Tuesday, April 28, 2009


"I think that the Pakistani government is basically abdicating to the Taliban and to the extremists....

Pakistan poses a mortal threat to the security and safety of our country and the world....

And I want to take this occasion ... to state unequivocally that not only do the Pakistani government officials, but the Pakistani people and the Pakistani diaspora ... need to speak out forcefully against a policy that is ceding more and more territory to the insurgents....

The government of Pakistan ... must begin to deliver government services, otherwise they are going to lose out to those who show up and claim that they can solve people’s problems and then they will impose this harsh form of oppression on women and others....

[We] cannot underscore the seriousness of the existential threat posed to the state of Pakistan by the continuing advances now within hours of Islamabad that are being made by a loosely confederated group of terrorists and others who are seeking the overthrow of the Pakistani state. I don’t hear that kind of outrage or concern coming from enough people that would reverberate back within the highest echelons of the civilian and military leadership of Pakistan".

American Secretary of State, Hillary Rodham Clinton, 22 April 2009, in www.state.gov

The comments by the American Secretary of State, in one of those idiotic exercises endemic to the American form of government known as a 'Congressional Hearing', received wide attention last week. Indeed, so much so, that the head of Pakistan's army, General Ashfaq Pervez Kiyani, over the week-end, hit back at what he referred to as: "pronouncements by outside powers raising doubts on the future of the country",remarks which were widely seen as being directed exclusively at the American Secretary of State (see: "Pakistan's army chief hits back at US criticism", in www.ft.com). No doubt Clinton's criticism raised a stir in both Pakistan and elsewhere simply by virtue of the fact, that from the very beginning, the new American Administration, has been harping on its new strategy for dealing with the country in conjunction with the different but related problems of Afghanistan. The administration's new approach being more fixated upon using economic assistance in order to help stabilize the country from the 'ground-up', as it were. Assistance which we are told, will be held up to 'benchmarks', on Pakistani 'performance', upon which failing, said assistance will be held up or even cancelled. The rationale being that unlike the policy of the prior American Administration, there will be no 'blank cheques', by the Administration of the ex-junior Senator from Illinois with the absurd name. The problem with this is of course, is that it assumes that the rather small amount of American economic and military assistance can 'change things on the ground', in a nation of almost two hundred million people. As the ever erudite and knowledgeable Anatol Lieven commented recently:

"If the Obama administration wants to have any hopes of transforming such public attitudes in Pakistan then it will need to fund Pakistan to a vastly greater degree than is envisaged in its new strategy, in ways that will visibly transform the lives of many ordinary Pakistanis. This requires above all massive investment in infrastructure – especially relating to water – in ways that will also generate many jobs. At $1.5bn (€1.1bn, £1bn) a year, the new US aid that is promised sounds like a lot – until you remember that Pakistan now has about 170m people. Eight dollars per head is not going to transform anything much in the country. More-over, the US statement emphasises that the aid will be made conditional on Pakistan’s help to the US against the Taliban. This is a recipe for constant hold-ups, congressional blockages and the wrecking of any consistent, long-term programmes".

Anatol Lieven, "For America the problem is Pakistan", in www.ft.com

Headline catching statements about the current (admittedly both corrupt & incompetent) regime in Pakistan, giving in to the 'extremists', do nothing but, burnish the new American Secretary of State's reputation for 'toughness'. It does not assist one iota with changing the situation on the ground in this increasingly unstable country. A country which as every school child knows, possesses nuclear weapons. The recent advances by the Taliban and their local allies in the Northwest frontier province, are part and parcel of trends dating back to the Zia regime of the 1980's. Which in turn will given an added fillup during Musharraf years in power. Trends which by definition will not by any means be changed overnight. And, while this fact in turn may sound annoying or even defeatist to American ears, the fact of the matter is that there is no alternative, to promoting an organic, hence slow-moving stabilization and change in this country. A policy which will require many years of economic and military assistance, as well as a great deal of patience and indeed patient diplomacy. Something which one is tempted to say, the new American administration, is as lacking as their much maligned predecessor. As Anatol Lieven again comments:

"Unfortunately, it seems as if the new administration has not recognised two critical facts about Pakistan. The first is that the stabilisation and development of this country is not merely an aspect of the war in Afghanistan, but a vital US interest in itself. Indeed, Pakistan in the long term is far more important than Afghanistan. The second is that changing Pakistani opinions will mean changing Pakistani society, and that is a project that will require massive, sustained and consistent aid over a generation".

The less said by Mme. Secretary Clinton on Pakistan (and one is tempted to say elsewhere) the better for all.


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