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Archive for the ‘Pakistan’ Category

Sunil Adam’s Abominable Foreign Policy Advice: “A collapsed Pakistani state is better than a toxic state precariously perched.”

Posted by K.E. White on April 22, 2009

Yes, you read that right. Yesterday’s Huffington Post features Sunil Adam’s review of Obama’s first hundred days. And while it touches on many topics, it’s real aim is U.S.-Pakistan relations–and pushing for a ‘hands off approach’.

It is not too late for him [President Obama] to change course — hands off Pakistan, follow a containment policy in Afghanistan and secure the homeland. Tacitly, this amounts to not propping up the Pakistani establishment through any form of aid — arms or developmental — and letting it sink or sail by its own volition. A collapsed Pakistani state is better than a toxic state precariously perched. Only the likelihood of collapse will galvanize the democratic and modernizing forces within Pakistani society and culminate in a popular revolution.

On the flip side, by taking itself out as a political, economic and military factor in the existence of Pakistan, America will probably help Pakistanis to have an objective national debate about the identity, direction and destiny of their country. Thanks to American influence on the one hand and the avowed threat of India on the other, Pakistan never really had a chance to introspect.

Meanwhile, the most effective policy President Obama could pursue would be to insulate the U.S. and its democratic allies from the likely fallouts of a collapsed Pakistan, including the possibility of Islamists laying their hands on nuclear weapons. In other words, his approach has to be the exact reverse of President Bush’s — making the homeland secure so that “they” can’t follow us home. 

Is such an inward turn really worth the risk? The first question to answer is just how critical is American support to maintaining the current Pakistani regime? Critical, but not vital. First, Pakistan’s “leaders have so far demonstrated a surprising ability to muddle through periodic crises.”* So, on a point that may lend credence to Adam, the world need not fear the imminent threat of nuclear detonation if American support dries up. 

But will this move force Pakistan to change?

Pakistan can find support from other nations, specifically China. (Read this CFR report reviewing their bilateral relationship, and this TIME article highlighting its recent tensions.) In return America loses an imperfect partner, and turns their interest inward–not towards fighting shared enemies, but getting through the day. Expect flare-ups along the Af-Pak  border and Kashmir as Pakistani military seeks 1) retaliation and 2) attempts to turn fundamentalist impulses away from Islamabad.

But there’s a deeper flaw in Adam’s portrayal of Pakistan as merely a client state that sucks resources and changes little. The main determinants of Pakistan’s policies are Pakistan, not outside players. Pakistani leaders–whatever their policy differences–desire nation-state integrity and pursue that policies that foster stability. Adam’s suggestion that Pakistan has only America for support greatly simplifies the Pakistan’s role in the world, and the challenges it faces.

And the idea that the Pakistani public or regime is not lacking ‘self-reflection’ is bewildering. A nation that threw out Musharraf by public protest and returned to liberal rule does not suggest a lack of ‘self-reflection’.

Yes the current government has challenges: the liberal parties are battling amongst themselves, and cannot wrestle power away from the military establishment. But this is not a two-step game of ‘failure’ and ‘success’. Rather its a series of steps–that in many combinations–bring one closer or further away from stability. Abandoning Pakistan does not guarantee reform: it guarantees antagonism and Pakistan aligning its security interests away from America’s security interests.

Imagine the Pakistani viewpoint. Pakistan throws out Musharraf, ushers in liberal rule and (however imperfectly) works with the United States in its Af-Pak mission and in return gets slapped. Something tells me that those predator drone operations will stop, and the Pakistani public will not stomach the site of American forces near their border.

The best strategy for America is to show itself a reliable partner that both puts down a long investment in Pakistan’s future (not just buy-off Pakistan for short-term interests in eradicating terrorists that threaten American interests) that then expects a return on its investment.

And in regards to dealing with Afghanistan, whether it’s Adam’s containment (ie apparently let the current regime crumble and have that country return to it’s fractured past) or active engagement, Pakistan is a critical part of success. Without cooperation from Pakistan, America has no way of either ‘fixing’ Afghanistan through our mini-surge or containing the fail-out of a failed state. 

What is guaranteed by Adam’s policy perscription is ever-expanding lawless areas, which not only destabilize neighboring countries, but pose a threat to America’s homeland and allies.

The key to Afghanistan is following through on an American commitment to bring security and development to that nation. And the key to Pakistan is not (a false) task of forcing it to choose ‘success’ or ‘failure’, but linking Pakistani and American priorities.

A collapsed Pakistani state might never recover, unleashing unpredictable fall-out; a ‘toxic state precariously perched’ can be engaged and strengthened over time–primarily from within.  But, let’s make one thing clear, Pakistan is not a toxic state: it is a challenged nation in need of reliable, long-term partners.

Update (7:10 pm): Secretary of State Hillary Clinton states Pakistan faces a “existential threat”; Dawn reports on the Taliban’s recent moves in Buner–the district neighboring the Swat Valley.


*Krepon, Michael. ‘Better Safe Than Sorry: The Ironies of Living with the Bomb’

Posted in Afghanistan, Pakistan | Tagged: , , , | 1 Comment »

Echoes From A Cold War

Posted by proliferationpresswm on March 30, 2009

posted by Bob Noziglia

Reports have made clear that the Obama administration will continue military strikes against terrorist sites in Pakistan. This holdover from the Bush administration demands we ask what just is going on in Pakistan and why America has wedged itself into Pakistan internal border disputes. Bob Noziglia explores these questions and Pakistan’s self-defeating liberal tendencies, which demand the continued presence of robust American military support. 


It must be a dire situation indeed when Russia, with its own nuclear armament history, to be concerned about the safety of Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal.  Let us remember that not too long ago it was Russia, which after the Cold War ended in the disintegration of the Soviet Union, had nuclear submarines rusting in unsecured ports; and a fire-sale on all equipment. 

It is also important to note the silence that, until now, Russia has had towards the operations regarding Pakistan and Afghanistan.  This comes from the haunting memories similar to our Vietnam when they attempted to expand Soviet territory. 

It is then with new eyes we must re-examine Pakistan and Afghanistan while both have their own qualities that make efforts for reconstruction a slow and complicated process, they are linked by more than geographical boundaries. 

While it was not profoundly mentioned when Benazir Bhutto was assassinated last year, it was during her first tour as Prime Minister of Pakistan that she supported the rise of the Taliban, which was then one of many forces seeking to benefit from the Soviet’s withdrawal from Afghanistan. 

Bhutto felt it was better to have a strict Islamic state next door because it would allow them to concentrate on somehow defeating India for the territory of Kashmir.  This decision combined with the military’s hands off approach regarding the tribal areas however would cause dire consequences, as these are where her assassins most likely came from. 

With an outpouring of support because of the death of his wife, it was “Mr. 10%” Zardari who ascended to the political throne with a promise of political unity with another deposed President due to corruption, Sharrif.  This of course became a political crisis for the same reason that toppled Musharraf’s government, the topic of reinstating judges banned from their duties under dubious charges. 

The failsafe within Pakistan has been that if things were to get too bad, the military would flex political muscle and be able to step in and have confidence with the people of making things right. 

Recent events, however, have eroded the populace’s confidence dramatically.  The recent attacks of fundamentalists against the military near the border regions has left many with the impression that the Military is in fact just as incompetent as their civilian counterparts. 

Combined with the many perceived and real failures of Musharraf in Pakistan, the military credibility is also at its lowest point.  When one also considers new revelations that the military had tangential relations with those behind the attacks in Mumbai, one has a renewed sense of urgency. 

What makes this situation precarious is that many of the leadership in Pakistan are schooled in the West, especially so of their judicial branch.  With this they have come to expect and desire separate but equal branches of government and the fundamental right of law. 

These are qualities to be aspired to no question, but there also needs to be a tradition of legitimacy to that government.  Control over ones borders and checks and balances making sure that no power, however pervasive becomes dominate. 

It is these two qualities-recognized balance between government branches and border integrity-that appear to be lacking in Pakistan.  The tribal regions linking Pakistan and Afghanistan have been left to their own devices for decades.  A definition of a government is to be the ultimate authority of a given territory.  For all intents and purposes Pakistan has been a country divided by its government’s apathy to maintain that authority.  With Fundamentalist having secured a base of operations that the Government of Pakistan is afraid to confront, and jealously uses sovereignty to prevent others from attacking, these fundamentals represent a great threat. 

Should another civilian led government fail, these fundamentals could represent the most cohesive and unified political and military force in the country.  With raised expectations of a government led by a unified government, and the military now placed in a decidedly supportive role, the margin of error razor thin. 

It is then we will see a country run by a fundamentalist government, one which has ties to those responsible for the attacks in 2001 have nuclear capabilities, and the desire to proliferate and use those weapons.  This is something that can not be allowed to happen, and would be a just cause to intervene in the internal politics to make sure such a scenario does not occur. 

Pushing for accountability of Pakistan’s leadership is recognition of the dangerous dynamics that exist.  The United States should take the position of assisting the Pakistani military against those in the tribal regions.  This in conjunction with maintaining a coalition within Pakistan that would seek to maintain Pakistan as a country guided by the Principles of Islam, without the xenophobia or fundamentalist principles that terrorist groups have allowed to corrupt the teachings of the Prophet Muhammad. 

Ultimately, this is a problem that can only be defeated by the people of Pakistan.  The United States has historically been a country which held to the principle of self determination, we must offer our assistance to aid Pakistan so that they may be able to live up to the definition of their country; Land of the Pure.

Posted in Pakistan, Pakistan fundamentalism | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Pakistan Update: Sharif Ups Ante, Zardari Yields

Posted by K.E. White on March 16, 2009

Nawaz Sharif calls off protests in light of Zardari’s decision to reinstate Iftihar Chaudhry. From Dawn:

‘We are now calling off this long march,’ he said from inside his SUV, showered with pink rose petals and stranded in a sea of jubilant supporters in the central city of Gujranwala.

He said the decision had been taken following discussions with lawyers and leaders of allied political parties, such as Imran Khan.

‘Today the nation has received very happy news. We have said that we will restore the judges and the independent judiciary and by the grace of Allah we have achieved it,’ he said.

‘Very soon we will play our role in implementing real democracy in this country,’ he added.

Posted in Pakistan | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Pakistan’s Political Rivalry Turns Serious: Zadari-Sharif Rift Causes Nation-Wide Protests; Sharif Under House Arrest

Posted by K.E. White on March 15, 2009

A consequential weekend is brewing in Pakistan: fueled by divisions over the Supreme Court, Pakistan’s opposition leader Nawaz Sharif has called on supporters to publicly protest President Asif Ali Zardari.

How serious is this? Well Secretary of State Hillary Clinton just had an “unusually long [phone] conversation with Zardari and Sharif” urging the two leaders to find common ground and avoid “another roud of political instability in Pakistan”. [Times of India article]

Clinton’s comes amidst reports that Sharif Sharif has been put under house-arrest. This latest escalation comes after Sharif’s public outcry against the Zardari-appointed Supreme Court’s ruling barring him from public office in Pakistan.

Is there a better to alienate a rival political party than by summarily banning its leader from future election? To be fair, Zardari has yet to completely emulate past practices: former President Prevez Musharraf took the additional step of exiling political foes.

From the Washington Post:

As the political brinkmanship continued, police in the capital prepared to stop protesters from reaching the city Sunday, and the army remained on alert. Officials blocked highways with huge shipping containers, and flights were grounded.

But thousands of opposition supporters, egged on by Nawaz Sharif and a national lawyers’ movement, continued streaming toward Lahore, the capital of Punjab province, where they rallied by torchlight in the darkened city and prepared to leave Sunday morning for their “long march” on the capital. They have vowed to demonstrate until Zardari restores a group of deposed senior judges.

Despite Zardari’s late-night offer, analysts said the confrontation in this nation of 172 million appeared to have gone too far to be defused.

The struggle centers around Iftikhar Mohammed Chaudhry, the former chief justice of Pakistan who was fired two years ago by Pervez Musharaff. His removal triggered wide-spread disaffection which lead to Musharaff’s removal, but Zardari has yet to reappoint him to the Supreme Court. Hence the  two leading liberal parties of Pakistan, Zardari’s PPP and Sharif’s PML-N, are at one another’s throats.

Why? WaPo reports:

Many Pakistanis say Zardari fears that Chaudhry would reopen old court cases against him and nullify many of his year-old government’s actions. Analysts said Zardari’s stand has also been strengthened by U.S. ambivalence about the former justice, an unpredictable maverick who has questioned the disappearance of terrorism suspects.

At the gathering in Raiwind, Sharif related a history of broken promises by the president and said he had reneged on a Charter of Democracy both men had signed to create a civilian government one year ago.

“We were trying to bring Pakistan out of a dictatorial regime. It was the first time in our history that the two major parties had gotten together. But Mr. Zardari kept backing out of his promises,” Sharif told the journalists here. “I am not joining the long march to reach the presidency only to bring back the independent judiciary.” But if Zardari “pushes us to the wall,” he added, “we will not go home and be silent.”

Aides to Sharif said he plans to join the march, in which caravans of vehicles will set out from a lawyers’ association office in the Lahore High Court complex. But police are expected to stop the procession, as they have been blocking caravans from other cities all week, and Sharif could well be placed under house arrest.

It appears the two leading liberal parties of Pakistan are on the verge of a violent altercation—a worrisome development for Pakistan’s young and fragile democracy. Such divides were how former President Musharaff climbed to power in 1999.

So how is current Army Chief General Ashfaq Kayani reacting to Pakistan’s lastest affray?

Not well; but in an interview last Friday US Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Michael Mullen stated that Kayani is “committed to a civilian government” in Pakistan.

Posted in Pakistan | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Michael Krepon & Shuja Nawaz discuss India-Pakistan Relations After Last Week’s Terrorist Attacks on PBS

Posted by K.E. White on December 2, 2008

Below is the transcript from tonight’s NewsHour discussion of India-Pakistan relations days after the Mumbai terrorist attacks. Michael Krepon, co-founder of the Stimson Center, and Shuja Nawaz, author of Crossed Swords: Pakistan, Its Army, and the Wars Within, offer a refreshingly nuanced discussion about the challenges facing Pakistan, India and America after last week’s deadly events. Ray Suarez moderates the discussion.

One can listen to the program here, but reading the transcript—which includes helpful hyperlink resources—may help flesh-out the discussion.


  • Pakistan’s military stress in combating terrorist groups in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas
  • Pakistan’s past links—through Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence Service—to the group thought responsible for the India attacks, Lashkar-e-Taiba
  • India’s frustrating position: facing public pressure for decisive action, but all options in front of it—full scale military movement in Pakistan, a limited military response, or air-strikes against terrorist bases in Pakistani-controlled Kashmir—have serious drawbacks
  • America’s delicate role as mediator. On the one hand, the United States must stand with India—a critical new partner in the region, with whom a nuclear deal was just approved. On the other hand, Pakistan—a domestically turbulent nuclear power—plays a critical role in battling Al Qaeda and other terrorists along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border.

Below is the transcript from the NewsHour segment:

Ray Suarez: “Michael Krepon, today India pointed to Pakistan and said it is demanding strong action against those who perpetrated this action. What does that mean? What can Pakistan do at this point?”

read full transcript here

Posted in India, Pakistan, Terrorism | Tagged: , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

India-Pakistan First: Pakstan to Send ISI Chief to India for Intelligence Sharing

Posted by proliferationpr on November 28, 2008

Reporting of the recent terrorist carnage in India can be found seemingly everywhere, but the Times of Indiain my opinion–offers the best one-stop hub for updates.

And one of those updates is the unlikely move by Pakistani Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani to send ISI Chief Lt Gen Ahmed Shuja Pasha to India for inteligence sharing. The ISI is Pakistan’s military intelligence service, and boasts a grisly and controversial history–connections with previous terrorist attacks against India; ties to Islamic extremist groups; and, finally, strong-arming Pakistan’s internal politics.

This move, coming on the heels of Pakistan’s Prime Minister closing ISI’s political wing, show Pakistan’s apparent determination to 1) reel in intra-state instability and 2) prove non-involvement in the deadly, coordinated and still on-going terrorist attacks in India.

Update: Gotta love Pakistan’s new liberal order

Pakistan’s leading opposition party is already laying into Gilani’s move, criticizing Gilani for giving credence to Indian claims of Pakistani involvement in the attacks. The spokesman for the opposition PML party suggests a joint-task force would have been a better response.

Posted in India, Pakistan, Terrorism | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »

Islamabad Bombing: At Least 40 Dead in Marriott Bombing After President Zardari’s First Paraliament Address

Posted by proliferationpresswm on September 20, 2008

At least forty are dead after a suicide bombing at the Islamabad Marriott Hotel in Pakistan.

From AljazeeraEnglish:

From UK’s Telegraph:

The blast is one of Pakistan’s biggest terrorist attacks in recent history. Windows in buildings hundreds of meters away were shattered. There was no immediate claim of responsibility.

Pakistan, a US ally in the war on terror, has faced a wave of militant violence in recent weeks following army-led offensives against insurgents in its border regions, though the capital has avoided most of the bloodshed. 

The blast comes right on the heels of President Zardari’s first address to Pakistan’s Paraliament.  Zardari spoke of the terrorist threaet his country faces, but focused more on negoitation than extermination–and delcared “the greatest challenge this government faces is an economic one.”

From Zardari’s speech:

We must root out terrorism and extremism where and whenever they may rear their ugly heads…

Madam Speaker, Pakistan is at a critical security juncture today. In order to meet the challenges posed to (by) the extremist and terrorist elements in the tribal areas and adjoining regions, the government has devised a comprehensive three pronged strategy. First to make peace with those who are willing to keep the peace and renounce violence, second, to invest in development and social uplift of the local people and third to use force only as the last resort against those who refuse to surrender their arms, take the law into their hands, challenge the writ of government and attack the security forces. For all the stake holder to have ownership of this policy, I will request the government to hold a national security briefing for an in camera joint session of Parliament. Let every [clapping] have an opportunity to make an independent informed judgment about the risks to our beloved country and about how we should move forward with responsibility, clarity of vision. I ask of the government that it should be firm in its resolve to not allow the use of its soil carrying out terrorist activities against any foreign country. We will not tolerate the violation of our sovereignty and territorial integrity by any power in the name of combating terrorism (clapping).

Such acts of terrorism show the hard road ahead for Zardari. He faces a troubled economy, deadly terrorist attacks and political opposition that derailed Pakistan’s previous paraliamentary regime. 

An interesting note: Zardari addressed the Paraliament in English–not Urdu–and wearing a Western suit. This is a precedent-breaking move, according to the The Economic Times. 

Posted in Pakistan | Tagged: , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Brown and Zardari Talk Terrorism

Posted by proliferationpresswm on September 19, 2008

An interesting (if two-day old) Guardian report on anti-terrorism talks between President Zardari and Prime Minister Brown:

It is thought that Zardari outlined to Brown Pakistan’s plan to combat terrorism, which included a proposal to set up a dedicated cell inside the Pakistani high commission in London to help track British Pakistanis suspected of extremism. Most of the known terror plots in the UK have had some connection to Pakistan and often involved a visit there for training.

Zardari sought Brown’s help in promoting the idea of an anti-terror conference of Pakistan, Afghanistan and its neighbours Iran, China, Russia and India, along with Britain and the US as observers.

The idea is to reach a consensus among the countries most directly affected by the extremists based in Pakistan and Afghanistan, in an attempt to claim the ownership of the anti-terror fight as an indigenous struggle. A Zardari aide said: “We want to broaden the base for this war, to stop it being seen as … George Bush’s crusade. Otherwise, it just won’t wash at home.”

Posted in Britain, Diplomacy, Pakistan | Tagged: , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Pakistan Makes Its Own Nuclear Move

Posted by K.E. White on September 19, 2008

Business Standard reports on the liklihood of Pakistan–in clear reaction to the US-India nuclear deal–pushing for a nuclear deal with China. 

In its bid to offset the impact of Indo-US nuclear deal, Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari will take up the acquisition of nuclear fuel technology from China during his forthcoming visit.

The Pakistan government has decided to set up two nuclear power plants worth Rs 139 billion to overcome the country’s energy crisis, official sources were quoted as saying by the Aaj Kal Urdu daily.

Zardari, who is expected to visit China in the near future, will discuss the acquisition of fuel technology for the two new plants with the Chinese leadership, the sources said.

While one may consider India a prime candidate for nuclear commerce, many of its attributes–steady regime, peaceful political turnovers, even accepting terrorism probelms–Pakistan’s regimes have not shown themselves durable. While jockeying between weak deomcratic regimes and strong-man dictatorships, expanding Pakistan’s nuclear arsneal and power facilities comes with additional headaches: abrupt regime change and the real and potent presence of radical Islamic terror-groups.

Time will shown if Pakistan’s newly elected President and re-charged (if unity-less) Paraliament can foster the stability, liberalism and security so lacking in Pakistan’s recent past. And–addressing worse-case scenarios–the Pakastani military has shown strong and responsible control over Pakistan’s nuclear hardware. But Pakistan’s four-pronged pressures–economic woes, Kashmir, periodic political upheaval and the worrisome presence & support of Islamic terrorism–keep international concern over this country at a high level.

Posted in China, Diplomacy, India, Nuclear, Pakistan, U.S. India Nuclear Deal, WMD | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Islamic Parties Suffer in Pakistan’s Federal and Regional Elections

Posted by K.E. White on February 20, 2008

Here’s one thing to cheer: The fundamentalist ruling party of the North-West Frontier Province—Muttahida Majlis-i-Amal (MMA) of the Pakistan frontier region—suffered a huge defeat in Pakistan’s elections earlier this week. 

The shift from MMA-rule to the Awami National Party (ANP) may bring considerable changes to Pakistan’s anti-terror policies, particularly the purpose of Al Qaeda members. 

From The Times of India

The Red Caps are back in the Frontier. In a remarkable display of resilience and commitment to its secular values, the Awami National Party (ANP), which bore the brunt of suicide bombers in the run up to the elections in the country’s most volatile province bordering Afghanistan, swept to power in NWFP on Tuesday as it completely decimated Muttahida Majlis-i-Amal (MMA) in its stronghold.

So powerful was the Pashtun nationalist party’s resurgence that the MMA affiliate, Maulana Fazlur Rehman of Jamiat Ulema-i-Islami, lost his own seat in his hometown of Dera Ismail Khan, despite the fact that women were stoped from voting in many parts of the province.

To add insult to injury, the Islamic party also lost votes and seats in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), dubbed by some as the nursery of Islamic fundamentalism.   

Posted in election, Pakistan | Tagged: , , , , | 5 Comments »