Tag Archives: Shuja Nawaz

Reassessing American Strategy in South Asia

Shuja NawazShuja Nawaz, Director of the South Asia Center at the Atlantic Council, testified before the Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs this week regarding American strategy in South Asia. In his written testimony submitted to Congress, Mr. Nawaz makes several important recommendations for improving US-Pakistan relations including de-linking aid from political objectives and increasing investment in improving regional trade. At the heart of his recommendations, though, is a call for the US to focus on strengthening civilian institutions. The following paragraph, in particular, stands out.

The United States must put its interactions with civilian leaders and civil society on a much higher plane than it has to date. And it must increase its effort to help Pakistan rebuild institutions in civil society that have been damaged by years of autocratic rule. A better civil service and community-based police at the federal and provincial level are critical for security and development. Support mechanisms and systems for parliament and the Pakistan Senate, for provincial administrations, and key institutions such as the Election Commission and the Defence Committee of the Cabinet are needed to allow the civilians to provide the leadership that Pakistan deserves. In effect we need a civilian counterpart of the IMET (International Military Education and Training) program run by the Department of State, with dedicated resources to allow the US to be seen as a partner of democracy in Pakistan.

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.

Fighting Militancy With Democracy In FATA

Significant progress has been made in strengthening democracy and justice in Pakistan since the 2008 elections. President Asif Ali Zardari stunned critics by voluntarily returning powers that were consolidated under military dictators, reinstating the deposed Chief Justice, and passing legislation protecting the rights of women. But while democratic progress is taking place in much of Pakistan, there is a place that continues to suffer from a lack of democratic reforms – the federally administered tribal areas (FATA) on the nation’s Western border.

In our post on Dr. Hassan Abbas’s latest report on reforming Pakistan’s police and law enforcement infrastructure, we noted that anti-democratic militant groups such as the Taliban operate somewhat like an extortion racket, creating chaos and then filling the popular demand for some form of law and order regime. Nowhere is this more apparent than FATA.

This ability for militant groups to gain support in the region is largely made possible by the fact that FATA is not subject to the same legal system as the rest of the country. FATA, much as the name implies, is an area administered by a patchwork of colonial-era rules dating back to the 19th century. Originally intended to provide autonomy to independent tribes in the nation’s remote frontier, the governance structure today breeds corruption and impedes swift resolution of legal claims.

In a 2009 paper, “Mainstreaming Pakistan’s Tribal Belt: A human rights and security imperative,” Ziad Haider, a JD and MPA candidate at Georgetown Law and the Harvard Kennedy School, describes a series of reforms that could be implemented easily and make great strides towards bringing FATA into mainstream Pakistan.

In the short term, these policies include extending the Political Parties Act, and allowing the nation’s political parties to organize in the tribal areas and offer a moderate, mainstream alternative to extremist political groups; overhauling draconian penalties including collective punishment and whipping; delivering speedy justice by establishing timelines for cases to be heard and decisions to be handed down; and expanding the right to appeal to a court of law and not a panel of bureaucrats.

During a discussion on Pakistan’s future at the United States Institute of Peace, Christine Fair pointed to a 2009 poll that showed that, when asked what people meant when they said they supported Sharia, most people answered “good governance.” Later in the program, Shuja Nawaz noted that good governance is key to countering the spread of militancy. It should come as no surprise, then, that the area in which militancy has most taken root is FATA, where a lack of effective and efficient governance consistent with the rest of the nation provides an environment ripe for militant influence.

Uprooting militants in Pakistan’s tribal regions is not an easy task. But it will not be possible without bringing democracy and justice to FATA by integrating those areas into the mainstream political and legal structure of the country. This can, and should, be implemented with careful attention to the unique cultural needs of the people and should follow the path of devolution and increased participation that President Zardari began in 2008. The citizens of FATA are as Pakistani as the citizens of Lahore, Karachi, and Faisalabad. They deserve the same political and legal rights as well.


Law, Order, and Democracy in Pakistan

Pakistan police badgeWhere the Pakistani Taliban have won sympathy, it has come largely as a result of the group’s promise to provide some semblance of law and order in areas that lacked what was popularly considered a fair and neutral arbiter of legal disputes. The Taliban’s form of “justice” might be harsh – even medieval – but it may be seen as a better alternative than banditry and corruption. This means that the key to undermining local sympathies with the Taliban may lie in strengthening the local law enforcement infrastructure so that the state is popularly viewed as the legitimate source of local law and order.

Two stories this week emphasize conclusions reached by a new report published by the United States Institute of Peace this week on the importance of reforming Pakistan’s police and law enforcement infrastructure.

The first story relates to a new US government report that suggests  aid to Pakistan is not meeting its goals.

The report, which was released by the Inspectors General for the U.S. State Department, Defense Department and Agency for International Development (USAID), cites a number of reasons why the aid has proved ineffective. It says problems with staffing the programs, a hostile security environment and – in one case – fraud, have led to programs not being implemented.

The second story is this morning’s suicide bombing in Punjab, the latest in a series of attacks on police and security forces.

Militants have recently stepped up attacks across the country’s north western cites, mainly targeting police force, after a period of relative calm. Four police stations were attacked in Peshawar in a week. Bullet-riddled bodies of two tribal police officials and a villager were found on Thursday near Mir Ali town of North Waziristan with a note that they were American spies. The three men were kidnapped in January and their bodies showed signs of torture, officials said.

The Taliban have learned that their most effective approach to power is to undermine the state’s authority by creating chaos and then offering to step in and provide security and some form of neutral justice. As such, they operate as any other extortion racket, but with a goal of gaining a monopoly on police power and therefore superseding the authority of the state.

Meanwhile, the US is pumping billions of dollars in civilian aid into Pakistan, but is not able to achieve desired outcomes in large part due to a lack of law and order that prevents proper and timely delivery of aid resources and project implementation.

Against this backdrop, Dr. Hassan Abbas, Quaid-i-Azam Professer with the South Asia Institute, Columbia University, released his latest report, Reforming Pakistan‘s Police and Law Enforcement Infrastructure in which Dr. Abbas makes two important points related to this context:

1. Police effectiveness is inextricably linked with legitimacy of the state. At present, there is a systematic effort on part of extremist groups to target police & law enforcement because they have learned that most effective way to expand their own networks is to undermine the writ of the state.

2. US aid objectives cannot be achieved so long as law and order is not prioritized. There are serious issues of focus in US aid priorities – namely, a lack of resources and training for local civilian law enforcement.

Dr. Abbas makes very clear that civilian police are not military force multipliers, village defense forces, or lashkars (militias). Pakistan has an effective and capable military which can clear militant groups from an area. What it lacks is a well-organized, well-resourced civilian law enforcement system that can build trust and provide an ongoing sense of order among the local population.

US military aid is necessary, but not sufficient to countering the spread of extremist influence. As Dr. Abbas explained yesterday,

“Foreign donors should avoid framing everything in the context of counterterrorism, as Pakistani public opinion is likely to be more appreciative of international help in this arena if it is focused on enhancing the crime-fighting capacity of police.”

During a discussion on Pakistan’s future last week, Christine Fair pointed to a 2009 poll that showed that, when asked what people meant when they said they supported Sharia, most people answered “good governance.” Later in the program, Shuja Nawaz noted that good governance is key to countering the spread of militancy. The missing piece of the puzzle of good governance in Pakistan is effective and efficient civilian law enforcement.

If significant progress in Pakistan can be achieved by something as simple as increasing the pay of Pakistan’s civilian police, can the US afford not to do so? As the US examines outcomes from US aid investment in Pakistan, it should consider the findings of Dr. Abbas and the need for reforming Pakistan’s police and law enforcement infrastructure.

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.

Finding Hope In A Tragedy

It’s hard to find hope in a tragedy as immense as the floods that are ravaging Pakistan, but Shuja Nawaz, director of the South Asia Center at the Atlantic Council, thinks there might be a glimmer of hope shining through.

The rains that have for the past two weeks caused the worst flooding in northwest Pakistan in eight decades have shifted attention from the country’s battle against insurgency and militancy and the fragility of its relationship with the United States. As the monsoon rains move south, numerous roads, bridges and dams have been damaged. Crops have been destroyed. It is likely that next year’s crops will not be planted. Yet amid all this destruction are reasons for optimism.

Rapid U.S. action to support Pakistan’s relief efforts may help improve America’s image among a population that generally resents the United States. Washington’s $55 million aid pledge makes it the largest donor among the international community. U.S. Chinooks — seen as angels of mercy after the 2005 earthquake — are helping Pakistanis over flood-ravaged mountains and plains, and represent both U.S. ability to help Pakistanis and the Pakistani military’s willingness to work with its U.S. counterparts. This collaboration will go a long way toward building relationships among rank-and-file service members. The head of Pakistan’s air force is visiting the United States this week to see joint air exercises in Nevada. Such encounters will educate people and help both countries dispel false notions about each other.

Though the past few years have seen mutual trust on the rise between the US and Pakistan, there are still weak spots that opponents of a strong US-Pakistan partnership exploit. The floods provide an opportunity for the US to demonstrate with actions – not just words – that it is dedicated to a long and mutually-respectful relationship with Pakistan. As Mr Nawaz writes,

To reconstruct damaged homes and infrastructure and help its people recover, Pakistan will require enormous aid — not just from the United States and Europe but also from Muslim nations and its neighbors. Meanwhile, the battle against the homegrown insurgency and militancy that threaten Pakistan’s polity rages on. Even as Washington focuses on leaving Afghanistan, it must not lose sight of Pakistan’s long-term civil and military needs — not just for short-term gain but in an effort to build a lasting relationship. To help change the long-entrenched story, Washington and Islamabad need to display consistent behavior. Trust must be built on mutual understanding and equally beneficial actions.

As I write this, the US and Pakistan are working together to bring much needed relief to Pakistanis affected by the floods. As the video below clearly shows, when our two great nations work together, we can accomplish great things.

How Petraeus Can Be Successful

Gen. Petraeus meets with Pakistani Gen. Kayani

Following President Obama’s appointing Gen. David Petraeus as Commander of U.S. Forces in Afghanistan, commentary has largely been that the change in leadership does not entail a change in strategy. While this is true in the the broader view of American foreign policy and military strategy, progress is often won or lose due to nuance and detail. As such, Gen. Petraeus has a unique opportunity to bring important success to what some complained was a stalled effort in the region.

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Rand Report And Historical Context

Rand Corporation released a new report on Pakistan yesterday that includes a mixed bag of observations and recommendations. While the report does recognize the complicated situation that is religious extremism in Pakistan, it is imperative to a successful American-Pakistan partnership that we consider policy in the proper historical context.

Steve Coll, President of the New America Foundation, spoke with Judy Woodruff on the PBS News Hour last night and his conversation provides a good starting point for discussing key elements of the report.

Mr. Coll rightly notes that Pakistan has suffered immensely from extremist violence. The New York Times reported at the beginning of this year that,

The number of Pakistani civilians killed in militant attacks rose by a third in 2009 over the previous year, according to a new research report, a toll that exceeded even the number of civilian deaths in Afghanistan.

Those numbers don’t include the over 7,000 injuries sustained by Pakistani civilians, nor the thousands of Pakistani military and police personnel killed by religious militants.

This is important to keep in mind when discussing Pakistan’s complicity with Taliban and other religious extremist groups. The Rand report recognizes this, noting that “[s]ome of these groups pose a grave threat to the Pakistani state…”

The fact is, the Pakistani state has a self-interest in defeating the Taliban and other groups that engage in religious violence. That’s not to say that there are not elements within Pakistan’s civilian, military, and intelligence services that don’t provide either indirect or direct support for militant groups. But it does mean that claims of an ‘official policy’ of state support for these groups are far fetched at best.

In fact, the present government, has taken unprecedented steps in eliminating the threat of religious militancy. But eliminating the terrorist threat will not happen overnight, and this government has only been in power for less than two years. As Daveed Gartenstein-Ross, Director of the Center for the Study of Terrorist Radicalization at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, writes in the new book, The Afghanistan-Pakistan Theater: Militant Islam, Security & Stability

…these problems come not just from continuing official support for religious militancy, but also from an institutional culture and outlook that grew over decades. The road to reversing this course will not be easy, but clearly understanding the problem – and acting upon it – is necessary.

It’s going to take time to root out lingering ties between Pakistani officials and militants. We must also keep in mind that these residual ties to militant groups are firmly rooted in longstanding tensions between Pakistan and India – tensions that past American policies have historically complicated.

Shuja Nawaz, Director of the Atlantic Council’s South Asia Center, describes the “roller coaster relationship” between the US and Pakistan as a key reason for lingering relationships between some elements within Pakistan’s security agencies and militant groups.

Though the United States sees itself as standing for democracy and freedom, it has acted in Pakistan over the decades in a shortsighted manner, making alliances largely with the military to advance its own strategic interests. First, it strengthened the hands of the army by increasing its size and heft in the 1950s via the Baghdad Pact against the Soviets. The U.S. looked the other way as martial law was declared by President Iskander Mirza in October 1958, and then as he was overthrown by Ayub Khan later that month. The U.S. decamped from the scene after the Indo-Pakistan war of 1965, when Pakistan expected the U.S. to assist it. Pakistan then turned to China as its new best friend.

Being abandoned by the US is fresh in Pakistan’s memory, even if too many Americans may have forgotten. Without the confidence that the US will be a neutral arbiter between Pakistan and India and ensure Pakistan’s security and sovereignty, the temptation to resort to the old self-defeating use of militant groups as proxy fighters will continue.

To this end, Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi deserves praise for his continued work to bridge the trust gap between the two nuclear powers. But the US must do more to ease Pakistani concerns that the we are not partners for the long-term.

During a panel discussion last week, Daveed Gartenstein-Ross observed that short-sighted American policies during the 1980s resulted in a trust deficit with Pakistan. Discussions of foreign policy related to Pakistan should be framed within the context of a long-term view of political engagement in the region with an eye to future dividends from continuing to support democratic reform. Otherwise, policies that attempt to maximize short-term security gains at the expense of long-term democratic reform in Pakistan will only continue the cycle of mistrust and violence, significantly threatening both Pakistani and American security in the future.