Watandost in Urdu, Turkish and Farsi means "friend of the nation or country". The blog contains news and views about Pakistan and broader South West Asia that are insightful but are often not part of the headlines. It also covers major debates in Muslim societies across the world.
US - Pakistan Relations Nosediving?
Excerpts America and the Two Pakistans By Stephen P. Cohen and Moeed Yusuf, New York Times, June 20, 2012
In the past few years, multiple power centers have begun to emerge slowly in Pakistan, as evidenced again this week with the historically pliant Supreme Court dismissing the Pakistani prime minister, Yousuf Reza Gilani, from office. For much of the country’s history, however, Pakistan’s military and security apparatus has wielded unchallenged domestic clout. Consequently, throughout the six decade-long U.S.-Pakistan relationship, Pakistan’s army has been the principal interlocutor with America, both because of its domestic heft and because military rulers were at the helm in periods when the United States needed Pakistan most.
Today, Pakistan’s army is seen in the United States — especially in Congress — as an adversary, above all because it resists targeting Afghan militants who take refuge on Pakistani soil. The resentment is so deep that even American conservatives, historically pro-Pakistan, call for a strategy that punishes the country.
There are those who would advocate “containment,” a central element of which is boxing in the military by treating presumably more liberal civilians as pre-eminent partners, or even labeling specific members of the military and its spy agency, the ISI, as “terrorists.”
The premise for these views is correct: that the Pakistani military and intelligence apparatus undermines American interests in Afghanistan and keep civilians from changing Pakistan’s assertive role in Afghanistan — now exercised via the Afghan insurgents fighting U.S. and NATO forces.
Unfortunately, the proposed remedy is as misplaced as was past support for Pakistan’s military dictators, which came at the cost of the country’s democratic evolution. Those who would force changes by playing a divide-and-rule game grossly exaggerate America’s capacity to influence Pakistani politics.
American attempts to actively exploit Pakistan’s civil-military disconnect are likely to end up strengthening right-wing rhetoric in Pakistan, create even more space for security-centric policies, and further alienate the Pakistani people from the United States.
Washington should view engagement with Islamabad as a long-term project. Pakistan’s nuclear weapons will be around long after Afghanistan is forgotten. As much as possible, America should work directly with the civilian leadership on all issues, including security, and lower the profile of military-to-military meetings. Washington should also make clear that the United States will not tolerate any extra-constitutional measures by the military that short-circuit the democratic process. Moreover, Washington needs to quietly encourage the spectacular progress in India-Pakistan normalization. India is what drives Pakistan; America should take advantage of its relationship with New Delhi to allow Pakistan greater space for accelerating its internal political reforms.
We must patiently try to turn Pakistan from an ally that is no friend into a state that seeks normal relations with America and its neighbors. Short cuts are unlikely to work.
Stephen P. Cohen is a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution. Moeed Yusuf is South Asia adviser at the U.S. Institute of Peace.
Inside Story about Musharraf-Mahmood Tussle Hassan Abbas: September 24, 2006
General Pervez Musharraf’s memoir In the Line of Fire is expected to generate a lot of debate and discussion in the days to come. Except some western journalists and Musharraf’s close friends (three ghost writers) hardly anyone has had a chance yet to read the book from cover to cover. The excerpts of the book leaked through Indian media and General Musharraf’s statements to some American media outlets however have already created some controversies. In the United States, controversy is considered a positive thing, so the book is bound to become a bestseller here, but in Pakistan probably the opposite is true.
This article is not a review of the book (as I haven’t got hold of a copy yet), but it endeavors to throw some light on the widely reported Musharraf comment about the Armitage threat conveyed through Lieutenant General Mahmood Ahmed, the then Director General of the ISI. I had done research on this speci…
Confronting Extremism Through Building an Effective Counter-Narrative This article was originally published in the Development Advocate Pakistan on April 25, 2016.
While Pakistan is using kinetic means to push back terrorist organizations such as Al-Qaeda and Tehrik-i-Taliban in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), it is still struggling to find an antidote to religious extremism and bigotry that provides space for extremist thinking and consequent violence across the country. The ideas of pluralism, religious harmony and openness to diverse political views have slowly given way to narrow mindedness, sectarianism and intolerance. The democratic experience is equipping Pakistan to revive its balance in the socio-political domain, but it is a fact that the social space in the country today is highly contested between extremist and progressive elements of society.
The blame for these trends within the media and policy circles of Pakistan is often directed towards regional confli…
The News, June 24, 2006 Saudi ban on umra visa Rahimullah Yusufzai
As expected, the government of Saudi Arabia has refused to lift the ban on Pakistanis below the age of 40 years from performing umra. It was futile on the part of federal religious affairs minister Mohammad Ejazul Haq to visit Riyadh to try and make the Saudis change their mind on the issue. The Saudis formulate their policies after much thinking and in line with their national interest and decisions once taken are rarely changed.
Back home, Ejazul Haq sounded defensive when he told reporters that the ban would stay because the Saudi government had complained that over 100,000 Pakistanis had overstayed in Saudi Arabia after reaching there on the pretext of performing umra. Before leaving for Saudi Arabia, he had expressed concern over the Pakistan-specific umra restriction and had promised to take up the matter with the Saudi authorities. One could understand that he was on a weak wicket and could only request the Saudis…