The Next Chapter: United States and Pakistan A Report of the Pakistan Policy Working Group
Aharan Raz ·       

This Report by the Pakistan Policy Working Group scribed by American strategic thinkers under the oversight of two heavyweights from the US Foreign Policy establishment (Richard Armitage and Lee Hamilton), is perhaps the inevitable consequence of the gathering force of cumulative realities in Pakistan-Afghanistan, the original heartland of real terror and the logic of its own lofty rhetoric in the war against terror, where everyone is either with us or with the terrorists, and it was long overdue. The Report is accessible, well-structured and well-presented. It omits sources. But this is nothing compared with its other drawbacks.

Pakistans uniqueness lies not merely in the fact that it was a pioneer in using terrorism as part of its foreign policy, but in having perfected the art of blackmailing even more powerful states than itself while appearing conciliatory and moderate. Pakistan is not a normal country. It is an artificial country, a political anachronism, a reversionary theocracy born out of pre-modern extremism manipulated by desperate Muslim feudal elite that survive and thrive on this. Civilian or soldier-rule makes little difference to them; the same martial feudal elite class controls all the key levers of institutional power, and manipulates the minds of the semi-literate and pre-modern majority public to distract it from the real challenges of modernity by keeping up the spectre of a besieged Islam in spite of the superficies of internecine and individual differences on other issues. None would be willing or able to replicate Kemalism (secular modern Muslim country a la Turkey) in feudal Pakistan. The mullahs and madrasahs are the symptoms, rather than the cause of this odious Pakistani feudal oligarchy. Diplomacy sometimes disservices truth in the name of avoiding greater unpleasantness. It has done this longer and oftener with reference to Pakistan. American elites running foreign policy in Washington ignored for long, (including for selfish reasons) the damnatory documented truth about Pakistani complicity with international terrorism. 9/11 opened their eyes, but they were half-shut again by the adroit U-turn made by Pakistan against its own creature, the Taliban and other typical Pakistani assurances of unstinted support. Ad-hocism is the chief flaw in US-Pakistan relations. Historically, the Pakistani elite have always manipulated their personal relations with elites in the US establishment into believing that they are the only ones who can deliver on American demands for stability in the region. It is because of this that American leaders can risk launching unilateral military strikes on Pakistani soil against terrorists in the confident hope that they can use their inter-personal relations to tide over any fall-outs in bilateral ties.

The biggest victim of Pakistans politics of blackmail is the United States. It has always ended up giving more to Pakistan than it has received in return. What is astonishing is that even after 9/11, this trend continues. So much so, that even after seven years of active American military participation in Afghanistan, the Taliban and their ideological kindred multinational group, al-Qaeda remain undefeated and resurgent, with the covert passive and active support of their ideological mentor, Pakistan, despite the US having written off US$1 billion in debt, providing US$10 billion in assistance, not branding and treating it for the reality it was and is, a terrorist state, and continuing to treat it as an ally, when it was conniving with the enemy to subvert its allys military efforts and objectives.

This Next Chapter Report may only be another paragraph in the tedious narrative of appeasement of Pakistani elites by the US elites on account of inter-personal interests than inter-national interests. While it observes that American efforts to date have been piecemeal, confused, and disjointed, often lacking in strategic perspective and command in working with Pakistan, its overall assessment is a disappointing watered down blather of long well-known generalities about it; its recommendations, noble, sobering, logical and nuanced, are not to be expected to produce the expected visible results. Recommendations like shift the focus of assistance from conventional military capabilities to counter-terrorism capabilities, calibrate military assistance to Pakistani ability to combat the Taliban; tie all non-military direct public aid through US$1.5 billion per annum for the next five years (Biden Lugar Bill) to rigorous oversight and accountability, expand US Pakistani interactions through USAID and Consulates to elicit and correct Pakistani perceptions about the US, duty-free treatment for certain goods from the Reconstruction Opportunity Zone areas of Pakistan, encourage the expansion of civilian control and oversight of the military and ISI, bolster the rule of law by developing responsive and accountable law enforcement and judicial systems, commissioning a National Intelligence Estimate of terrorism and Pakistani militancy are neither going to change the response of Pakistan to terrorism in its relations with its neighbours nor halt its slide into chaos and communal frenzy. In any case, it is not going to transform a reluctant ally into an active collaborator. Some of these ought to have already been followed by the US regime, and if they were not, then it would be the clearest case of negligence it. Even assuming that this may work, what can the US do (that it already has not) to reduce or alter the high anti-American feelings in Pakistani society anywhere between 52 per cent and 86 per cent, according to different polls.

It is hoped that Barrack Obama (a relative outsider to the Byzantine US establishment) may win the US Presidential Election and wrest foreign policy away from intriguing and serially-error-prone elites and reevaluate Pakistan with real objectivity and clarity. Given the scale, magnitude, complexity and delicacy of the task involved in bringing about an integrated transformation of Pakistan and Afghanistan from their present political predicament involving a twisted medieval ideology towards acceptable levels of political normality and social modernity, it would be best if the United States and its allies, humbly accepted their limitations and sought to garner global support under the aegis of the United Nations for bringing Pakistan Afghanistan under a UN Trusteeship.