Pakistan long has tottered on the edge of being a failed state: created amidst a bloody partition from India, suffered under ineffective democratic rule and disastrous military rule, destabilized through military suppression of East Pakistan (now Bangladesh) by dominant West Pakistan, dismembered in a losing war with India, misgoverned by a corrupt and wastrel government, linked to the most extremist Afghan factions during the Soviet occupation, allied with the later Taliban regime, and now destabilized by the war in Afghanistan. Along the way the regime built nuclear weapons, turned a blind eye to A.Q. Khan's proliferation market, suppressed democracy, tolerated religious persecution, elected Asif Ali "Mr. Ten Percent" Zardari as president, and wasted billions of dollars in foreign (and especially American) aid.
Still the aid continues to flow. But even the Obama administration has some concerns about ensuring that history does not repeat itself. Reports the New York Times:
As the United States prepares to triple its aid package to Pakistan — to a proposed $1.5 billion over the next year — Obama administration officials are debating how much of the assistance should go directly to a government that has been widely accused of corruption, American and Pakistani officials say. A procession of Obama administration economic experts have visited Islamabad, the capital, in recent weeks to try to ensure both that the money will not be wasted by the government and that it will be more effective in winning the good will of a public increasingly hostile to the United States, according to officials involved with the project.
...The overhaul of American assistance, led by the State Department, comes amid increased urgency about an economic crisis that is intensifying social unrest in Pakistan, and about the willingness of the government there to sustain its fight against a raging insurgency in the northwest. It follows an assessment within the Obama administration that the amount of nonmilitary aid to the country in the past few years was inadequate and favored American contractors rather than Pakistani recipients, according to several of the American officials involved.
Rather than pouring more good money after bad, the U.S. should lift tariff barriers on Pakistani goods. What the Pakistani people need is not more misnamed "foreign aid" funneled through corrupt and inefficient bureaucracies, but jobs. Trade, not aid, will help create real, productive work, rather than political patronage positions.
American policymakers have a tendency to ignore the viewpoints of other nations. Such was the case when Gen. David Petraeus complained that Pakistan saw India rather than the Taliban as the more significant security threat. I made the simple but still important (in my view, anyway) point that Pakistan had reason to fear India, including the latter’s role in detaching East Pakistan from what had been a geographically divided state.
Yet there appears to be predilection by some pundits to read a lot into a short blog post. Matthew Yglesias apparently believes that to point to India’s role in the 1971 war is to gloss over Pakistan’s ignoble conduct in what became Bangladesh. Others may have seen “a happy Pakistan bouncing along” until victimized by a “rapacious” India, but my post said nothing of the sort. In fact, in contrast to Mr. Yglesias, I was alive during the war and remember stories about Pakistani atrocities.
Nevertheless, the point remains: there is a reason leading Pakistanis fears India more than the Taliban and other extremists. And lecturing them that they are misguided, that Pakistan’s artificial geographic and social configuration was doomed and that the Khan government’s brutality gave India good cause for intervening, is not likely to change the current threat assessment of those in power, especially in the military. So the point remains: Washington policymakers have to deal with rather than dismiss Islamabad’s fears.
Pakistan has nuclear weapons, an active jihadist movement, a weak civilian government, a history of backing the Taliban in Afghanistan, and a military focused on fighting another American ally, India. Pakistan probably is harder than Iraq to “fix.”
Unfortunately, the gulf between the U.S. and Pakistani governments is vast. Starting with the respective assessments of the greatest regional threat, Gen. David Petraeus has given Islamabad some unwanted advice. Reports AP News:
The United States is urging Pakistan’s military to focus more on the Taliban and extremists advancing inside their borders instead of the nation’s longtime enemy — India.
The top U.S. commander in the region told Congress Friday that extremists already inside Pakistan pose the greatest threat to that nation.
Gen. David Petraeus (pet-TRAY’-uhs) was asking a House Appropriations subcommittee for funding to help the Pakistani military root out and stop insurgents, saying he wants Pakistani leaders to realize they need to learn how to fight internal extremists.
Petraeus called India a “conventional threat” that should no longer be Pakistan’s top military focus.
Gen. Petraeus is obviously right, from America’s standpoint. But try explaining that to Pakistan, which has fought and lost three wars with India. Indeed, Pakistan was dismembered in one of those conflicts, leading to the creation of Bangladesh.
Enlisting Pakistan more fully in combating the Taliban and al Qaeda will require recognizing, not dismissing, Islamabad’s other security concerns. Squaring the circle won’t be easy. But doing so will require more creative diplomacy and less preemptive demands, more regional cooperation and less military escalation.