Yet another bill voted by a US Congress panel awakens the unpleasant memories of the Kerry-Lugar Bill and the ‘conditionalities’ attached to it. The Pakistan military was wrong in rejecting Kerry-Lugar, and the coming bill might make Pakistan err again. The Congress has prevented from passage an opposition bill demanding that all aid to Pakistan be cut off, but not without accepting that Pakistan must show some concrete performance as a ‘return’ on this American investment.
The vote took place in the House Foreign Affairs Committee which continues to mull the possibility of attaching more specific conditions to aid, in addition to the ones already attached to the Kerry-Lugar Act. The conditions encompass the following actions: 1) Pakistan must work with the US in investigating the existence of an official or unofficial support network in Pakistan for Osama bin Laden; 2) Pakistan must provide the US with access to bin Laden’s relatives, his Abbottabad residence and material collected from within the compound; 3) Pakistan should facilitate visas for official US visitors engaged in counterterrorism efforts and training or other cooperative programmes and projects in Pakistan; and 4) Pakistan should use defence articles and defence services provided by the United States under the Foreign Military Sales programme according to the end-use purposes, security requirements and other terms and conditions agreed to by the United States, at the time of transfer or by subsequent agreement.
There are other minor matters relating to the publicising of US assistance in the field in Pakistan which will be resolved after the issues arising from ‘branding’ of US projects are resolved. This matter is delicate and is comparable to American diplomats not carrying diplomatic number plates on their vehicles for fear of being targeted by terrorists — a point unfortunately missed by our electronic media reporting false number plates even when the real ones are displayed on the dashboards.
First of all, let us understand that the US Congress is different from the US government and that its conditionalities are a burden the Obama administration may have to bear in dealing with a legislature where the Democrats are in a minority. The conditions apply to the US government but invariably fall foul of the receiving state; only Pakistan has reacted a bit differently. When the US Congress passed the Hyde Act under former US president George W Bush to allow the government to make an agreement with India relating to nuclear exchange, the conditions attached to it, mainly concerning Iran, were ignored by the Indian Army, and Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh was able to cleverly prevent the Lok Sabha from voting on the ‘nuclear deal’.
Pakistan, suffering from gradual dysfunction in all its social sectors, must be more pragmatic in its approach. The ‘acts of anger’ on the part of Pakistani institutions feed into the already intense anti-Americanism whipped up by sections of Pakistan’s ‘honour-based’ media. This means that if the people reject American aid, Pakistan will have to face the consequences of being without crucial foreign assistance. Unfortunately, emotion rather than objective reflection has taken over in Pakistan. Anti-Americanism has inclined us to ignore where the danger lies and from what direction Pakistan might suffer a defeat in the coming days. We have forgotten that the death of bin Laden — and before him that of Baitullah Mehsud — has been the biggest boon for a besieged Pakistan; and that the death of alZawahiri, if it happens, could deliver a potentially fatal blow to the organisational aspects of terrorism in Pakistan. The Pakistani mind, however, has been made to dwell on the covert American attack in Abbottabad, which has forced the army to reject American assistance and unrealistically oust American trainers from the country.
If there is humiliation and defeat for Pakistan, it is in being internationally isolated. We must realise that, given the scale of the danger we face, we need assistance. Externalising an intra-state conflict with accusations of ‘interference’ is counterproductive.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 23rd, 2011.
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