May 202008

While Pakistan is unwilling to challenge the rapid erosion of its sovereignty by repeated US attacks, Hezbollah completes its coup against all the US-backed forces in Lebanon. America’s response? President Bush issues a new round of dire warnings that sound good on television but change nothing on the ground. Something is seriously wrong when Islamabad buckles under US pressure, when the global trend these days is to successfully defy an overstretched and tired America. The expanding US influence in Islamabad – the quiet “cleansing” of Pakistani nationalist elements from the foreign and information ministries, the latest being the sacking of Dr Shireen Mazari from her position, and the appointment of an employee of Voice of America, a US government agency, to head Radio Pakistan – is causing consternation in many circles.

Washington has successfully exploited the trust deficit and the rifts between the political elite and the military institution to weaken Islamabad and ensure its compliance. With the failure to restore political stability in the country three months after the general election, the new democratic experiment is teetering on the verge of collapse. This is the time for both Pakistani politicians and the strong military institution to forget the past for the sake of the homeland and enter into a strategic mutual accommodation to restore stability.

A weak Pakistani political system has allowed the US to play Pakistani leaders against each other. The initial idea was to teach a lesson to President Musharraf whom Washington thought was a reluctant ally in Afghanistan. This unstable system is one of the glaring failures of President Musharraf’s eight years in power, a failure that has almost demolished many economic and foreign policy successes of his initial years.

A strong and rising Pakistan cannot secure its regional and international interests without a firm and stable democratic order inside the country that also meets the national security imperatives. This is democracy-meets-national security state. Since we are not in the advanced stage of development like Germany or England, Pakistani democracy in this interim phase needs to incorporate both the political elite and the military. The weaknesses and strengths of both are complementary. Pakistani democracy at this stage cannot withstand the domestic and regional pressures without the political elite and the military going hand in glove.

This arrangement is not the wishful thinking of some vested interest. This is a genuine need of the country right now. Once the Pakistani political system has settled down, the military’s role will gradually recede back to its natural space. The ultimate goal is a civilised and progressing democratic Pakistani order that gains root over time.

A dangerous trend to emerge in the past few weeks is Washington bypassing Islamabad and directly dealing with provinces, political parties and even tribal leaders. These tribal chiefs are now being directly contacted by the Americans for recruitment into the American agenda for Afghanistan and for NWFP.

Some of our politicians, city mayors, and party leaders are receiving direct private invitations to visit Washington, all expenses paid, where the itinerary includes tours to US military sites to impress the guest and meetings with administration officials. Recent visitors include the mayor of Karachi and the head of the third-largest party in the ruling coalition that now controls the tribal regions. Some mayors of cities in Balochistan are also reported to have received such invitations.

The inability of Pakistani politicians to secure domestic stability is an additional worry. Compounding the problem is the seeming inability of the election winners to handle a grim slide into economic depression that has the potential to lead to an unmanageable breakdown of law and order across the nation.

To survive in the 21st century with an uninterrupted economic growth and stable domestic politics, Pakistan needs to undertake some difficult restructuring of its political system. The risk of not doing so is clear in President Musharraf’s eight years. His excellent early reforms in economy, foreign policy and some social change were largely demolished later by unstable Pakistani politics. Mr Musharraf delayed reforming the system and almost paid the price for it. The result is that Pakistan is almost back to square one — again.

Source: The News, 20/5/2008

 Posted by at 12:03 pm

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