashas are learning to be officers. It doesn’t take 40 minutes to start to scramble planes, or get troops to Abbottabad, and there is no getting into the town by land or air without the expressed consent of Pakistan’s security establishment. This may not have been an official joint operation, but it was almost certainly a collective effort.

The Wall Street Journal reported today that much of the contradictory information coming out of Pakistan may be intended to quell public concerns in a country where a sensationalist media has stoked deep suspicions of American operations, and the Raymond Davis fiasco is still fresh in the public memory, a position reiterated by Karen Brulliart and Debbi Wilgoren in today’s Washington Post.

In comments that seemed directed toward the Pakistani public, much of which disapproves of any type of cooperation with the United States, Pakistan “categorically” denied local media reports that it was given notice about the raid and its air bases had been used.

While public opinion in Pakistan may be suspicious of US motives, Pakistan’s President, Asif Ali Zardari, has been a staunch defender of democracy. Echoing the sentiments of his late wife, Benazir Bhutto, President Zardari wrote in the Washington Post today that democracy is the best weapon against terrorism.

My government endorses the words of President Obama and appreciates the credit he gave us Sunday night for the successful operation in Khyber Pakhtunkhawa. We also applaud and endorse the words of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton that we must “press forward, bolstering our partnerships, strengthening our networks, investing in a positive vision of peace and progress, and relentlessly pursuing the murderers who target innocent people.” We have not yet won this war, but we now clearly can see the beginning of the end, and the kind of South and Central Asia that lies in our future.

A freely elected democratic government, with the support and mandate of the people, working with democracies all over the world, is determined to build a viable, economic prosperous Pakistan that is a model to the entire Islamic world on what can be accomplished in giving hope to our people and opportunity to our children. We can become everything that al-Qaeda and the Taliban most fear — a vision of a modern Islamic future. Our people, our government, our military, our intelligence agencies are very much united. Some abroad insist that this is not the case, but they are wrong. Pakistanis are united.

Perhaps it is due to the sincerity of President Zardari’s convictions that President Obama spoke of US-Pakistan cooperation as an essential component in the fight against terrorism during his historic address to the nation on Sunday night.

But it’s important to note that our counterterrorism cooperation with Pakistan helped lead us to bin Laden and the compound where he was hiding. Indeed, bin Laden had declared war against Pakistan as well, and ordered attacks against the Pakistani people.

Tonight, I called President Zardari, and my team has also spoken with their Pakistani counterparts. They agree that this is a good and historic day for both of our nations. And going forward, it is essential that Pakistan continue to join us in the fight against al Qaeda and its affiliates.

That’s also why suggestions that Congress may cut aid to Pakistan are self-defeating. Indiscriminate and unaccountable aid such as was practiced during the Reagan and George W. Bush administrations can lead to unintended consequences. But so can severing ties, such as occurred under President George H.W. Bush. Cutting assistance to Pakistan would jeopardize existing intelligence and security collaboration when we should be working to strengthen pro-democracy leaders and institutions in Pakistan.

Osama bin Laden was not discovered overnight. It took years of intelligence sharing and coordination between the US and Pakistan, and White House officials made clear that Pakistan’s help was integral to the success of the mission. What has gone too long unsaid, however, is that it took the election of a democratic government to reach the level of cooperation necessary to discover and eliminate the world’s most notorious terrorist. But the struggle to define Pakistan’s future continues. Militant leader Hafiz Saeed has publicly prayed for Osama bin Laden, while the Pakistani Taliban has declared war on the Pakistani state. This is a defining moment for Pakistan that underscores the vital importance of supporting Pakistan’s democratic movement.