Posts Tagged ‘ U.S.-Pakistan Relations ’

Our Man in Pakistan?

By Ed Husain for The Council on Foreign Relations

His close proximity to former U.S. president George W. Bush earned him the popular moniker, “Busharraf.” So it was with some intrigue that I went to hear Pakistan’s former president, Pervez Musharraf, address a prestigious and influential U.S. audience at a packed meeting at the Council on Foreign Relations’ headquarters in New York this week.

I was struck by what was, essentially, his appeal for U.S. political sponsorship of his bid to contest elections in Pakistan next year. He spoke eloquently about the poor state of U.S.-Pakistan relations, the need for a peace settlement with elements of the Taliban, and his country’s—and his own—unhelpful Machiavellian attitude toward India and Afghanistan. Nevertheless, the following facts left me worried:
First, for a man who prosecuted the war on terror with such vigor, it was unforgivable for him to say to an Indian journalist who asked about Pakistan’s export of terrorism, ‘Sir, your terrorist is someone else’s freedom fighter.” This moral equivocation is the same justification used by terrorists to inflict harm on innocent lives around the world. Musharraf should know better.

Second, a major cause for widespread, ongoing anti-American radicalization in Pakistan is the CIA-led drone attacks in the country’s tribal regions. Musharraf did not make any references to the drones, their many innocent victims, and the perceived violation of Pakistani sovereignty. It would have been wiser to reassure the audience that a Pakistan under his control would be a nation in which the United States would not need to use drones because terrorists would be brought to justice. Ignoring the issue of drones is self-defeating all around.

Third, his confidence that Pakistan’s nuclear weapons arsenal is safe is questionable. The premise of his assurance was that extremists seeking access to these weapons would need to fight elite battalions of the Pakistani armed forces. The assumption there, of course, is that the Pakistani army is immune from extremism. Sadly, that thinking is flawed. Since General Zia’s time, and increasingly so in recent years, Islamist radicalization within Pakistan’s armed forces has been a cause for concern.

It wasn’t all bad. Fortunately, he spoke somewhat candidly about the economic and energy generation challenges faced by Pakistan. My colleague Isobel Coleman, who was also in attendance, has analyzed his remarks on her thoughtful blog, “Democracy in Development.”
With Imran Khan and Pervez Musharraf both gearing up for elections in Pakistan in 2013, the next two years will be eventful and heated in Pakistan’s fractious political landscape.

Analysts: China Unlikely to Replace US in Pakistan

By William Idle for The Voice of America

Pakistan’s President Asif Ali Zardari made a three-day visit to China this week at a time when relations between Islamabad and Beijing appear to be growing stronger. Regional analysts say that while China is of growing importance to Pakistan, it is unlikely to replace the U.S. role as a dominant influence there.

The opening ceremony at the first China Eurasia Expo was full of pomp and fanfare. Greeted with applause and smiles, Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari ended his visit to China standing on stage next to the man who is widely expected to be the country’s next leader – Vice Premier Li Keqiang.

Ties have long been strong between Pakistan and China, a country Islamabad endearingly calls its “all-weather friend.” Mr. Zardari has visited China twice since the raid on Osama bin Laden’s compound – seven times since becoming president.

Some regional analysts say the recent deterioration of U.S.-Pakistan ties has pushed Pakistan into Beijing’s arms. They argue the combination of repeated drone strikes in Pakistani territory, the raid on Osama bin Laden’s compound, and suspension of $800-million in military American aid to Pakistan has brought Beijing and Islamabad closer together.

But regional analyst Tarique Niazi, an associate professor at the University of Wisconsin Eau Claire, says Mr. Zardari’s most recent visit to China is part of an ongoing effort by Pakistan to seek help to address its urgent needs and boost trade. And not necessarily a sign of shifting alliances.

“Pakistan is short of energy resources. It has about 4,000 megawatts of electrical shortage. So, China is helping Pakistan meet that shortage of electricity,” Niazi said.

One of the ways that China is doing that is by building massive hydropower projects in both Pakistan’s northern region of Gilgit-Baltistan and Pakistani-controlled Kashmir.

Niazi notes that representatives from both regions traveled to China this week with Mr. Zardari. Pakistan’s president is constantly focused on three things, he adds: investment, trade and economic development.

“President Zardari, especially I must say, that he is the first leader of Pakistan whose focus is almost entirely on economic development and developing business relationships with not only the public sector and the government sector of China, but the private sector also,” Niazi said.

When Mr. Zardari stepped into office, he pledged to visit China every three months – and for the most part has kept that promise. Since then, analysts say he has inked deals that will raise China’s overall investment in Pakistan from $20-billion to more than $50-billion.

China is eager to boost trade and investment in the region too.

At the opening ceremony of the China Eurasia Expo, Commerce Minister Chen Deming highlighted how China was reaching out to Asian and European countries at a time when the world economy has yet to recover from the global financial crisis.

Chen says China is moving faster in opening its western region and border areas to promote regional development. He says China is taking a big step forward to deepening development and cooperation between Asian and European countries.

And the benefits flow both ways.

“I would say that the best way to think about the current situation is that China is expanding in all directions, its power is growing, and it is looking north, south, east and west. And when it looks to Pakistan it sees potential in terms of access to Central Asia, Central Asia energy markets. It sees access to the Arabian Sea, the Indian Ocean,” said Daniel Markey, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations for India, Pakistan and South Asia.

Markey says that while Pakistan has been reaching out recently to China, in part to show Washington it has options, he is not convinced Beijing is interested in seeing a real rupture between Islamabad and Washington.

“My sense is that, yes, over the long term, China would like to be the dominant influence in Pakistan and really expand its influence throughout the region, which would probably mean a lesser influence for the United States. But, in the short time, China has been very comfortable essentially free-riding off of whatever stability and security the United States has provided and that they do not want to change,” Markey said.

He says one reason for that is because a rupture in ties between Pakistan and the United States could trickle over into relations between Beijing and Washington, and there the two already have enough to deal with as it is.

Did Pakistan Have Reporter Killed?

By Jennifer Epstein for Politico

In another possible blow to U.S.-Pakistan relations after the killing of Osama bin Laden, Obama administration officials believe that the country’s intelligence service ordered the “barbaric and unacceptable” killing of a journalist who had written about ties between the country’s military and Al Qaeda militants, according to a report Tuesday.

Intelligence surrounding the late May killing of Pakistani reporter Saleem Shahzad, 40, suggests that senior officials at Pakistan’s Directorate for Inter-Services Intelligence ordered the murder to silence his criticism, The New York Times reported Tuesday, citing two senior US administration officials.

American officials consider the intelligence to be “reliable and conclusive,” the Times said, with one official describing the actions of the spy agency, known as the ISI, as “barbaric and unacceptable.” Shahzad suffered 17 lacerated wounds, a ruptured liver and two broken ribs in the deadly attack.

Relations between the United States and Pakistan have become increasingly frayed since the early May killing of bin Laden in a Pakistani town with a heavy military presence, where he’d been holed up for several years. U.S. officials suspect that some members of the military and the ISI helped harbor him there, even if top Pakistani officials truly were kept in the dark about bin Laden’s presence there.

The Times’s report comes after journalists and others within Pakistan accused the ISI of being behind Shahzad’s death, and since the Pakistani government – under pressure — launched an investigation of the killing.

A Pakistani official, meanwhile, shot down the Times’s report.

“There is an international conspiracy to malign the law enforcement agencies and security forces,” Pakistani information minister Firdous Ashiq Awan said Tuesday, the Hindustan Times reported.

The allegations made by the Obama administration “are part of that conspiracy,” she said.

Awan also said that “good relations are in the interest of both” the United States and Pakistan, though “everybody safeguards their own interests” in a conflict and there have been some “ups and downs.”

U.S., Pakistan, Through Thick and Thin

By Gerald F Seib for The Wall Street Journal

One diplomat long involved in the tempestuous U.S.-Pakistan relationship likens it to a Catholic marriage: There may be problems, but divorce isn’t an option.

And so it is that, almost a month after U.S. Navy SEALs entered Pakistan to kill Osama bin Laden, the two troubled partners find themselves not in divorce court but in an awkward but unmistakable process of reconciliation.

Signs of healing are popping up. Despite its anger and embarrassment at being left in the dark about the bin Laden raid, Pakistan’s intelligence service has begun cooperating again on a series of sensitive matters. Meanwhile, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Mike Mullen have just held the obligatory kiss-and-make-up talks in Pakistan, which U.S. officials describe as blunt but useful in moving forward.

And despite widespread anger in Congress over Pakistan’s harboring, either willfully or unknowingly, the world’s leading terrorist, Obama administration officials seem to be squelching the desire to extract revenge by cutting Pakistan’s aid.

There remains the danger of a rupture, and there still could be long-term damage. Street-level anger on both sides means the relationship can’t stand too many more shocks just now.

In particular, it seems likely that one result of the trauma will be a scaling back of the drone wars—America’s use of armed drones to launch strikes inside Pakistan to attack operatives of the Taliban movement fighting U.S. forces next door in Afghanistan.

The drones likely will continue to be used against top Taliban leaders when found, but less often against lower-priority targets, and probably under new and clearer rules of cooperation with the Pakistanis, say those familiar with the effort.

Still, the reality is that the two countries don’t have much choice but to move on. Regardless of how much love is flowing at any moment, they simply need each other.

The American war against al Qaeda globally and against Taliban insurgents in Afghanistan simply can’t be won without the cooperation of Pakistan. Much as Americans are infuriated by the way elements of Pakistan’s government and intelligence service hedge their bets by playing both sides in the struggle against extremism, there’s no doubt that Pakistani intelligence has been crucial in the fight.

For its part, Pakistan has, in its fit of pique over the bin Laden raid, made its best show of playing the China card to demonstrate to the U.S. that Pakistanis can find good, powerful friends in Beijing if Americans don’t treat them better. By coincidence, this has been proclaimed, officially by the two countries, the year of China-Pakistan friendship, which is a useful card for Pakistan to play right now.

But Pakistan’s post-raid overture showed the limits of the China option as much as anything else. Pakistani Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani made a four-day trip to China soon after the bin Laden operation, and came away with a Chinese pledge to speed up delivery of some previously promised fighter jets.

Mr. Gilani’s other takeaway from his visit promptly proved dubious. His defense minister announced that Pakistan had invited China to take over management of a big Pakistani port at Gwadar, and to build a new naval base there. In response, the Chinese said, essentially, “We have no idea what you’re talking about.” Whatever was discussed, it appears to be less than originally advertised.

Pakistanis as well as Americans know China has its limits as an alternative big-power friend for Islamabad. American aid can’t easily be replaced, and China doesn’t tend to dole out assistance easily. Meanwhile, the U.S. is the top market for Pakistani exports, while China ranks fifth. China’s big textile industry actually is a key international competitor to Pakistan’s own textile sector.

Ultimately, the Chinese are less likely to be helpful to Pakistan in the war against extremism than will the U.S. China tends to use partnerships abroad to solve its problems, not to help friends solve theirs.

In the meantime, real and meaningful steps have resumed in the U.S.-Pakistani intelligence relationship. Pakistan has allowed American officials to speak with the bin Laden wives found in his compound. It has returned the tail section of a U.S. helicopter lost in the raid; there was stealth technology embedded in it—technology the U.S. feared an angry Pakistan might instead share with China.

And Pakistan has agreed to allow American officials into the bin Laden compound to search for more intelligence on al Qaeda operations run from there.

The U.S. now seeks more help in fighting the Taliban inside Pakistan, and there will be a three-way American-Afghan-Pakistani meeting to discuss Afghanistan next month.

All isn’t bliss between Washington and Islamabad—not by a long shot—but those aren’t the actions of partners headed their separate ways.

Clinton Reaffirms US Commitment to Pakistan

By Ayaz Gul for The Voice of America

Concluding a second round of the so-called U.S.-Pakistan strategic dialogue in Islamabad, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Monday announced more than $500 million in several new aid programs for Pakistan.

The string of new projects unveiled by Clinton during a joint press conference with Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Memood Qureshi are designed to help Pakistan meet its energy needs and boost power generation, health and agricultural development. The programs are the first to be launched under U.S legislation passed last year tripling civilian aid for Pakistan to $7.5 billion during the next five years.

Secretary Clinton said the United States hopes the new aid will translate into real life improvements for families and communities, describing them as long-term investments in Pakistan’s future.

“We are committed to building a partnership with Pakistan that of course strengthens security and protects the people of Pakistan, but goes far beyond security,” Clinton said. “We want to help you drive economic growth and prosperity, strengthen your democratic government institutions and expand access to the tools of opportunity.”

Pakistan is playing a key role in the international fighting against Taliban insurgents in Afghanistan. But public opinion in Pakistan still views U.S. motives with a considerable amount of suspicion. The skepticism stems from the U.S decision to abandon support for Pakistan after Soviet forces withdrew from Afghanistan.

But Secretary Clinton says she can see positive change resulting from what she called deeper and broader bilateral engagements in recent years.

“We have moved beyond a standoff of our misunderstandings that were allowed to fester and not addressed… to a position where we are engaged in the most open dialogue that I think our two countries have ever had,” she said.

Foreign minister Qureshi also agreed that the enhanced U.S cooperation in various fields such as energy, power, health, agricultural and education sector is critical for changing the public perception in Pakistan.

“The opinion of the United States will change when the people of Pakistan see that their lives have changed,” said Mr. Qureshi.

Sunday, Clinton attended the signing of a landmark trade deal reached by Pakistan and Afghanistan, after years of negotiations. The United States has been pushing Afghan and Pakistani leaders to improve bilateral relations it says will contribute to the fight against extremists.

Secretary Clinton’s next stop as part of her Asia trip will be Kabul, where she will attend an international conference on Tuesday.

At the news conference in Islamabad, she reiterated that insurgents who wish to reconcile must lay down their arms, renounce partnership with al-Qaida and accept Afghanistan’s constitution.

“It seems to us that there will be some who are willing to meet those conditions and others who are not. And we would strongly advise our friends in Afghanistan to deal with those who are committed to a peaceful future where their ideas can compete in the political arena through the ballot box, not through the force of arms.”

Taliban insurgents have stepped up attacks against Afghan and U.S-led coalition forces in recent months. More than 50 foreign troops have died in July while the previous month was the deadliest for international forces since the war against Taliban and its allies began nine years ago.

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