THE ATLANTIC COUNCIL OF THE UNITED STATES
“PAKISTAN IN THE DANGER ZONE” REPORT LAUNCH
PRESIDENT AND CEO,
THE ATLANTIC COUNCIL
DIRECTOR, SOUTH ASIA CENTER,
THE ATLANTIC COUNCIL
FORMER FOREIGN SECRETARY,
ISLAMIC REPUBLIC OF PAKISTAN
MONDAY, JUNE 28, 2010
Federal News Service
FREDERICK KEMPE: Good afternoon and welcome to the Atlantic Council. I’m Fred Kempe, the president and CEO. A couple of years ago, the Atlantic Council began to focus, understandably, a great deal more on Afghanistan and Pakistan as an Atlantic issue with global consequences. We did a report on Afghanistan that was co-chaired – one of the co-chairs was Gen. Jim Jones, now the national security advisor. And at the time, Sen. John Kerry called it seminal.
We followed that with a report on Pakistan, which also was broadly praised for saying things, uncomfortable things, that needed to be said. We then, at the Atlantic Council, decided to turn an avocation into a center. And I decided to take the most clever person I knew on any of these issues, Shuja Nawaz, and woo him to become director of that center.
And I think he and his excellent team have quickly made it a central forum and point of contact for policymakers, for members of Congress, as well as European and regional leaders. And you’ll see by today’s report and today’s panel, we haven’t done that by not taking on the tough issues and by mincing words about them.
The center focuses, however, on something broader than just Af-Pak, or Pak-Af, depending on how you set your priorities. It focuses on wider South Asia, which includes India, Pakistan, as well as the Gulf, Iran, Afghanistan and Central Asia. It recognizes that the subcontinent is not isolated and very much linked with its surrounding region.
Separately from the South Asia Center, we took a taskforce, last week, to Kazakhstan and to Kyrgyzstan, where we see very direct connections to Afghanistan. And we believe very deeply, as does Shuja, as you’ll read in this report, that without a regional strategy there is no solution. It continues to be – South Asia continues to be a place of extremes, contradictions, complexities and turmoil. And achieving stability there will take many years, a lot of innovative thinking on the part not just of the U.S., but of its allies and national governments and regional partners.
Afghanistan, and with it, Pakistan, remains in the headlines, as you well know – most recently in Rolling Stone, which I didn’t ever quite expect, but there you go. Many commentators have said that the key to winning the way against insurgents and militants, however, lies not within Afghanistan, but in Pakistan. We obviously believe it lies in both places. However, the U.S.-Pakistan relationship remains a predictor of success and stability in the region, perhaps the most important predictor of success and stability in the region.
I told you about the report that we issued last year, “Needed: A Comprehensive U.S. Policy toward Pakistan,” and it outlined key policy objectives for the U.S. and Pakistani governments in building a productive and a sustainable relationship and achieving security in the region. A lot has happened since the release of that report and so Shuja and his team believed it was time to revisit this issue.
We’ve had a new U.S. president and administration since it was released, a new strategy toward the war in Afghanistan and increased tensions within the political system of Pakistan. It continues to be a Petri dish, Pakistan does, for global terrorism. Michael Hayden, when he was the head of the CIA, at the Atlantic Council said, on the record, that every major threat that they’d been tracing at that time had its origins in Pakistan. It is the key to the region’s stability. And we believe that the key to that, in turn, would be the Pakistan-U.S. relationship.
So to bring this issue to the forefront again, Atlantic Council South Asia Center announces the release of “Pakistan in the Danger Zone: A Tenuous U.S.-Pakistan Relationship,” authored by Shuja. This report reviews new developments in the U.S. and Pakistan and lays out a fresh set of action plans to save the relationship, including building upon the U.S.-Pakistan strategic dialogue held earlier this year and provision of U.S. support that truly builds – truly and long-term builds Pakistan’s ability to fight extremists on its borders and in its heartland.
Ambassador Richard Holbrooke’s recent visit to Pakistan, focusing on key sectors of Pakistan’s economy and the U.S. commitment to facilitating trade by providing market access to Pakistan’s exports, demonstrates the type of U.S. assistance – albeit, I would argue, somewhat belated – but the type of U.S. assistance Shuja argues will be the key to Pakistan’s perseverance in the face of extremist threats and instability. We hope policymakers here will read and take these recommendations seriously and act upon them without delay. This isn’t something that can be postponed, procrastinated.
Before we begin today’s program, I want to take a moment to thank our board member, Muslim Lakhani, of ML Resources, LLC, for his generous support for the production of the report and today’s event. Now, I’ll hand over for the rest of this time to Shuja, who will introduce his co-panelists and say a few words about the report. Thanks very much.
SHUJA NAWAZ: Thank you, Fred, and welcome, everyone. I’m delighted to introduce, first of all, my two co-panelists. In the middle is Pamela Constable, a well-known figure in Washington and, for those that follow the Washington Post, an expert on South Asia. She has covered South Asia and Afghanistan in particular and even now is working on a fresh book on the region. She has great journalistic credentials, having worked for a number of important newspapers before she joined the Post, including the Baltimore Sun and the Boston Globe.
Next to her is Ambassador Riaz Mohammad Khan, whose last position in government in Pakistan was as foreign secretary and who has been Pakistan’s ambassador to Kazakhstan, and also accredited to Kyrgyzstan and to Belgium, Luxembourg and the European Union. And of course, before becoming the foreign secretary, he was the ambassador to China.
One of his greatest claims to fame, of course, is that both he and I went to the same college in Rawalpindi, a place called Gordon College, of which we are both very proud. So I’m delighted that he has agreed to join us. He has authored one book, which is already in print, called “Untying the Afghan Knot,” and another one, which is on its way to, hopefully, showing up in your favorite bookstore soon, which is also on the same region, but updating the work that he had done earlier on Afghanistan. So here is somebody that really knows what he’s talking about.
Let me just give you a little bit of background about today’s report. As Fred said, last year – we launched a taskforce in 2008 and then, last year, in February, released a report that was co-sponsored by Senators Kerry and Hagel. And one of the key points of that report was that Pakistan was increasingly becoming the center of gravity of the conflict in Afghanistan and in that region. And in order to resolve any of the problems in the region, Pakistan had to be a key player.
Pakistan had a very strategic location and it had a very important relationship with Afghanistan and the United States. Of course, the Soviet war, in which Pakistan and the United States took common cause, underlined that special relationship. But the U.S.-Pakistan relationship has had its ups and downs.
And this has been one of the banes of this relationship, in the sense that the history of the U.S.-Pakistan relationship can be described as a roller coaster. And it intrudes and affects the Pakistani narrative of this relationship. So we decided that it was time now to go back and revisit what we had said in the report last year, to take stock and then to look ahead and say what needed to be done.
Now, the past 18 months have been tumultuous, to say the least, for both the United States and Pakistan. For the U.S., with a fresh administration, a new president, an attempt at trying to craft new policy – and, in fact, many new policies on the region and Afghanistan, if one may say so. And a fair amount has been accomplished.
Specifically, on the U.S. side, there has been an enormous recognition of the need to engage with Pakistan for the longer run. But the United States also came under very severe economic and financial pressure at home and that has restrained its ability to do what needed to be done in the region, in our view.
On the Pakistan side, we’ve had a very weak coalition, but at least a return to democratic government. And the weak coalition really was responsible for extending the transition from autocratic role of President Musharraf to a genuinely democratic system inside Pakistan. Much progress has been made, as I said, on both sides.
On the U.S., the setting up of a special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan has helped focus attention on both the countries, but as we said, by restricting the mandate of the special representative, the United States missed that regional opportunity which we had suggested in our report last year. So by excluding Iran, by excluding India, it really restricted the ability of the special representative to gain leverage and to be able to effect a regional solution.
The multilateral efforts have been few and far between. The Friends of Democratic Pakistan, a group that was set up to assist Pakistan, made many promises. Something like $5.6 billion was promised in Paris. Only $750 million eventually was pledged and released and not all of that has actually hit the ground inside Pakistan.
And there may have been good reasons for that and we outline some of these reasons. A lot of them have to do with the inability of the donors to have confidence in the government of Pakistan and its ability to deliver. The U.S.-Pakistan relationship also has been somewhat of a misalliance. And we believe that there are certain assumptions that are made by both sides that affect this relationship and that, if they continue on the paths that the assumptions are taking them about each other, that this relationship may be heading for a very serious break.
The miscalculation on both sides comes from a number of reasons. The United States, in my view, tends to overestimate the power of the purse and the pressure that it can bring to bear on Pakistan to bend it to its will, failing to see that it is not dealing with a single, central government, but a house divided because the polity inside Pakistan still has the civilian on the one side and the military on the other.
And these two very powerful institutions, particularly the military, play a very key role in decision-making. So the United States cannot simply deal with a single government. It has to deal with both the military and with the civilians. And unfortunately, as it starts making policy, it looks to the short term and makes the relationship much stronger on a military-to-military basis. And so we end up repeating the mistakes of the past.
On the Pakistan side, we have a government and a coalition that has yet to define a vision for itself. It’s a weak, very broad-based coalition, which has broad political support from many different parties. The number of people with the rank of minister is well above 80, which is a good indicator of how government has been apportioned out to the members of the coalition.
This is not an ideal recipe for strong governance. And it has been relying extensively on tactical moves in order to survive and that’s really not a sound basis for good governance or to create a sound nexus between security and governance, without which you really cannot progress. The distance of the civilian government from the military persists. There’s often said to be a lack of confidence, on the part of the military, in the civilian regime. And so you hear different voices and different background noises that tend to intrude on any dialogue with Pakistan.
But it’s not all the civilian government’s fault either. They inherited an extremely stunted civilian administration. This was after years of very strong, centralized, autocratic rule, when Gen. Musharraf took unto himself many of the powers of the prime minister and the parliament. And it’s only recently that some progress has been made by the civilian government to take those powers away and, by virtue of the 18th amendment, they’ve actually given the powers back to the prime minister and parliament. That is a very good move.
There is other good news from Pakistan. After 17 years of debate, they agreed on a national finance award, which really rearranges the relationship between the center and the provinces. This is a very key part of bringing Pakistan’s polity back to a federation, which was the original intent of its constitution. Instead of having a strong, centralized government, the power is now shifting to the provinces. The key will be in the implementation of this decision.
Pakistan also lacks resources that are internally generated in order to run its government. Its tax system is extremely poor. The income tax system only has 2 million people out of a population of 180 on the income tax rolls. So they have now agreed to impose a value-added tax, which is a very good idea, in order to gain for the state the resources which it can then apportion to the provinces and thereby meet the needs of the people.
Now, as I said, the miscalculation occurs on both sides, as far as the U.S.-Pakistan relationship is concerned. On the Pakistani side, one must recognize that there is often a miscalculation of Pakistan’s leverage over the United States, particularly vis-à-vis Afghanistan. This was the case in the anti-Soviet war and I think this remains the case even now because of the long lines of communication that the United States have, that go through Pakistan. The Pakistanis tend to exaggerate their ability to affect this line of communication and thereby affect the decision of the United States vis-à-vis Pakistan.
But behind all of this, as I said, is the historical narrative. And the United States still continues to see Pakistan as a duplicitous ally, whereas Pakistan sees the United States as an ally that fails to live up to its promises. And so they point out the fact that, nine years after the war began in Afghanistan, Pakistan is still waiting to receive the quantum of assistance that would allow it to fight this war in support of the United States and the coalition. It is still struggling to get the equipment: helicopters, better night-vision devices, personal protective gear and jamming equipment.
On the U.S. side, they say Pakistan as being very ambivalent about the Afghan Taliban. And even the reports over the weekend of the attempt by Pakistan – the reported attempt to influence reconciliation in Kabul, between the Afghan Taliban-associated group of Jalaluddin Haqqani and President Karzai, came to the fore and raised this issue again.
There is genuine confusion, also, about the end state that the United States wants to achieve in Afghanistan. And the betting is heavy on another precipitate U.S. withdrawal, particularly in Pakistan. Meanwhile, we see that India and Pakistan have been unable to gear up their peace talks. They are still meeting at the official level, but they seem to be more busy fighting the old battles than resolving the issues and moving on to solutions.
And we believe, in our report, that the United States has a great opportunity, for the first time in history – because of the fact that it has a strategic partnership with both India and Pakistan – that it could bring these two sides together, behind the scenes because no overt participation on the part of the United States would go down very well, neither in India, nor in Pakistan.
On the economic front, the United States has made a medium-term commitment to Pakistan, which is a first, through the Kerry-Lugar-Berman bill, which was originally the Biden-Lugar bill, and which President Obama sometimes says should have been the Biden-Lugar-Obama bill because he was a co-sponsor. There is an attempt to give aid to Pakistan for a much longer period to assure the U.S. is bona fide, to assure Pakistanis throughout the country and not just in the border region that the United States means well. But the contents of the final bill, unfortunately, created a great deal of pushback within Pakistan. So rather than gratitude, we saw internal fighting between the civil and the military power centers.
And also, on the Pakistani side, the government failed to set up adequate projects and monitoring mechanisms that would allow the aid to be used effectively. And so to this date, none of the aid money has actually hit the ground. It’s not been released by the United States and the Pakistanis have not shown that they are ready to receive it once it is released.
So what’s possible? We think that Pakistan can turn things around domestically if it’s given the resources and the trade opportunities. It could work with Afghanistan to find ways of reconciling with the Taliban, maybe even resolving the Durand Line dispute over time and opening its borders to the east, as well as the west, so that both Afghanistan and Pakistan could profit from access to Central Asian energy and trade for all of South Asia.
We also note that the U.S. and Pakistan do agree on certain things: for instance, on nonproliferation and control of nuclear assets. We believe that they both do not want Pakistan to be associated any longer with proliferating activities. We believe both agree on a strong and a stable economy for Pakistan, where the population has a median age of 18 and you need growth of 6-plus percent a year, annually, in order to stay ahead of the population curve.
The growth rate, currently, is half that rate. We believe that the U.S. and Pakistan both agree on the need for democracy and civil supremacy in Pakistan. And we believe that both of them agree that a stable economic and political hub in Pakistan is good not just for the country, but for the region.
What the U.S. needs to do is to resist the impulse to fall back on supporting single individuals or institutions. A military-to-military relationship that overshadows the civil authority can do more harm than good. It needs to build a relationship with the people of Pakistan, as promised by President Obama in his December speech last year.
The strategic dialogue, as Fred mentioned, is a very good beginning, but much more needs to be done to show a longer commitment to Pakistan and to the people of Pakistan. So we have come up with some very specific suggestions. First, there is a need to increase the quantum of military and economic aid, both for conventional military assistance and for support of counterinsurgency, to build on Pakistan’s fairly impressive counterinsurgency campaign over the last 12 months.
And I think once you go and exceed Pakistani expectations, the United States will find that there is a change of mind on the part of the general public, as well as of the military. We believe that trade is one of the best ways of giving Pakistan the resources it needs. We believe that by lowering tariffs for Pakistani textile exports, the United States can also help the country move upstream to higher value-added items.
The cost to the United States has been calculated as minimal and we quote some of the data behind this. But there does seem to be this terrible bloc in the U.S. administration and in Congress because it may affect one state of the union and some workers in that state. It’s a political decision that needs to be made. We believe that by partnering with Pakistan in a civil nuclear energy development, Pakistan could be brought much more under the IAEA safeguard schemes. And you could completely eliminate the chances of Pakistan going rogue, in terms of nuclear proliferation.
We also believe that the best way of creating jobs immediately in Pakistan is through infrastructure projects. And that has already been identified as one of the key sectors by the special representative’s office and they’re working on energy and infrastructure. But we point very specifically to FATA as an area where 300,000 jobs could essentially mop up the entire youth bulge of the population inside that region, the male population that otherwise becomes a recruitment pool for the Taliban.
There’s a need to involve the locals and to learn from the experience of Afghanistan, where the National Solidarity Program creates programs based on what the locals want and not things that are thought of in Islamabad or in Washington. We make a very specific suggestion to allow the people that are in FATA to register their trucks – and this is a very specific suggestion that costs nothing – to register their trucks so that they can operate in Pakistan proper.
Many of these trucks are smuggled in from Afghanistan. If you declare an amnesty, you give them a chance to earn a living, where they can ply goods from Karachi all the way to Torkham and Chaman. And you create jobs for many of them. Signature projects are very key. There is nothing today in Pakistan that people can point to and say, the United States did this for us. There are some very antiquated projects that go back to the ’50s and early ’60s, but nothing since.
We believe that there are opportunities in one very key area – where there may be some competition from the Chinese, among others – is to link Gwadar, a port which is on the Arabian Sea, to Chaman and to Torkham with a multipurpose arrangement for pipelines, roads, et cetera. That would employ the local Baloch – a very small population that needs to be employed, to win them over, give them ownership of their resources and give them a steady source of income and allow Pakistan to become a transit hub for Central Asia.
On education, there needs to be longer-term thought given to creating centers of excellence. Some kind of twinning arrangement between U.S. and Pakistani institutions does not require a great deal of government investment, simply an arrangement between private sectors on both sides, but with some initial seed money and guidance from the government. And this would also allow work at the provincial level, which is where the education sector resides, to concentrate on revamping the curricula, which are anachronistic and completely outmoded in Pakistan.
Finally, we believe that the United States can play a very critical role in reducing India-Pakistan hostility. If that border between India and Pakistan is opened, you could increase trade from an annual, official level of 2 billion (dollars) a year to something like 50 billion, based on trade that existed at the time of partition between the two countries, or the areas that are on both sides of the border. Fifty billion in trade between India and Pakistan would lift the incomes on both sides to such an extent that hostility would become an impossibility.
These are the recommendations we have made. I’m sure there’s going to be debate and discussion about them, but we welcome that. And I would now request Pam, if she could say a few words about the topic and the relationship. And then, after her, Ambassador Riaz Mohammad Khan and then we will gladly take your questions. Thank you.
PAMELA CONSTABLE: Should I come over there?
MR. NAWAZ: Whichever.
MS. CONSTABLE: It’s probably easier. I keep dropping this thing. Can you all hear me, if not see me? I’m delighted to be here today. I have a small caveat to share, which is that I got back from a trip to Connecticut this morning at five, so if I’m not as coherent as I might be, I apologize.
My other caveat is that, you know, I am not an expert on U.S. policy or foreign policy. I’m a journalist. And so what I do is observe and so I speak to you today as an observer of Pakistan and of U.S.-Pakistan relations. As Shuja said, I’ve spent a great deal of time in Afghanistan in the last number of years.
But for the last 18 months I’ve been living in Pakistan and doing a lot of intensive research about the country and traveled as extensively as I could throughout the country. So my remarks today really are based on my own observations and they’re not intended to be policy prescriptions.
I would like to focus on a single point that’s been made in the new Atlantic Council report and I’ll quote that point: “The United States will achieve best results by helping Pakistan help itself to effectively undermine the militant, extremist influence activities in the country and in the region.” (Inaudible, off mike.) That’s better. Please let me know if you can’t hear me because I am a bit hard to hear.
Pakistan today is being pulled in two directions: toward the modern and toward the traditional, toward the religious and toward the nonreligious. The path forward to Pakistan’s future is to find the middle ground, to find a compromise that will allow it to achieve global economic integration and to promote democratic values and institutions without weakening its cultural and religious believes and heritage.
The search for this balance is being undermined by an increasingly violent conflict between religious militants and the state, but also by the manipulation of religion by unscrupulous leaders with their own agenda. It is also being undermined by members of a political and economic elite that are too often indifferent to the poor and resist allowing upward mobility, rather than seeking to invest in the country’s vast human capital.
It is also being undermined by an inadequate education system that is too often in competition with thousands of religious seminaries, some of which preach moderate and peaceful versions of Islam, but others of which preach extreme and violent versions. Many Pakistanis today, especially the young, feel alienated from the state. Many believe they can never get a job without the right connections. Many feel they cannot get justice from the civilian courts unless they have a powerful patron.
People are suffering greatly from inflation, from power cuts that not only exacerbate the gulf between rich and poor, but increase public frustration at what they see as the lack of responsiveness by their elected government. All of these problems make people more vulnerable to the appeal of religious extremism. A recent report by the British Council on attitudes of youth in Pakistan reported that one-third of young people in Pakistan see democracy as the way forward, but another third see shariah law as the way forward. When asked what are the causes of violence and terrorism, the top answer among this group was injustice.
It is important to remember that when the Taliban first came to Swat, they were highly persuasive in appealing to people’s frustrations with civilian courts and law enforcement. Women donated their wedding jewelry to the Taliban cause. It was not until their cruel methods became widely known that the public and official opinion about them changed. Many Pakistanis today remain confused about the line between religious piety and religious extremism. The growing proliferation of suicide bombings and attacks, especially evidence of Taliban atrocities in the tribal regions, has horrified the nation and has turned public opinion against the Taliban.
And yet, the public and many leaders remain reluctant to criticize or condemn other extremist or jihadi groups, which are becoming increasingly active in Punjab and other parts of the country. Despite the military’s victory in Swat, there has been an apparent lack of civilian follow-up in that area, which has led to the army remaining dominant and has led to more criticism of the civilian authorities.
One reason for this reluctance to criticize and crack down on the jihadi groups is that, until not long ago, many of them were patronized by the state in foreign wars. This has made it difficult for both the military and the public to turn decisively against them. It has also led to ambivalent signals from the courts, prosecutors and political leaders about whether their activities are legal or illegal.
Another reason is that many of these groups have thousands of followers and some of them command important political constituencies. Their youth groups are active on college campuses and their leaders are taking on popular causes, such as the water crisis and India’s role in that. And these leaders may be able to win considerable support in local, provincial and, in some cases, national elections.
Despite the growing threat from violent Islamic groups inside Pakistan, there is a widespread view that this problem can still be selectively contained and that a full-fledged frontal assault would be dangerous and counterproductive. Many Pakistanis believe, for example, that the assault on the Red Mosque in the summer of 2007 was a mistake and should not be repeated.
Although the military and intelligence agencies have been directly targeted by terrorist attacks, officials are still reluctant to take on those militant groups who do not openly oppose the state. This is a major reason they have not yet launched an attack in North Waziristan. There is still a lingering notion of good and bad Taliban, or at least, tolerable and intolerable militants.
People in Pakistan also receive mixed messages about who is orchestrating and carrying out these terror attacks. Several major religious parties hold frequent rallies blaming the United States, India, Israel and other foreign powers as being the unseen hand behind such attacks. And certain officials have also raised this possibility. The theme of religious nationalism has a powerful effect on public opinion in Pakistan.
There is also a widespread state of denial about Pakistan’s internal problems and a tendency to blame outside conspiracies and anti-Muslim powers for attacks, both inside the country and abroad. To this day, I hear Pakistanis, both educated and uneducated, assert strongly that the 9/11 attacks were carried out by American and other intelligence forces and that all Jews were allowed to leave the night before.
These ideas are also being spread by the newly powerful electronic media, which often features polemical shouting matches that pander to public prejudices and fears, even through they also play a far more positive role by exposing scandal and wrongdoing in high places that never would have been known about before. Some media campaigns have been both cynical and dangerous, such as one last year in which they displayed photos and addresses of houses being rented by the U.S. embassy and asserted that they were spy locations.
Public resentment against the United States has also been exacerbated by reports of extra airport searches and visa restrictions for Pakistanis, many of whom have relatives in the United States. Because of the high public sensitivity to both religious and sovereignty issues, it is extremely easy to arouse public anger and difficult to counter conspiracy theories with facts. Polls have shown that, among the Pakistani public, the United States is seen not as an ally and a partner, but as an adversary and a threat.
American efforts to counter these misperceptions and to improve bilateral relations, while at the same time waging a war against terrorism in Afghanistan and the region, have repeatedly led to contradictions and tensions. The United States has been a source of large amounts of economic and military aid, including the pending Kerry-Lugar package, and yet that legislation met with enormous military and public resentment in Pakistan, rather than winning public gratitude because of conditions that were put in place in order to reduce the misuse of funds.
Meanwhile, the strident opposition of Pakistan to the presence of foreign troops has led the United States to use unmanned drone attacks against al-Qaida and Taliban targets along the Afghan border. This has also created enormous public opposition inside the country. Just as with civilian bombings against Taliban targets – sorry, just as with coalition bombings against Taliban targets in Afghanistan that end up killing civilians in the process, the drone attacks seem to be tactically successful but strategically costly to the United States.
Although U.S. relations with the Pakistan military today are at a better level of cooperation and shared goals than they have been at any time since the 1980s and relations between Washington and the elected civilian government of President Zardari are formally close and cooperative, this very closeness has added to the unpopularity of Mr. Zardari, whose adversaries accuse him of being a U.S. puppet, much as they did with his military predecessor, Gen. Pervez Musharraf.
President Zardari is viewed by many in Pakistan as a weak and disengaged leader who is surrounded by corrupt allies and aides. By extension, his patrons in the West are viewed by many as contributing to a flawed and authoritarian form of civilian rule, rather than as attempting to strengthen Pakistan’s democratic institutions.
The recent approval by parliament of the 18th amendment to the constitution was hailed, initially, as a major breakthrough for democracy, yet it has since been criticized for not going far enough and, in some cases, making things worse, such as in the changed nature of party elections and judicial appointments. The amendment did reverse many of the dictatorial provisions added under President Musharraf in the past decade. Symbolically, it also erased the name of a previous presidential dictator, Zia ul-Haq, from the constitution.
Today, Mr. Musharraf is widely viewed as politically finished in Pakistan. Yet in both law and mindset, the legacy of President Zia’s rule in the 1980s, with its focus on strict religious rule, its suppression of women and minority rights, its obsession with the threat from Hindu-dominated India, is still very much alive in Pakistan.
Looking at what the United States can do to improve its relations with Pakistan, the Atlantic Council report makes a number of suggestions. For example, it suggests shifting the focus of U.S. aid from infrastructure to health and education. These are both areas of great need, but from my own interviews and observations with Pakistanis across the country, it seems to me that what most Pakistanis yearn for more than anything else is justice, the rule of law and proof that their government is accessible to them.
They are also extremely sensitive to anything that appears to undermine or threaten their religion. Yet the vast majority of Pakistanis express religious views that are moderate, not extreme, that are closer to the tolerant and inclusive Sufi traditions than to the rigid and exclusive Salafist or Wahhabi versions. Any American effort to shore up both the rule of law and a more effective justice system, as well as institutions or groups that espouse the more moderate versions of Islam, I believe, would be well-received by the majority of Pakistanis, rather than seen as an insult or a threat.
The unprecedented civic movement that led to the restoration of Pakistan’s chief justice was hailed as a watershed. And yet that movement has since petered out and become fragmented. Any effort by the United States to help strengthen and revive this kind of civic movement towards arousing broader reforms and justice would also, presumably, be welcome as well.
In contrast, any Western policy or program that appears to challenge the religion and culture of Pakistan is likely to be counterproductive. And actions that sacrifice Pakistani lives for the sake of what is widely seem as a foreign-driven antiterror campaign, even if this is necessary to combat terrorism, may continue to alienate the public and to be used by self-interested or cynical groups to exacerbate anti-American sentiments. I’m going to stop there and I’d be happy to entertain your comments and questions later. Thank you.
RIAZ MOHAMMAD KHAN: Thank you, Shuja Nawaz, for introducing me and inviting me to make some comments on this report. Let me say that I generally agree with the thrust of the analysis and most of the recommendations. I’ll make only a few brief observations.
First, we are all very familiar with the episodic nature or character of Pakistan-U.S. relations. Can you hear me? Is it on right? Yeah, so we are aware of the episodic nature of Pakistan-U.S. relations, ups and downs. But I think there is reason now to expect that there will be a certain element of constancy in these relations.
And it is because the United States is paying far greater attention to the region, the regions adjoining Pakistan. This is because of 9/11, because of U.S. intervention in Afghanistan – which will persist for a considerably longer period even if there is a drawdown – the growth of relationships between U.S. and India, the U.S. preoccupation with Iran. And United States certainly understands the importance of Pakistan in the regional context and the dynamics which revolve partly around Pakistan.
So this, in my view, is one important factor. But even in the long term, if there is stabilization in the region, there’s peace – and this is in the vital interest of Pakistan, peace and restabilization – I would say that the Pakistan-U.S. relations, while they would have an importance on their own – Pakistanis will have to reconcile the fact that these relations will always take a second role to U.S. relations with India.
This is one factor which I think Pakistanis will have to adjust to. And Pakistan will have to develop an orientation for its foreign policy which ought to be regional and economic, in the long term. That is important. The other point that I would like to make is that building the so-called broad-based relationship, which is the desire of both sides – and in almost every high-level meeting, this desire has been repeated. It is also reflected in the U.S.-Pakistan Strategic Dialogue.
But beyond the question of official-level interactions, high-level meetings, the convergence, or lack thereof, of security interests, broad-based relationship requires much more than that. It requires people-to-people contacts. It requires strong linkages between what I would say – informal institutions of democracy, like media, like think tanks, academic, et cetera. It requires a strong trade relationship. And that, to materialize, will take a very long time.
So for the time being – at least foreseeable future, as I see it – these relationships would be somewhat narrowly based on security concerns and U.S. concern, particularly, over terrorism and extremism in that part of the world. That will remain the focus and one of the Achilles heels of this relationship, Pakistan-U.S. relationship.
And a case in point is, for example, the Faisal Shahzad incident, which obliged the U.S. secretary of state to say that if there is a repetition of this kind of incident, then it would have serious consequences for U.S.-Pakistan relations. Now, it is quite obvious that the limitation for Pakistan to be able to prevent these kinds of incidents is, more or less, the same as the limitation of United States to be able to detect and pre-empt such incidents. But still, if such an incident were to occur – God forbid – then the U.S. reaction, I am afraid, will be driven by the public outrage, the media hype, rather than any cool assessment of the limitations of Pakistan.
Here I would say that one important constraint on bilateral relations is the negative public sentiment and misgivings which are partly, also, being sustained and reinforced by powerful media. And this is true on both sides – in Pakistan, Pamela has already referred to that. And also here, I see it in political commentaries. Most of the time, Pakistan appears to be in a rather negative light. A certain attenuation of this sentiment, in my view, is necessary for a healthy relationship between the two countries.
So far, I’ve just been making very brief observations because again, I think much will depend on the question-answer session. I agree with most of the recommendations which have been made and the observations which have been made regarding the governments. The only thing that I would say is that United States, in my view, can do very little in terms of improvement of governance in Pakistan. It’s something which Pakistanis themselves will have to do.
But there are other areas where U.S. can do a lot: economy, trade, et cetera. Those are things which have already been mentioned. But the first point here that I would like to mention is that on this whole question of fighting extremist violence – military, terrorism, homegrown or otherwise – Pakistan alone will have to fight these tendencies, which have a long history. They are intertwined with the social factors, economic factors, political factors.
The most important factor in this fight – more important than any outside assistance, I would say – is what I would say the public support and clarity in public discourse inside Pakistan. And so what is a case in point? It was only when the public opinion changed that the government and the army were able to take firm action and the government did not have to explain why there were 2 million internally displaced persons. The public understood that this was a necessary action.
Therefore, I would say that it would be counterproductive if there is anything which is done, which distorts this public discourse in Pakistan on this particular issue. And here, I would say that many times, these demands do more – basically, they play into the hands of those people who say Pakistan is fighting somebody else’s war.
The Kerry-Lugar bill that was mentioned – again, the specificity of many of the conditions, which, in my view, are unnecessary, they were insensitive to this aspect of the challenge, which Pakistan faces. Sensitivity to Pakistan public discourse, I would say, is very important. In terms of the economic and military assistance, I’ll just make one point that one is the counterinsurgency-related assistance.
Here, the timing of availability of funds, equipment, et cetera is extremely important. All these things which Shuja Nawaz mentioned – the night goggles, the helicopters, the funds to FC – all that – these are all stories I have been hearing since 2004. And sometimes – (inaudible).
Anyway, the – (inaudible). So this is – but in the present context, I would say, for example, the funds are really urgently needed for Swat, for South Waziristan, some of the other agencies. I terms of the other assistance, there has been a case which has been made in the report very well that they have to be visible projects – projects which are meaningful, in terms of reviving the economy.
But here, I would say that, more than the donor country, it is the responsibility of the recipient country to be able to come up with projects which are meaningful. I fully agree with the point that the United States can really help us, and EU can help us, with support in the IFIs, with market access, trade. And here, I would make one point, that somehow, when it comes to security and trade, there is – the approach is compartmentalized.
For example, I will give the example of EU. Pakistan today, among the South Asian countries, the most disadvantaged country, in terms of market access. Whereas everybody agrees that to fight terrorism, to fight extremist tendencies in Pakistan, economy is the key. So this one area which needs to be looked into. The other – and this would be last point that I would make – that with reference to Afghanistan, I think there is good coordination between the coalition and the Pakistani government and the military. It has improved quite a bit in the last one year or so.
But still, misgivings persist, and there are many factors that feed into distrust and suspicion between the two sides. The answer lies in more intensive and candid interaction between the two sides – the Pakistan and Afghan side – especially now that this phase of drawdown is on the horizon. So this kind of interaction, in my view, can perhaps narrow the possibility of misunderstandings, miscalculations, which Shuja Nawaz had mentioned, or erroneous judgments.
I may say that Pakistan has certain legitimate concerns with regard to what people perceive as its role. And this is by virtue of the demographic history and geography of the area. So it has to have a role. Pakistan must play this role with circumspection, prudence. It should not play games, because – and on the other side, this role must be appreciated and understood, because it is inescapable. It is in-built into the situation which exists. And that situation is so unique that I cannot find another parallel between any other two countries in the world.
So this – I think Pakistan also needs to understand, here, that any pursuit, on its part, of a role other than what is necessary by virtue of these factors that I have mentioned, would only spawn regional rivalries, even if the U.S. presence is not there. And Pakistan has enough experience, now, that regional rivalries, which would perpetuate instability in the region – they hurt Pakistan more than any other regional country, for Afghanistan’s neighbor.
And stabilization, of course, can open many new opportunities. And here, Shuja Nawaz had mentioned about the railway line. I think, rather than giving rise to any contradictions between the U.S. and China, there should be an opportunity for both to cooperate, because that would be a very important link from Afghanistan to the sea. Well, again, I’ll depend on question-and-answer session for any other – (inaudible, off mike). Thank you.
MR. NAWAZ: Thank you very much, Riaz, and now it’s time for questions. Could I request that you wait to be recognized, identify yourself, and if you could keep the questions short, we could get more of them in the time that we have at our disposal. Microphone here, please.
Q: Thank you very much. I think these were three very good presentations and I agree – Wendy Chamberlain from the Middle East Institute. I agree with so much of what is being said. There is one point that I am very perplexed about and I think all three of you mentioned it, by I still don’t – it still hasn’t cleared by thinking at all yet.
And that is public opinion in Pakistan. Enormously important, but what creates public opinion? I have read polls that say that 80 to 90 percent of public opinion comes from television and this makes sense in a society that has so much illiteracy. But we’ve seen swings in public opinion, according to the polls.
And at the time of the earthquake – say what you want to about President Musharraf, but when he stood up there and said – when an American Chinook was bringing humanitarian goods in and he said, here comes another angel of mercy, U.S. public opinion – approval in Pakistan for the United States spiked to 45 percent.
And then when there was a drumbeat, largely from the military, saying that the drones were a violation of sovereignty – sovereignty, I mean, if you’re in the FATA, what does sovereignty mean? Then the public opinion dropped throughout the country into the single digits. And it’s only in the teens now and it’s pretty much stayed there. But who is influencing what appears on television?
Essentially, what I’m saying is, don’t leaders lead? And are Pakistani leaders leading public opinion in a way that promotes a strong alliance with the United States, which is an alliance that, I think, all three of you said is very important for Pakistan in the future, as it is for us?
MR. NAWAZ: Riaz, would you like to start first on this?
MR. KHAN: I thought Pamela was in a better position to answer this question. Anyway, who leads or who forms public opinion in Pakistan – I think it’s a very amorphous situation. If you are talking about anti-Americanism, there are roots of this: historical experiences, many other trends which basically have confluenced today.
And even the American intervention in Afghanistan, which had, sort of, negative consequences – not just for Pakistan but particularly for an important ethnic group – that has contributed towards this. The extremist creed, we all know, the jihadi ideologues, et cetera – they think that the United States and the West, they are the main obstacle in rise of Islamists in various countries, starting from Algerian experience, Hamas, et cetera. All that.
I don’t want to get into that, but I think you made a very important point in your question and that was that when the Chinooks came and they helped the earthquake relief effort, the public opinion had a very visible change. So public opinion, that means, is not something which is rigid and is unchangeable. It can change. But then there will have to be, in terms of experience, more positive factors which would come into it.
You have mentioned about FATA. The experience has not been, in terms of cooperation, has not been very positive all the time. I have mentioned what Pakistani expectations were and, on the other hand, what American expectations – both were not fulfilled. There is one mention, over here, of a game-changer, as you have mentioned, about India and Pakistan having some kind of a deal, like the India-U.S. nuclear deal.
Yes, that can be an important factor. It can make a significance, but these kinds of symbolic gestures all – (inaudible). These kinds of symbolic gestures – they would be important, but it will have to be a sustained effort in which the government will have to be an important player. One can’t expect it from the media because the media is very independent. Therefore, you cannot expect that media will restrain itself.
And I’m talking about Pakistani media, these channels which are very responsible in their behavior at times. But they also have become very confident because they think that they have brought about a change in Pakistan, a political change in Pakistan. So that will take time. But I think a sustained effort on the part of the government is required.
MR. NAWAZ: Pam?
MS. CONSTABLE: Yeah, Wendy, you said a very key phrase: the question, do leaders lead? You know, the question of who is creating public opinion – the answer is many voices, many sources, many power centers, many different political parties, religious groups, media leaders, a variety of sources.
And then the question becomes, is there a counter-narrative? Who is stepping up and saying, no? Who is stepping up and saying, wait a minute? I think there’s a general feeling that, as I said briefly in my remarks, people are very confused and they do get mixed messages.
And people feel they’re not getting a strong enough message from the leadership saying, no, this is a war we have to fight. It’s not someone else’s war. This is the reason we are all – why our country is at stake here. I mean, I think there hasn’t been a strong enough counter-narrative to this multiplicity of nay-saying, destructive, self-interested, cynical, conspiratorial voices that you hear every day on TV and elsewhere.
MR. NAWAZ: I would just add that the civilian government in Pakistan added to this mistrust on the drone issue because they were aware, fully, that there was collaboration and cooperation with the United States on the drone attacks. In fact, many of the drones at the early stages were taking off from Pakistani airfields, not just from Afghan airfields.
But the government used to public come out and complain – and I’m sure you and your successors were called repeatedly and told, please stop doing this. This is very bad. So this inflamed public opinion. They felt that their own government that had worked with the United States was being ignored. And that created a very strong base of anti-American sentiment. Another point worth making is that the exist views in Pakistan, which are negative about the United States, are mirrored in the United States.
If you look at the Pew global survey of perceptions of individual countries around the world, the United States, almost 69 percent or 70 percent, if my figures are correct – if my memory is correct about the figures – of U.S. population believes that Pakistan is an enemy of the United States and not a friend of the United States. So they’re also being affected, in the U.S., by what people in positions of authority say through the media and every time they make a speech. So on both sides, much more needs to be done to change these perceptions. And you will get spikes, but I think it takes time to change.
Q: My name – (coughs) – excuse me, my name is Arnold Zeitlin and I’m a historical footnote because I was the first Associated Press bureau chief in Pakistan, 40 years ago. You mention, Shuja, several times in the report, about the lack of equipment from the United States to assist Pakistani forces. Riaz says he’s been hearing this since 2004. I’ve been hearing it since Mr. Bhutto told me about it 38 years ago. Why is this the case? Are American authorities so dim as not to know the needs in Pakistan, or is Pakistan always asking for too much?
MR. NAWAZ: I don’t think Pakistan is asking for too much, particularly in this case, where a very different kind of equipment is needed and where Pakistan was totally unprepared for counterinsurgency. Where the Frontier Corps, which was the first line of defense, and the only troops in the area that knew the area and that could operate were without weapons, without personal protective gear. They didn’t have jamming equipment. They didn’t have communications gear. They didn’t even have boots. They were still wandering around in shalwars (sp), which they’ve been wearing traditionally for centuries.
So it was very surprising that, knowing the terrain, and knowing that exactly the same terrain existed on the Afghan side of the border, when the U.S. first moved 17,000 additional troops into Afghanistan, 150 helicopters accompanied those 17,000 troops. And what did Pakistan get for moving 150,000 troops? They got just one squadron of helicopters. So there was a complete imbalance in terms of the assistance.
Economically, too, the total assistance at the high point – if you add it all up – is, on average, about $2 billion a year to Pakistan. When you compare with the assistance going to Afghanistan, which is fighting the same war – it’s the same war on both sides – 30 billion in Afghanistan, 2 billion for Pakistan. So these are factors that affect public opinion also.
They also affect opinion inside Pakistan. To my mind, and I’ve repeated this often, the Coalition Support Fund and the mechanism that was set up for it was quite inappropriate because it created more unhappiness than it created a sense of confidence in the partnership. The question of providing detailed description of all the expenses, and then those expenses being challenged – quite necessarily because Pakistan doesn’t have expenditure tracking systems – has created heartache on both sides and continues to bedevil this relationship. So there are issues that could have been dealt with had this thing been thought through, had this CSF become part of aid rather than a reimbursement system. That’s just one aspect of it.
Q: But still, the question is why?
MR. KHAN: Well, you have your own complicated procedures here: legislative, bureaucratic, et cetera. I’ll just give one example, FC. We needed funds, requested in 2005. And there were analyses, et cetera, and then, basically, we found there was reluctance because they through FC could not be relied. This was one of the arguments.
By 2008, we have not received any funds for the expansion of FC and whatever took place, we did. And FC, in that area, is extremely important. Even today, FC is doing an extremely important job in terms of stabilizing South Waziristan and also, it is deployed even in Swat area and Bajar. So this was one.
Or, say, ROZs, reconstruction opportunity zones. We basically wanted that textiles should be part of this because textiles was one area in which Pakistan had experience and people, out of sheer interest – profit interest – they would be, from Karachi or Lahore, be able to put up some factories in Wana or Miram Shah, those areas. But then there were all kinds of objections which came up, objections like that, basically, these entrepreneurs will bring labor from Punjab and Sindh to run these factories in Wana.
And I used to say – many of us – that, look, if it is possible for these entrepreneurs to bring labor from Karachi and Lahore to work in Wana and Miram Shah, your problem is resolved because that means there would be no violence. But you see, there are all kinds of things. It never took off, although it was an extremely important initiative. So I can give you so many examples, but there are these complications on our side, your side.
MR. NAWAZ: Thank you, Riaz. I have one question here and then we’ll move to the pack, I promise because I’ve seen a number of hands. James?
Q: Thank you. James Joyner, Atlantic Council. I’m curious about the – can you hear now – I’m curious about the commonality of the goals of the two governments. I mean, it’s three issues, right? I mean, one is the Taliban issue, or the multiple Talibans issue. It seems to me that there’s diverging goals there, at least with respect to the Afghan Taliban.
There’s al-Qaida and I’m not sure what the goal is. The CIA director admitted yesterday that, in fact, al-Qaida is almost nonexistent in Afghanistan. They’re in Pakistan, but we don’t seem to be doing much about it. And then the longer-term relationship – I mean, once the U.S. does pull out of Afghanistan, what is the basis for the relationship at that point, for an ongoing relationship, for a host of issues that won’t go away once we do leave?
MR. NAWAZ: Pam, do you want to answer?
MS. CONSTABLE: Yeah. I mean, I would say – let me take the last question first because it’s the easiest. I think there are a long list of reasons why the relationship is extremely important and needs to remain so. You know, I mean, this is a cliché, but this is a huge country that is nuclear-capable that shares a very long border with three very important countries.
I think just the very fact of the continuing hostility and tension between India and Pakistan remains, at the very least, a key reason why there has to be international engagement there by the West and by any others who wish the region well. China’s growing importance, Iran – I mean, you can’t – location is everything, as it is in real estate, so that’s number one.
And then number two, again, size: I mean, this is a vast country with enormous potential. It’s not Somalia. It’s not Liberia. It’s not Afghanistan. It is not a destroyed country. It is simply a country that has not, for various reasons, been able to live up to its potential, economically and politically. But the potential is there and it’s both positive and negative.
One ignores Pakistan, I think, at one’s risk. It’s not Afghanistan, where you’re fighting, you know, a war and where you’re dealing with extreme poverty. It’s a country that is going to be, some day, on a par with any other developing country in the world. And I think that’s why it’s so important.
MR. NAWAZ: Thank you, Pam. At the back, over there.
Q: Thank you. My name is – sorry, is that – my name is Max Kunkler (ph). I’m with the Oxbridge Group. And actually, Mr. Nawaz, I think you touched on this slightly in your first comments to the first question, so I hope I don’t ask you to repeat yourself. But in both the report and in the presentations, it was noted that there’s a growing resentment against U.S. boots on the ground and the drone attacks.
And I’m just wondering, in your view, what is the best way to start addressing this? Is it to incentivize the Pakistani military to start going after these groups? To encourage the Pakistani government to, perhaps, highlight the fact that these are being done in cooperation with the military? I noted that in the report it was saying that because of the cooperation times being reduced from a number of hours to 45 minutes for identifying and attacking these targets. And I was wondering what your view on that point would really be?
MR. NAWAZ: I think on the drones, much more collaboration in targeting and the final decisions on targeting would be quite critical. There’s already evidence that there is greater collaboration, which has resulted in reducing the number of civilian deaths associated with the drone attacks.
But they’re not the solution. The real solution is to change the underlying conditions inside FATA, which would prevent the elements that are either al-Qaida or Afghan Taliban elements from taking shelter in those areas. In terms of the differentiation between the Afghan Taliban and the local Taliban, and as to whether Pakistan can move against the Afghan Taliban, there are a number of actors, and I think I touched upon some of them. There’s a hedging factor.
Once the United States announced that it was planning to begin its departure from the region, then the Afghan Taliban become a factor because they represent a certain element in Afghanistan’s polity. And the fact that they have not taken up arms against Pakistan prevents Pakistan from launching its troops against them. That said, all the evidence points to a big buildup in North Waziristan, which is the center of gravity of the Haqqani group.
In fact, today, something like 27,000 regular army and 10,000 Frontier Corps troops are in North Waziristan, which is much more than the number of forces in South Waziristan. So they are in position, and should the need occur, or when they’re ready to, they may actually mount some kind of armed operation.
It’s hard to predict what this will be because one doesn’t have access to the director general of military operations’ secret plans are army headquarters in Rawalpindi, but my guess would be that this is not going to be like Swat, or even like South Waziristan, where you empty out the place and then you sort of obliterate everything that stands in the way, because I think the army’s learned that, that also is fairly costly for its own image, as well as its ability to then rehabilitate the people.
Because one thing they’ve learned is that the civilian side is incapable of taking over. They still haven’t gotten their act together. Till that happens, I don’t think they’ll follow that approach. You’ll see much more of a very controlled cordon-and-search operation. And it could be that, over time, the Afghan Taliban will be pushed across the border. And depending on the situation inside Afghanistan, they will then either become part of the problem there or become part of the solution. And then if you could, after that, pass it on to the gentleman in front of you, please. Thank you.
Q: Taha Gai (ph) with the Pakistani-American Leadership Center. One of your recommendations was a signature project. That’s also been one of our recommendations. But when we raised that issue with USAID, one of the objections that they raise is that if there is some kind of signature project in Pakistan and it’s labeled, like, the “U.S.-Pakistan Friendship Highway to Gwadar,” it’s immediately going to become a target for Taliban and their affiliates. So just, how would you answer that security concern?
And then, just generally, I have a question about the delivery of U.S. assistance in Pakistan. When it comes to giving money to the government, there’s issues of corruption and kind of, just general ineptitude. When it comes to giving money to NGOs and the private sector, there’s questions of indigenous Pakistani capacity. When it comes to giving money to U.S. or international NGOs, there’s questions of just massive overhead and lack of money actually reaching the ground.
And then, just, my last question is, when it comes to a U.S.-Pakistan civilian nuclear deal, already you see, you know, China coming up with some sort of a China-Pakistan civilian nuclear deal, and that’s kind of being opposed by the U.S. and other members, possibly, of the Nuclear Suppliers Group. So how realistic is that and is it likely to go forward or not?
MR. NAWAZ: Thank you, Taha. We’re going to charge you extra for those three questions. (Laughter.) Who’s going to protect these projects? If you involve the people of the region and they are benefiting from it, you can bet on it that they would protect the projects. This has happened in Afghanistan; it’s happened in FATA; and it will happen in Baluchistan, also. If the locals are employed, they will need to ensure that the source of their income and employment is not destroyed. So I think there will be ample protection there, apart from any formal protection that you arrange from the national police or military forces.
Talking about the delivery mechanism, we say, in the report, that Pakistan needs to get its act together in setting up a centralized mechanism for setting up performance indicators and processes to ensure that the money goes through, fully, to the places where it’s intended. Because in Pakistan, most of the sectors that are common to economic development are in the purview of the provinces. So it’s very critical that the provinces get their act together. Till we do that, and whether it involves public-private partnerships or entirely public ventures, it’s going to be very difficult to convince donors to give money to Pakistan.
On the China deal, I’ll be very brief. I’m sure Riaz has some knowledge and views of that. I think we’re going to have to wait and see how it plays out in the Nuclear Suppliers Group. China has already released a statement, which is probably its, kind of, opening shot. Some people that are cynical are thinking that, well, China is now playing on a global stage and this is simply its way of trying to show Pakistan that it will do its best, but if it is surrounded in the NSG, that it will then yield. So we have to wait and see how that plays out.
The question is, why not, now that the NPT’s basis has been eradicated by the deal with India – why not bring Pakistan into a civil energy, nuclear energy regime, which would allow much more of its nuclear assets to come under safeguards, allow Pakistan to sign the additional protocol with the IAEA and make it more accountable?
MS. CONSTABLE: I’d like to say something briefly about – before we go to China, which I am not at all an expert on – about aid. You know, the three dilemmas for the three kinds of aid delivery. This is absolutely not unique to Pakistan. I’ve spent a great deal of time in Afghanistan, where it’s extremely difficult to find a way to deliver aid that’s not going to be siphoned off into the wrong pockets and be wasted, in many ways.
But I think we have to remember that the purpose of aid is not just to build things. The purpose of aid is, frankly, political. The purpose of aid is to build relationships. And so I think that no matter how it’s delivered, you have to expect a certain amount of losses, you have to expect a certain amount of corruption. It goes with the territory. But one hopes that one is also building something in the process. And I tend to disagree with the signature project approach for the simple reason that I’ve seen many signature projects fail – for example, look at the Kabul to Kandahar road.
Now, again, Afghanistan is not necessarily a good comparison. But the things that tend to work better, in my own experience, are projects that are extremely low-to-the-ground, very cost effective, but that affect large numbers of people, like irrigation wells, for example. Not very sexy. No, you know, big photos; no big budget; no big ribbon-cuttings. But vast numbers of people individually helped, in my experience, goes a lot further to identifying the donor as a good guy than some big damn that gets blown up, for example. So I’ve leave it at that.
MR. KHAN: Well, on the question of projects, I would say that projects which are NGO-driven sometimes do not really make an impact. I agree with Pamela that projects should be such that they should make an impact. They should help the economy. And here, I can give one example, that under the so-called strategic dialogue, there are five areas which were identified. And a number of projects were also identified by both sides. But they could not be implemented because of lack of funds.
I believe that part of this U.S. assistance should be diverted for implementation of those projects, which have already been identified by both sides. And they will make an impact. Apart from that, there are areas, like energy – there can be good input from United States for developing renewable sources of energy – solar energy, those kinds of things.
Coming to this nuclear, China has made a statement that’s a correct statement. But I would say one thing: That insofar as Pakistan is concerned, Pakistan’s commitment to nuclear nonproliferation is unilateral. But there is one argument which, also, Pakistan makes. And that is, when it comes to the cooperation on nonproliferation regimes within the international context, like FMCT, then Pakistan has the argument that we cannot be treated as a partner and as a target at the same time.
Now, this kind of discrimination, if it is eliminated by offering Pakistan a deal – because Pakistan is a nuclear weapons state – then there would be a benefit, which will flow from it, in terms of Pakistan’s cooperation and strengthening these international nonproliferation regimes. But again, I’ll repeat that Pakistan’s commitment to nonproliferation is unilateral.
Q: My name is Naeem ul-Haq (sp). I’m a TV talk show host in Karachi, Pakistan. I’m visiting here at the moment. My question is to all the panelists. Would you agree that in order for Pakistan to achieve any economic growth or prosperity, and for the region, it is essential that peace be established, and in order for that peace to be established, it is essential that American and NATO forces leave Afghanistan, without which, truly, peace will not be restored to the region and the resultant or expectant economic prosperity or growth, which you have talked about, will be meaningless?
MS. CONSTABLE: It’s a million-dollar question, but it’s also a chicken-and-egg question. I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately – about what would happen if the international forces were to withdraw from Afghanistan. I’m not sure what would happen, but I have some idea of what would happen. But the question of peace – international forces are only one player, there. It’s not – although some people see it as – an occupying army. It is, in fact, an invited force that is there to support the elected government.
This is still a fact even though there have been many setbacks, problems with civilian casualties. The original impetus, the original setup, is still there. What there needs to be for peace has to involve the Taliban, has to involve the government of Afghanistan, may need to involve the government of Pakistan or other regional forces, must involve the international community members who support peace in the region.
I don’t think you can say, either way, that if the coalition forces did X or Y, if they stayed, if they left, if they drew down, if they changed their policy, that in itself would not bring peace. Without some sort of an agreement that involves the regional actors and the domestic actors, you won’t get peace. Now, Karzai has his own plan for this. Maybe he’s on the right track. Maybe this is what’s going to work. We don’t know. But you cannot simply take the actions of one piece – P-I-E-C-E- of the puzzle and say that this may or may not bring peace.
MR. KHAN: Well, realistically speaking, we do not anticipate the exit of international coalition forces in the manner that the Soviet forces had withdrawn – under a certain agreement, on a day, X, all of them left Afghanistan. That will not be the scenario which will be worked out. But I’m one of those people who feel that this drawdown, and giving a specific date, which has been very controversial, has been a good idea, because it will allow the situation to readjust itself and move towards some kind of – at least, give a new scenario for moving towards a certain stabilization.
And I think some of the moves which are taking place – and we anticipated they would be taking place, in terms of reconciliation, et cetera, they are partly because there is an anticipation that there will be a change, there will be a drawdown. And there is a date for it. So here, Pakistan can play a positive role. And here, I would say that when it comes to the Afghan Taliban, Afghan Taliban have been part of the Afghan political landscape. Nobody can deny that.
And for example, if we were to hound them, if we were to go after them, how would our policy look at this time, when everybody is talking about conciliation – reconciliation with whom? It has to be primarily reconciliation involving elements of the Taliban. Therefore, apart from any other factors of ethnicity, et cetera, that this Pakistani position needs to be appreciated and understood, Pakistan has a certain role because of these various factors.
But Pakistan should play it in response to what the Kabul government asks us to do, not. Not – (inaudible) – and not taking initiatives, but play a helpful, circumspective, prudent role. So in that context, I think these developments – drawdown, et cetera – they are positive.
MR. NAWAZ: I’ll just add that I think the precipitate withdrawal, like the one the Soviets did, is not in the cards and it really won’t help. But this is involving multiple variables and you have to take all of those into account. It’s not a linear relationship that if you take the forces away, everything will be fine. It never was and never will be. There will be a fair amount of to-ing and fro-ing and maybe even some infighting within Afghanistan, and we should be prepared for that. But there will probably be a need for some presence, whether it’s advisory, whether it’s economic, political, whatever, so that Afghanistan is not left again in the manner in which it was.
Q: Very briefly, is it important to distinguish the Pakistani Taliban from the Afghan Taliban?
MR. NAWAZ: It is for Pakistan’s sake, because the Pakistani Taliban used the attack on Afghanistan as a reason for attacking the state of Pakistan. They’re the ones that are attacking the army and the population inside Pakistan. They are the enemies of the state, and they need to be dealt with in the manner any enemy of the state should be dealt with.
I think there is complete clarity. And this is the big difference – that you have public support for actions against the Pakistani Taliban and their allies in Swat and elsewhere, without which, the army would not have succeeded. I think we have run out of time, but there’s one question here in the front, and then maybe we can wrap it up. Thank you for being patient. This gentleman.
Q: Thank you very much. Everybody can hear me?
MR. NAWAZ: Yes.
Q: All right. My name is Ayou (ph). I am from Afghanistan. I am a Webster (ph) student. I was lucky to be in one of the talks that you had, Pamela, at Stanford University in October 2006. And the talk was basically the Afghan success story failed. So you were just –
MS. CONSTABLE: I’m sorry, what?
Q: The Afghan success story failed. Sorry, I apologize for my accent. And this is not my first language. So I really liked your talk because you were talking about, basically, tribalism in Afghanistan. So my question would be, do you think the problem – the region – you know, the border between – say, Waziristan, between and Afghanistan and Pakistan – the problem is Islamic fundamentalism or ethno-nationalism? So that would be my question for Pamela.
And another question that I have for Director Shuja, I would just – I mean, my question is basically – I mean, I am a student. I am really interested to learn. Maybe my opinions or what I – I mean, I hope it’s going to be appropriate. So I think – I mean, since I am from Afghanistan, I have been there – in fact, I have been involved in the war. I am from the North of Afghanistan, from Panshir Valley.
So I mean, there is a sense of – I mean, from my opinion, if you look at Afghanistan, I mean, some of the – there are a lot of accounts scholars wrote – some of Afghanistan’s scholars. Some of them, let’s say, you know, former Afghan interior minister, Jalali, he just wrote a very good account that was basically saying, from the great game to the lesser game. He was just describing Afghanistan from the great game to the lesser game.
He believed that, you know, during the Cold War, there was a great game. Or before the Cold War, there was a great game, and after the Cold War, when the Soviets left and the Americans withdraw, I mean, just the attention. So there was a lesser game, which means there were a lot of regional players, such as Pakistan, India, or let’s say Iran or whoever. So I mean, of course, they were involved in proxy wars.
And of course, the proxy of Pakistan is Pashtuns, as you mention in your – I just read your executive summary in the report. I really liked it. That was good. And I think since Pashtuns are the proxies for – let’s say, the proxy forces for Pakistan, of course, Pakistan can control – I mean, if they are the proxy. Because they are right next to Pakistan. They don’t have any way to any other country to receive support, or whatever. It’s only Pakistan.
And the Taliban’s story. I mean, it’s just – I mean, you can see Pakistan has a lot of opportunity to bring a lot of change in Afghanistan. And so, I mean, this was an information; I will go back to my question. What I’m going to ask is, I mean, your recommendations you were just recommending – you’re focusing on focusing aid. So let’s say you were encouraging the United States to provide more foreign aids for Pakistan.
I mean, from my perspective, which I don’t know, I respect your knowledge and I really respect that, but from my perspective, it’s going to be good for short term, but I mean, for the long run, in a way Pakistan has been using Afghanistan or Pashtun as a bargaining power with the United States or whoever.
Since, you know, there has been war in Afghanistan, Pakistan gained a lot. I mean, but anyways, so okay, the question is, do you think that United States foreign aid is a good strategy for Pakistan, or Pakistan should go ahead with the process that Pakistan basically – Pakistan is a strong player in the region that can bring peace in the region, and then they can, as ambassador said, they can go with regional cooperations.
They can go with railways or other projects that they can basically create a regional cooperation organization within the region that say, if there’s peace, there are a lot of opportunities. They can go with trade. They can integrate their economies. And basically, Pakistan has very strategic location since it has access to the sea and it can play a lot of roles in terms of – that’s my question. What do you think – let’s say, would it be better if Pakistan shifts its focus from, let’s say, finding ways to pursue the United States to provide them foreign aids, or they should go ahead with a policy that they can just encourage peace in the region?
MR. NAWAZ: Thank you.
Q: I’m sorry for the long –
MS. CONSTABLE: I didn’t entirely understand the question you directed at me. Was it about tribalism, or was it about something else?
MS. CONSTABLE: Nationalism.
Q: Based on ethnicity.
MS. CONSTABLE: Okay.
Q: I mean, I remember – I hope I wasn’t wrong. You just mentioned about Karzai. I mean, in a way, they say he’s not Afghanistan’s president, he’s – (inaudible) – tribal leaders.
MS. CONSTABLE: So just quickly repeat the actual question?
Q: Yeah, my question was, do you think the problem in Afghanistan, or let’s say, in Waziristan, is Islamic fundamentalism or is ethno-nationalism?
MS. CONSTABLE: I see, okay. I hate to say it, but I think they’re both issues. I think that ethno-nationalism, as you put it, and I think that tribalism in general, are both issues that are very old, but that continue to create difficulties, and which Islamic fundamentalist leaders or extremist leaders have taken advantage of. The grievances that people have for various reasons – whether they’re tribal, whether they’re ethnic, whether they’re linguistic, whatever they are – get taken advantage of by those who have an extremist religious agenda.
So that’s the simple answer, I think, to your question, is that they become intertwined and very difficult to separate. I mean, look at the Sunni-Shia problem up in the Northwest. I mean, where did that come from? These are issues that one would think could be separated and should be separated, and yet, they all get mushed together in the public mind and it’s very difficult to separate them. And plus, they have different solutions.
So the solution to containing or responding to religious fundamentalism is one; the solution to modernizing the tribal system, for example, and to addressing the grievances of ethnic groups is another. But because we’re in a conflict situation and because we’re in a situation where extreme religious movements have become involved and violence has become involved, it becomes much trickier to address and to define, all of which means is that I don’t have a simple answer to your question. I’m sorry. (Chuckles.)
MR. KHAN: Well, I’ll just give one example how these things are mixed – the fundamentalism and the – before 1992, whenever we would ask these parties – the – (in foreign language) – the mujahideen parties that talked to Najibullah – the Kabul government – they would say how we have done jihad, we have fought for Islam. How can we talk to the communists? The day he left and Commander Ahmad Shah Massoud, he came out, the same fundamentalist parties, some of them, they started saying, how can Tajiks rule Afghanistan? So you see how these things get mixed up. (Chuckles.)
But for Pakistan, I would say, we have also made many mistake in the past, but I would say that Pakistan’s policy must not fall in this divide which exists, and that must be addressed by the Afghans themselves. Now, there are problems, because you see, you are talking about Pashtuns being used as proxy by Pakistan. Pakistan has literally about 36 to 40 million Pashtun population. You don’t use that kind of population as a proxy. And they have – there is this overlapping demography, which is very peculiar.
But nonetheless, Pakistan should be very careful. It should not fall – and it’s not just Pakistan that should not fall in this ethnic divide – but the others – United States – it should not allow its policy to fall in between this divide. What Pakistan should also be very careful is that it should not somehow fuel regional rivalries, which you also mentioned. That is very important. Stabilization and peace. I think we have enough experience now, in that region of 30 years of war, that is what is in the interest of everyone.
MR. NAWAZ: I agree. I think Afghanistan has traditionally relied on a – (in foreign language) – a national compact. And that’s what we need to encourage. And I entirely agree with Riaz’s point, that Pakistan cannot avoid the fact that the border regions have Pashtun population on both sides. But I would argue against the view that Pakistan can actually control the Pashtun. Nobody can control the Pashtun. I think it’s been proven over time.
Even when Pakistan helped the previous Taliban regime a great deal in establishing control over Kabul, talk to any of the Pakistani ambassadors that served with Mullah Omar and they will tell you that they were batting zero against him every time they went to talk to him. He never agreed to anything. So Afghans make up their own minds, and I think that’s what one should encourage.
But the idea that somehow, the ISI or the military or the political agent or the political government in Islamabad will have a handle on Haqqani or Gulbuddin Hekmatyar or the Quetta Shura, so-called, I think this is wishful thinking. You know, you have a relationship. You may be able to make suggestions. You may be able to cajole a little bit here and there, but there’s a marginal influence.
You don’t have the kind of control, which doesn’t exist – the kind of colonial mentality which the British had. And I think it’s not possible in today’s world. So the solution, in the end, is for the Afghans to agree on their own internal solutions and for countries like India and Pakistan and Iran to help that process, rather than make it a kind of a cockpit for their own political ambitions.
You’ve all been extremely patient, but I would like you to join me in thanking my co-panelists, Riaz Khan and Pamela Constable. (Applause.) And I also want to thank my colleagues, Shikha Bhatnagar and Ainab Rahman and Alex Bellay , who’ve made all this possible, and Jason, who’s got his back towards us, but without whom, we wouldn’t hear anything that was said. And I hope that we will be able to get a transcript of this out on our website soon so if you didn’t hear everything that was said, at least you’ll be able to read it. Thank you all very much. (Applause.)