Moving Pakistan back from the brink

By: Harlan Ulman  

Pakistan needs concrete signs of US support. The US needs concrete signs of Pakistani commitment in taking on the Afghan Taliban and making the government more functional

To many observers, Pakistan has long been at the brink of an existential crisis, much of it due to a growing insurgency exacerbated by the war in Afghanistan. But now the economy is in crisis too. The catastrophic floods have imploded the struggling economy, raising the spectre of frightening consequences. Compounding that crisis is uncertainty over IMF loans needed to sustain the economy. Meanwhile, parliament is deadlocked over a sales tax to raise desperately needed revenue for the government.

Last week’s loss of a small partner (JUI-F) in the coalition for almost comedic reasons underscored the seriousness of these crises. More shocks and warnings are bound to follow, especially after the release of the White House Afghan review last week. Eliminating so-called Taliban sanctuaries in western Pakistan was a central conclusion of that review. The Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Mike Mullen, reiterated that point in his latest visit to Pakistan. The White House will increase pressure on the Pakistani government to act. Pakistan has a fundamentally different assessment, one that could put both countries on a collision course.

The game clock is ticking for Pakistan and the US. A potential political crisis is likely to reach a head in the coming months in Pakistan with the prospect of toppling the government coalition headed by the Pakistan’s People’s Party (PPP). And the failure or success of NATO and the US in Afghanistan remains very dependent on Pakistani support, which may not be sustained by a different government.

By late summer or early fall, Washington will become obsessed with the 2012 elections. At that stage, and with economic conditions in Pakistan deteriorating, the PPP could lose a no-confidence vote and/or the Pakistani Muslim League-N (PML-N) headed by twice Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif could call for a mid-year election.

An election may produce a hung parliament similar to what happened in Iraq. A PML-N victory means a PML-N prime minister and PPP president — a recipe for disaster. The winning campaign slogan for the PML-N (and Nawaz is no friend of the US) reinforcing the public’s resentment of Predator strikes and the burden the war on terror has imposed on it as well as redress of acute shortages of food, potable water and electricity will be: ‘Predators, PPP and the US out’!

Making matters worse, Washington-Islamabad relations are filled with political IEDs. The most recent IED explosion was the exit of the CIA station chief in Islamabad after his name became public. Expect more to follow.

Clearly, the White House has legitimate grievances over Pakistani reluctance to confront the Afghan Taliban, end endemic corruption and improve weak governance. Pakistanis regard Washington as unresponsive and insensitive to their needs and sacrifices. Since the toppling of the Afghan Taliban nine years ago, the US’s war on terror has cost Pakistan more than 35,000 civilian and military casualties with nearly 12,000 dead — far more than the number of Americans killed on September 11th and in Iraq and Afghanistan — and has deprived its economy of many billions of dollars.

The Kerry-Lugar-Berman Act has, so far, sent only a tiny fraction of the promised total of $ 7.5 billion, miserly compared to what the US has given to oil-rich Iraq and Afghanistan. Add to this a highly suspect, aggressive and often irresponsible media and the Supreme Court’s Chief Justice with grandiose views of his role; the dangers of Pakistani instability are hard to understate.

These conditions can be reversed. But this requires dramatic, bold, sweeping and prompt action by both sides. First, President Barack Obama and President Asif Zardari need to meet and meet soon. That meeting cannot be a stroll around the Rose Garden. An intimate and sufficiently lengthy exchange to reach an agreement on the steps to be taken is essential.

Pakistan needs concrete signs of US support. The US needs concrete signs of Pakistani commitment in taking on the Afghan Taliban and making the government more functional. Textile tariff relief and immediately beginning the transfer of 100 or so combat helicopters and other military equipment to Pakistan will show American bona fides. President Zardari and his key subordinates including Army Chief of Staff General Ashfaq Kayani must reciprocate with deeds and not promises, responding to American needs and national interests.

Of course, a meeting between the heads of state may not take place or could be deferred until it is too late for corrective action. Both presidents may not have the right chemistry. Congress may oppose any changes in policy. And, in the interim, conditions in Pakistan could disintegrate.

Whether the Obama administration understands the potentially explosive unstable situation in Pakistan and chooses to do anything about it are huge questions, as are the ability and willingness of Pakistan to take charge of its future. But these questions must be answered and answered soon. More than the future of Afghanistan is at stake.

(The writer is Chairman of the Killowen Group that advises leaders of government and business, and Senior Advisor at Washington DC’s Atlantic Council).

NOTE:This is a cross post.

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Comments

  • Jimmy Jamshed  On December 23, 2010 at 10:57 am

    As long as USA runs Pakistan NOTHING good or positive will happen for Pakistan. Pakistan MUST STOP KISSING US ASS & be shit scared of USA. Learn a lesson to stand fast like North Korea & IRAN………..

  • mian saleem  On December 23, 2010 at 11:55 am

    It is surprising to note that the map of Pakistan has since been changed. i.e including Kashmir as part of India. It should have atleast been shown in different colour as disputed territory or Indian occupied / Administered Kashmir.

  • Sajjad Ahmed  On December 23, 2010 at 11:56 am

    Good mention, thanks.

    The article seems to be published at upi.com, at first. Which claims as a critical news provider to meida outlets, based in US. She must had taken this article from there or from defence.pk. However the map picture, Mrs. Yasmeen used, is not used in UPI.com with the article, nor at defence.pk.

    This map seems to be taken from clothmen.com or the RDES Website. “Regional Data Exchange System on Food and Agricultural Statistics in Asia and the Pacific (faorap-apcas.org)” is the project funded by Japan and executed by the food and Agricultural Organisation of UNO (FAO-UNO).

    First of all, with all due respect, the one should take extreme care before copying pasting the things and make sure the best use of one’s time as well as others.

    Secondly, not only Mrs. Yasmeen but many others had made this mistake. Such as in the case of clothmen.com, which is Lahore based company, selling cloths etc. Therefore, I do not think we must take it seriously.

    But still, this project backed/sponsered or supported by Government of Pakistan too. And they must ensure that such mistakes will never happen. Ironically, the contact details of RDES is as follow:

    Contact address of Food and Agricultural Statistics in Pakistan

    Ministry of Food, Agriculture and Livestock
    Room No. 813 Floor Shaheed-e-Millat
    Secretariat, Jinnah Avenue
    Islamabad
    Tel.: (92-51) 9266085

    Here, I shall say that this must taken seriously. What we think is that the GoP should either stop RDES from using government offices and facilities, better order them to pack off, or should make sure that they will not stab on the back by

    However, I had emailed to the clothmen to ractify the mistake and the same request is to Mrs. Yasmeen too. But the ministry seems to have no email address.

    Let’s see, who return what.

    Thanks.

    Saj

  • Haidre  On December 23, 2010 at 9:25 pm

    Realistic analysis of the prevailing situation between America and Pakistan. Next few months are going to be critical in Pak-US relations. Crucial decisions will have to be taken this way or that by both countries.

    If it is the considered opinion of US military planners that their vitally needed success in Afghanistan cannot be met without Pakistan Army’s operation in North Waziristan, the things are really very very serious for Pakistan. Even if America provides badly needed extra financial and military equipment support (especially helicopters and drones) the decision to launch North Waziristan operation is going to be hard one for Pakistan. It is going to be fraught with dangerous consequences for the country and the Army in general and for the US friendly PPP govt in particular. Fallout effects of such an operation are going to be much more wide spread and serious in nature and longer in duration than Swat or South Waziristan operations. As far as effect of this operation on Pakistan’s economy is concerned, it will be like another spell of last summer’s floods or even worse.

    There are also reports that one of the options being considered in Pentagon is of a lightning strike/operation on carefully selected targets solely by US/NATO forces, without involving Pakistan Army beyond intelligence sharing/coordination. Provided this kind of an operation/strike guarantees results which will depend upon accuracy and effectiveness of intelligence coordination, it might prove to be more prudent from the stand point of Pakistan Army and govt.

    There is no doubt that ‘more than future of Afghanistan is at stake’ here.

  • am malik  On December 24, 2010 at 4:42 am

    Yasmeen pl. have it emailed to the author if u have his email
    Thanx
    regs
    am

    Mr Harlan
    Even though your name sound jewish – but your advice sounds better – only half of it. Sitting 12000miles away and commenting on or advising concerned on what to do and what not to- is different from the factual conditions. First, why is US AND Afghanistan opposed to fencing the Pak Afghan border? Why is US backing a non Pashtun control of Kabul? notwithstanding even if the President is a Pashtun. Why did the Americans leave their posts when Pakistan entered south Waziristan to purge the so called Talibans who conveniently then slipped in to Afghanistan?
    And why is US supporting India to have her ring of consulates in Afghanistan- around Pakistan- bolstering insurgency in Baluchistan?
    And when US supports India for a seat in the security council- then does it increase the mutual confidence?
    I can write more on issues- but suffice to mention that actions have to take in to account the total perspective and not add filters to be viewed only in a unidirection. And last but the most important – why US has installed a government of her own choice in Pakistan with an illitrate president and primeminister- and now is unhappy with the same. Enough is enough. We would like to stay and live on our own. US aid is only for the ruling elite.
    am

    • Portugheis Alberto  On December 24, 2010 at 4:43 am

      AM, I love your questions !!!!!! but they also worry me. They could indicate that you don’t understand the Game of Politics and of wars. Pakistan allows, asks even, USA presence in Pakistan and advice. Remember that politicians in power are encouraged and paid by USA and her business partners, to work for themselves, for their own pockets, and not for the benefit of the country they are running.

      Pakistani politicians know that USA wants them to have a good Game of War with India. Of course, India knows it too. Why do you , in the past, Angola was invited to be in the Security Council? Angolan politician, businessmen and privileged families became much richer than they ever dreamt, by “allowing” the weapon business to destroy their country. 27 years of Civil War and millions dead!!!!! believe me that, if instead of India, USA pushed Pakistan to become part of the Security Council, the tragic results for the people and the economy of both countries would be exactly the same.

  • Inam Khan  On December 24, 2010 at 5:15 am

    Trouble,trouble and more trouble ahead…………………Inam khan

  • S Turkman  On December 25, 2010 at 9:21 am

    My comments are inserted below.
    Mr Harlan
    Even though your name sound jewish – but your advice sounds better – only half of it. Sitting 12000 miles away and commenting on or advising concerned on what to do and what not to- is different from the factual conditions. First, why is US AND Afghanistan opposed to fencing the Pak Afghan border?
    .
    TURKMAN: Why are you saying USA is opposed to Border Fence, when she is not and its Afghanistan that has a claim on PukhToon Khwah Province that she is not withdrawing? Afghans still think, former NWF Province that was usurped by British should have become a part of Afghanistan after they left. They think, Pakistan has usurped 1/3rd of Afghanistan, where most of PushToons lived/live. Agreeing on a Fence would mean Afghanistan has agreed to give away a part of Afghanistan to Pakistan and has made her people Subjects of Pakistan.
    ————–
    Why is US backing a non Pashtun control of Kabul? notwithstanding even if the President is a Pashtun.
    .
    TURKMAN: ‘Non PushToons control Kabul’ is False Propaganda of ISI to make PushToons in Pakistan happy that they have a reason to oppose their PushToon Brother, Karzai, nothing else. USA does not indulge in local Politics of Afghanistan otherwise, Karzai would not have been re-elected. USA had not wanted Karzai to remain in power and according to published reports that you somehow have missed, USA had requested Karzai to do not run in last Election.
    ———
    Why did the Americans leave their posts when Pakistan entered south Waziristan to purge the so called Talibans who conveniently then slipped in to Afghanistan?
    .
    TURKMAN: Because Pak Army had never entered S Waziristan to purge its own Mercenaries, the Taliban. Pak Army had one US Post attacked through Taliban and had killed most of Americans there with conniving precision. False Reports were handed out by ISI to US Informers and Double Agents working for ISI to attract all the Air Power away and then, ISI had signaled Taliban to attack that post. Because the Helicopter Gun Ships were chased out of range on a wild Goose chase, Taliban had succeeded. USA had then ordered withdrawal from all such remote posts. You are twisting the facts and accusing USA falsely trying to establish a Conspiracy Theory against known facts.
    ——————
    And why is US supporting India to have her ring of consulates in Afghanistan- around Pakistan- bolstering insurgency in Baluchistan?
    .
    TURKMAN: It had nothing to do with USA. Afghan Government had wanted close relationship with India because India was spending $ 2 billion of her own money to build a Highway from Kabul to Chah Baagh, Iran. How many Highways has Pakistan built in Afghanistan in last 63 years? Has Beggar Pakistan ever given Afghanistan, a Charity of $ 2 billion in her whole life? Is Afghanistan a Province of Pakistan that you should have objection on what Afghan Government does? Why are you accusing USA for what a PushToon leader of Afghanistan did? When has USA supported ‘ring of Indian Consulates’ in Pakistan and Afghanistan? Provide Evidence …! Why has Pakistan accepted $ 25 million Charity of India if Pakistan hates her so much to even have Consulates in Pakistan? Why are you exposing the Double Face of Pak Establishment and Pak Army that you are representing here?
    .——-
    bolstering insurgency in Baluchistan?
    .
    TURKMAN: Everywhere any Non Punjabi Ethnic Group rises demanding its rights, Pakistan has always declared it a Foreign Agent so, now you are accusing them to be US and Indian Agents. What’s new? How many times you are going to send Army to that ‘Pakistan Occupied province’ since 1948, Baluchistan? Is 4 times not enough?
    —————
    And when US supports India for a seat in the security council- then does it increase the mutual confidence?
    .
    TURKMAN: But how come when Pakistan’s so fast Friend China also supports India for a seat in the UN security council, it does not decrease the mutual confidence between Pakistan and China? How come you are wearing such Goggles that see nobody but USA going against interest of Pakistan?
    ———-
    I can write more on issues-
    .
    TURKMAN: Please do so I can clear your head and expose your lies to the Readers …!
    ————
    … but suffice to mention that actions have to take in to account the total perspective and not add filters to be viewed only in a unidirection. And last but the most important – why US has installed a government of her own choice in Pakistan with an illitrate president and primeminister- and now is unhappy with the same.
    .
    TURKMAN: Had USA told Pakistanis to vote PPP in and your Mr. Punjab Sharif out? When was Zardari a choice of USA? Was not Benazir the choice that ISI got assassinated? Was Nawaz Sharif more ‘educated’ than Zardari and could speak better English than him? When had USA told Zardari to let Gilani become Prime Prime Minister? Please provide Evidence instead of spreading your Lies …!
    ———-
    Enough is enough. We would like to stay and live on our own. US aid is only for the ruling elite.
    am
    TURKMAN: Okay then, when you get your Mollaa Omar like Caliph of Pakistan, tell him not accept any Charity of USA like he was. Please also make sure that he pays back all the $ 50 billion to IMF also …!

    • am malik  On December 25, 2010 at 2:57 pm

      Turkman
      It seems that this would be my last reply to ur conocted explainations – obviously after ur advice from some of your”mutual friends”. At the outset let me clear u and every one that I am not an admirer of Ms MNS, that u so vehemently – with a tongue in cheek keep mentioning of Punjab and also I am not a Punjabi ‘malik’. Your hatred for Punjab is evident abintio. Nonetheless, despite the cover up replies as from ur masters, mine are appended below against each of your fabrications.
      am

  • fun math games  On January 4, 2011 at 12:37 am

    pass it on

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