Sunday, January 13, 2008

U.S. Policy Options for Helping Pakistan

Assuming a desire to help Pakistan overcome the challenges facing it, a number of U.S. policy options exist to lay more solid foundations for democracy and stability. Judging from the model of political behavior I have been applying in recent posts on Pakistan, to be effective such policies should work toward three goals:

  • conflict resolution through compromise rather than force;

  • decision-making based on analysis rather than ideology;

  • and creation of a more benign political context.

The range of policy options by the West to support Pakistani democracy is enormous, though nothing done for obvious short-term Western advantage is likely to have any value. As with any relationship, consistency, sincerity, compassion, and clarity will have more long-term impact than agonizing over the precise policy mix. But given those attributes of a policy package as preconditions, a few of the possible specific options follow.

1) Advocating Pakistani-Indian compromise over Kashmir. Rather than rewarding India, which developed nuclear weapons, by giving it even more nuclear technology, advise New Delhi to take the interests of Kashmiris more seriously into consideration and simultaneously advise the Pakistani military that they must terminate military adventures, whether directly with troops or indirectly by supporting terrorists, in Kashmir. The point here is to be able to make the argument that progress toward a settlement of the Kashmir dispute is possible without violence; clearly, for such an argument to be believable, New Delhi must cooperate. To the degree that the Pakistani military may pursue violence in Kashmir in order to justify its control over Pakistan, this argument will be dismissed with scorn; to the degree that Pakistani militancy in Kashmir is motivated by genuine concern for the welfare of Kashmiris, it could be effective.

2) Advocating restoration of an independent judiciary. Make all economic and military aid given to the Pakistani central government, as opposed to economic aid sent directly to Pakistani civil society, dependent on the immediate release of the legal Pakistani judiciary and lawyers attacked and imprisoned last fall and thereafter. If there is to be any serious concept of legitimate democratic behavior, then a government that makes war on its own judiciary must be judged to have crossed the line.

3) Advocating removal of constraints on the media. Musharraf’s exploitation of the emergency declaration of martial law to muzzle the relatively free Pakistani media crossed another clear red line distinguishing legitimate from illegitimate government behavior.

4) Advocating civilian control of the nuclear establishment. Support not only the return of Pakistan to democracy but control over the Pakistani nuclear establishment by the civilian government, making clear that Pakistan and in particular the military will benefit from such a policy and pay a severe price both for continuing to control the nuclear establishment and for continuing its proliferation policy.

5) Supporting a free election. A credibly neutral caretaker government to oversee the election seems the essential minimum first step to minimize political instability.

In brief, Washington should stop looking the other way at rogue Pakistani military operations done behind the backs of the civilian administration; should support civilian control of government, in particular of military operations and the nuclear program; and should adopt a serious, long-term policy of supporting democracy as a principle, not just when a particular politician is willing to do what Washington wants.

These policies bring no guarantee of acceptance much less successful implementation, but they would set visible standards and perhaps reverse the erosion of respect for the U.S. and support for the democratic process. Thus, they may open more fruitful doors to resolving Pakistani instability than yet another round of military force.

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