Security Challenges in Pakistan: Implications for the US
Written Statement of Husain Haqqani Director, Center for International Relations, Boston University and Senior Fellow, Hudson Institute Before the House Armed Services Committee, United States House of Representatives
I am grateful to you and the members of the House Armed Services committee for inviting me to appear before you today. As a Pakistani currently living and teaching in the United States, I have a deep commitment to close and friendly ties between Pakistan and the United States. The two countries share common interests, of which the elimination of the scourge of global terrorism is currently most important. As I understand it, the purpose of this hearing is to assess the means of ensuring meaningful and productive American engagement with Pakistan. It is an honor for me to testify before this committee and to share my views, formed over a lifetime of love for Pakistan and affection for the United States.
At the outset, let me begin by saying that Pakistan has been a partner of the United States since the 1950s and the relationship has endured despite periodic differences in perspectives and expectations. Close relations between Pakistan and the United States are in the interest of both nations. The United States currently needs the friendship of a stable and democratic Pakistan in its struggle against global extremism and terrorism. Pakistan would benefit enormously from alliance with the world’s sole superpower and first democracy. But the relationship between the two countries must be nuanced beyond the exchange of aid and policy concessions that has characterized their interaction over the last sixty years.
Pakistan has been an ally of the United States during the cold war, in the war of resistance against the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan and currently in the global war against terror. Each period of close U.S.-Pakistan ties began with great hopes and ended up in tremendous disappointment for both sides. The U.S. provided large amounts of aid and showered praise on Pakistan’s military rulers during the phase of strategic cooperation, only to turn off the flow of aid when circumstances changed. Pakistan’s military rulers failed to keep their own end of the bargain in most cases and failed to tell the Pakistani people the truth about why the quid pro quo came to an end, leading ordinary Pakistanis to hate the United States notwithstanding the significant amounts of economic and military aid previously disbursed.
During the Eisenhower administration, Pakistan was referred to as “the most allied ally of America in Asia.” But then, during much of the 1990s, Pakistan ended up as “America’s most sanctioned ally” when Congress imposed sanctions over a range of issues ranging from acquisition of nuclear weapons to human rights violations and lack of democracy. It should be the objective of U.S. policy to ensure that a similar cycle of massive aid followed by excessive criticism and sanctions is not followed.
U.S. policy makers believe that aid to Pakistan acquires leverage for the U.S. with Pakistan’s most important institution, the military. American lawmakers must exercise oversight over the executive branch of government to ensure that the leverage is used to the mutual benefit of the two countries and U.S. good will is not squandered through overt threats or unproductive application of sanctions. Pakistanis are a proud people. Instead of hurting their pride by creating the impression that the U.S. looks upon them as supplicants who can be coerced at will, diplomatic tools should be used to influence the behavior of Pakistan’s rulers.
Since 9/11, the focus of U.S. policy towards Pakistan has been a replay of previous periods of engagement. Once again, large amounts of U.S. economic and military assistance, and covert aid, are flowing into Pakistan because the country’s military ruler, General Pervez Musharraf, gave up support for the Taliban regime in Afghanistan and chose to become an American ally. The policy has had some benefits. Pakistani support was crucial in the U.S. effort to oust the Taliban from Kabul and most senior Al-Qaeda figures now in U.S. custody were also arrested and handed over by Pakistan’s security services. But Pakistan plays a contradictory role in the struggle against global Islamist terrorism –it is considered both part of the solution and part of the problem.
Pakistan’s problem with Islamist militancy is, in part, blowback from years of support for armed militias as a means of extending Pakistani influence in Afghanistan and the disputed territory of Jammu and Kashmir. In case of Afghanistan, the United States supported and encouraged ‘Mujahideen’ or Holy Warriors fighting Soviet occupation during the 1980s. While the U.S. disengaged from the region in the aftermath of the Soviet withdrawal in 1989, the ideologically motivated Jihadists persisted with their activities. Tolerance, and in some cases active support, by the Pakistani state enabled the Jihadists to create deep-rooted local networks that are now proving difficult to uproot.
As we speak, Pakistan’s military and para-military forces are engaged in fierce battles with Taliban and Al-Qaeda supporters in parts of the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) bordering Afghanistan. Pakistani forces have suffered heavy casualties during these military operations, which are cited as evidence by Pakistani officials of Pakistan’s commitment to uprooting the terrorists from what U.S. intelligence estimates have described as their safe haven. Pakistani public opinion is deeply divided about the use of massive force against Pakistani tribesmen sympathetic to the Taliban and Al-Qaeda. Critics argue that the United States could leave the region once again but Pakistan would be stuck with a restive and hostile tribal population for years to come. It is important that the United States government assure the Pakistani people of a long-term commitment to Pakistan’s security and integrity, to ensure that fears about future American disengagement do not weaken Pakistan’s resolve to eliminate the terrorist networks.
Until recently, most discussion in Washington focused on General Musharraf rather than the Pakistani nation as the lynchpin of American policy in the region. Actual and budgeted amounts of U.S. aid for Pakistan during the period 2001-2008 total $ 9.8 billion, most of them going to Pakistan’s military. Reimbursements for Pakistan’s costs in Operation Enduring Freedom and the Global War on Terror, as well as covert transfers of funds to Pakistan’s army and intelligence services remain a subject of speculation and criticism by Pakistan’s civilian leaders who see U.S. policy as bolstering military domination in a nation with clear democratic aspiration.
Since March 2007, when General Musharraf’s decision to remove Pakistan’s Chief Justice resulted in massive protests by opposition political parties and civil society organizations, U.S. policy has been somewhat modified. The U.S. government now appears to be encouraging Musharraf in compromising with the country’s civilian democratic leaders, notably the pro-US exiled former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto. A tentative agreement between Musharraf and Bhutto, who heads Pakistan largest political party the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), could pave the way for relatively less controversial parliamentary elections by the end of the year or in January 2008.
If Musharraf fulfils his promise of stepping down as head of Pakistan’s army, Pakistan could move along the road to a gradual transition to civilian democratic government. This could be strengthen Pakistan’s capacity in dealing with the terrorist threat by reducing the sharp divisions within Pakistani society that have so far undermined a concerted anti-terror effort. Given Musharraf’s past record, however, it cannot be said with certainty that a smooth transition will indeed take place.
It is important that the United States end the personalization of relations and move away from looking upon Musharraf as Pakistan’s savior for the U.S. Relations between the world’s sole superpower and a nuclear-armed nation of 150-million people should depend upon acknowledging Pakistan’s diversity and the U.S. should expand its interaction with other leaders and major political actors in Pakistan. It is true that Pakistan’s army is its single most powerful and significant institution. But the objective of U.S. policy must not be to reinforce the prejudices of Pakistan’s generals against Pakistan’s civilians.
The U.S. must use every opportunity of diplomatic and military-to-military interaction to advise Pakistan’s military leadership that the Pakistani model of military domination neither makes Pakistan secure nor does it fulfil even the short-term purpose of securing Pakistan’s cooperation in the global war against terrorism.
Pakistan continues to be a major center for Islamist militancy, the legacy of the country’s projection of itself as an Islamic ideological state and a bastion of religion- based opposition to communism during the cold war. Radical Islamists who came from all over the world to fight against the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan went on to become allies of Pakistan’s military intelligence apparatus, which used them to fight Indian control over the disputed Himalayan territory of Kashmir as well as to expand Pakistan’s influence in Afghanistan. Musharraf’s efforts, under U.S. pressure, to contain the Islamist radicals have consistently fallen short, leading to a resurgence of the Taliban in Afghanistan and a revitalization of Al-Qaeda in the rugged region constituting the Pakistan-Afghan border.
For six years, the U.S. accepted on face value Musharraf’s assertion says that he is a leader dedicated to changing Pakistan’s course from being an Islamic ideological state to a moderate Muslim country. But the imbalance between Pakistan’s perceived external importance and proven internal weakness has raised fundamental questions about the dysfunction of the Pakistani state. Careful examination indicates that Musharraf’s eclectic policies have been aimed less at changing Pakistan’s direction and were more part of an effort to salvage a critical policy paradigm adopted by Pakistan’s military-led oligarchy since the country’s early days.
Musharraf recently named a new Vice Chief of Army Staff who is likely to succeed him as commander of the army when Musharraf retires from service and transforms himself into a civilian president. The new VCOAS, General Pervez Ashfaq Kiyani, is known for his commitment to reorienting civil-military relations and reverting Pakistan’s military to its professional functions. The United States should ensure that Musharraf keeps his promise of stepping down as army chief and it should be a clearly stated U.S. objective that Pakistan’s government in future should work on the democratic principle of civilian control over security policy rather than Pakistan’s historic pattern of the military insinuating itself into all aspects of civilian life.
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