Abdul Qadir Hassan: A column against Hussain Haqqani
|Kerry-Lugar and our response|
Friday, October 16, 2009
Dr Masooda Bano
AThe stiff response of the Pakistani military leadership to the Kerry Lugar Bill has led to the Pakistani government and its US counterparts agreeing to mellow down some of the clauses. The joint explanatory statement issued by the US Congress shows a softening of the clause that stirred the heaviest resistance from the Pakistani military: i.e., asking for greater civilian control over the promotion of military officials and strategic planning within the military. This softening of the position can hardly be argued to be a means of establishing Pakistan's sovereignty. The fact of life is that the US has been playing a highly interventionist role in Pakistan especially since the Sept 11 attacks and will continue to do so. Ironically, when there is resistance to the US, it is not to protect the interests of the ordinary Pakistanis but of the Pakistani military. It shows the military is in no mood to become more accountable to civilian authorities.
Aimed to strengthen Pakistan's capability to resist militancy, the Bill, unlike in the case of the last eight years of US engagement with Pakistan, prioritises investment in long-term development of Pakistan. Rather than channelling aid towards the Pakistani military to meet immediate security targets, which are related to US interests, the Bill in principle priorities investment in socio-economic development of Pakistan to ensure long-term development. It argues for supporting the economic activity, and investment in education. It also emphasises reaching out and adequately compensating the people who have been displaced due to the military operations conducted by the Pakistani army to check the militants. It asks for closer scrutiny of the utilisation of the aid money. And since the Bill also states strengthening of democracy as an important objective of this new aid package, among other things it puts some requirements for better accountability of the military to the civilian leadership.
Coming from a country whose leadership has since 2001 only been concerned with using Pakistan to flight its war against the Al-Qaeda, the clauses in the Bill were actually a positive shift. It is easy for people to start talking about sovereignty of Pakistan but why does the sovereignty only matter when the external party is arguing for the military to be made more accountable to civilian-- i.e., elected leadership of the country? As the Bill also notes in the background section, Pakistan has since 2001 received two times more military aid than civilian aid. Out of $15,000,000,000 US assistance to Pakistan since 2001, more than $10,000,000,000 has been paid as security-related assistance and direct payments.
This huge flow of security related assistance has primarily been channelled through the military. The Pakistani public has no means to make either the US or the Pakistani military accountable for how that money was used. Gen Musharraf himself acknowledged in his controversial autobiography that the Pakistani military and the related agencies have been handsomely rewarded by the US government for handing over Pakistani suspects to the US. The military-led government of Gen Musharraf was actually receiving US dollars for handing over Pakistanis without giving them a trial in country. The scale of such cases was large enough to result in the missing people's campaign by the families of the victims. Yet, the Pakistani military top command did not seem to face any moral dilemma about the sovereignty of the country being affected by receipt of huge flow of unchecked military aid.
The question is that what is more objectionable: a foreign state directly channelling huge amount of funds to Pakistani military without involving civilian leadership or the foreign state trying to ensure that the Pakistani military actually becomes more responsive to the civilian command structure. The US engagement with Pakistan under the Bush administration has been led by the former approach. This was also the easiest route for the US: keep giving aid to Pakistani military to carry out the counter-militancy operations don't be that concerned about the long term development of the country.
The Kerry Lugar Bill on the other hand makes a conscious shift towards engaging with the civilian command structure and more importantly investing in the long-term development of Pakistan. True, Pakistan would be better off with less of US intervention. However, when the intervention has to be there, it is better that it is designed to help civilian rule rather than supporting military intervention in state governance. Kerry Lugar Bill tried to shift the balance but it is clear that the Pakistani military is not ready to adjust the power balance against the civilian leadership.
The writer is a research fellow at the Oxford University. Email: mb294@hotmail .com (The News)