Aid Wars: US-Pakistan and Politics of Coercion

In a latest move, the US government has decided to  suspend $800 million military aid to Pakistan. It is fairly obvious that grounds for this had already been smoothed by the powers that be: The recent statements by senior US military officers about involvement of ISI in the murder of Syed Saleem Shahzad, it seems, was the tipping point of war of words and silence that has been going on between the two allies. Another reason being given for this drastic step is   “the Pakistani army’s decision to significantly reduce the number of visas for U.S. military trainers” (Douglass Birch, AP).

It is also being suggested that the US wants the Pakistan army to launch a major offensive in the tribal regions to ease pressure on the US forces across the border in Afghanistan. Those of you who have read my recent public writings know that I am not really a fan of the Pakistan army brass, but in this situation I agree with General Kiyani’s suggestion that “the aid should be diverted to civilian institutions.” This means that while General Kiyani is not willing to kowtow to the American policy makers, he understands the importance of this aid and would rather still have it delivered to the civilian government of Pakistan.

In fact, this could be a very important step for the US. By diverting this aid to the civilian administration, the US can convey its displeasure to the Pakistan army–whatever their reasons–without hurting the general Pakistani population. Let us not forget that there is a popular myth in Pakistan about the fickleness of US friendship: we tell stories–some true some pure legend–of how America betrayed us time and time again. This step would only enhance the level of distrust of the US by the Pakistani public.

The same report that I cited above also suggests that Pakistan, it seems, has not been doing enough in the war on terror. Let us not forget that both Pakistani civilians and military personnel have sacrificed heavily during this unending war. As I wrote a few months ago, the losses have been great. Here are some of the figures as provided to me by some very reliable sources within the Pakistan army:

  • There were 118 drone strikes in 2010 claiming 1127 lives of which 680 are believed to be those of civilian bystanders.
  • As of January 2011, Pakistan has lost 2740 soldiers while 8500 of them have been wounded in action.
  • According to very conservative estimates about 5800 civilian were killed during 2010 due to terrorist actions.
  • Total civilian casualties in Pakistan since 9/11 have now exceeded 36,000.

These are some of the figures of what has befallen Pakistan since the beginning of this unending war. The intangible factors are beyond just these figures that include destruction of infrastructure, loss of productivity, and simple increase in public fear of terroristic attacks and reprisals.

So, those who claim Pakistan has not done enough should get off their proverbial, prejudiced behinds and look at the situation more carefully. This is no way of treating an ally: one simply does not kick one’s friends when they are down. The US policymakers need to realize that using Pakistan as their whipping boy to buttress their domestic political agendas is not good policy and may come to harm US interests in the long run. On a simple level, I would suggest that instead of playing this game of coercive power politics, try to develop a serious, equal, and lasting relationship with Pakistan.

Yes, there will be policy differences between the two nations: Pakistan, after all, is a sovereign nation and, thankfully, not a US colony. It is time the US government realized that politics of coercion will not work, but a serious attempt at helping Pakistan develop its civilian infrastructures might help the US in the long run.

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A Pakistani General Resigning?

The Pakistani generals are not famous for resigning, not even when they lose half a country (Yahya Khan) or start a disastrous war without the knowledge of their government (Pervez Musharraf). In fact, when they make huge blunders, they usually tend to sack the elected governments and declare themselves the rulers of our poor nation. We are the only nation in the modern history that has been conquered by its own army four times.

So, the recent rumors that General Pasha, the erstwhile head of the ISI, is likely to resign are rather more of a wishful thinking. No sir, our generals do not go down with the sinking ship, they just leave the ship on their reserved life boats, or, in this case, golden parachutes. So, I will belive it when I see it.

The case against the ISI head is rather strong: Under his watch Osama bin Laden was discovered to have been living, for five years, right next to the very factory where officers are produced. This is not just incompetence; it is rather a deeply ironic and sadly hilarious incompetence. I mean no one would belive this if this had been written as fiction or made into a movie.

Here is an organization that eats up a large chunk of our national budget, is rarely audited, and is not directly accountable to anyone if Pakistan and now we have found it to be extremely incompetent.

If we are setting up the precedence for resignations by our generals, then let us also put the DG MI on this list as well, for it is his job to know such things about terrorists and stuff as well. And also the head of the Pakistani Air Defense–both army and airforce–should also be kind enough to tender their resignations for failing to detect American gunships flying over their territory.

It is hard to resign as a general: there is so much to lose. But I think this time there is no hiding behind the national security skirt as the national security itself has been found to be lacking a skirt.

So, let us have it from our armchair generals: a bit of courage to take responsibility. A resignation, or a few resignations, and public apologies to a poor nation that underwrites their priveleges would be a good start.

I will believe it when I see it!

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Pakistan Reduces Number of US Trainers for “Fear of Spying”

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This is a headline from daily Dawn: ” ‘Pakistan’s request for fewer US trainers reflects fear of spying.’ Makes one wonder about the nature of Pakistan’s policies toward US “advisors.” First of all, why does a military force that eats up a major part of Pakistani GDP need the Americans to come and train them: don’t they have training facilities of their own? And, let us assume, if such American specialists are needed for some reason, why can’t they be monitored and whetted correctly.

Last I checked, the MI and ISI were quite good at keeping tabs on their own officers and politicians. What prevents them from being similarly cautious about the American trainers. And why, as the Raymond Davis case has taught us, did they not know as to how many private US contractors were working in Pakistan? How hard can it be to keep a record of that, given the resources of the Pakistani intelligence agencies?

And now, as the public opinion has become increasingly anti-American, thanks to Mr. Davis, our armchair generals and drawing-room politicians have suddenly realized that having so many US “experts” in the field could facilitate spying!!

How brilliant of them to finally solve this great mystery!