What should the international community do to assist Pakistan?
That’s a mouthful. Really, it is, considering there are a number of significant problems that Pakistan is simultaneously dealing with.
My main premise for even writing on why the international community should assist Pakistan is a rebuttal to a recent article on the AFPak Channel. As an undergraduate Political Science student, it is better to leave such topics to the experts, but after reading said article, I had to interject.
The article discusses the problems that Pakistan’s largest city, Karachi, is facing and though I do agree that the Taliban are undoubtably present in Pakistan (mainly because the ISI allows them to be), they are not why Karachi is burning to the ground. What the author does in this piece is not only add to the American paranoia that Pakistan is slowly being taken over by Islamic extremists, but it also silently promotes the MQM’s xenophobic policies against refugee Pathans. The MQM is not fighting against the ‘Talibanization’ of Karachi and the Taliban are not the biggest problem in Karachi. If you read my last article, you would have noticed that it is the ‘lyari’ gangsters who have been taking part in targeted killings; targeted killings by organized crime lords are a huge problem in Karachi. These drug lords are connected to the political parties running in Karachi, albeit silently, such as the PPP and the MQM which makes it harder for the police to crackdown on them.
The author also states three justifications for international assistance in the country: NATO troops, Afghanistan’s economy and Pakistan’s economy. I disagree simply because the international community’s concern should go beyond the economy and the well being of NATO troops, primarily American troops in the region.
The international community first needs to understand the history of Pakistan’s relations to militia groups and the Taliban if it really wishes to assist the region. Trouble within the region does not start with 9/11 for Pakistan. It began in 1948 to tackle the Indian influence in Jammu and Kashmir. Since 1989, the Islamic Republic has been funding militia groups and terrorist organizations to destabilize Jammu and Kashmir and force India’s hand in pushing for a peace resolution. However, since the invasion of Afghanistan by the Soviet Union, the United States through Pakistan began to funnel money so that militia groups could fight against the Russians.
One such group was, of course, the Taliban and after the defeat of the Soviet Union and once the civil war broke out in Afghanistan, which the United States did not care for whatsoever, Pakistan could not afford to turn the other check. This was of course as a result of the fact that they shared a border with the country and hence decided to keep funding the Taliban to ensure a friendly neighbour to the west. Pakistan did not want to be surrounded by enemies and assisting the Taliban to power, in order to counter India’s influence in the East, was a pragmatic decision.
Hence, the international community must realize that if Pakistan is to become the strategic partner it wants to be, it is necessary that it first makes up its mind on the role that the Taliban and any other militia group will play in the Afghan government before it tries to assist Pakistan or ask it to apply pressure in Waziristan. The United States also needs to realize that the main factor for using militias by Pakistan’s military is the insecurity they feel vis-à-vis India. It believes that instead of facing head on with the country, it can use insurgents to fight small battles. Since the introduction of Nuclear weapons into the equation, Pakistan is more likely to use militias in its proxy war against India than ever before since a full fledge war can have irreversible consequences.
Aside from these two issues, Pakistan’s economy is also taking a batting. This is a domestic issue, however, in which the government must impose an income tax system so all citizens, regardless of social, political or economic status can assist in upholding the system. In the past, Pakistan survived on US funding but this will obviously not continue for long, especially since it must create a source of revenue for the redevelopment of the flooded areas. There are many areas in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa that are cut off from the rest of the world because the government has been unable to fund the building of bridges and roads. This is just one of many areas affected by the lack of funding by the federal government.
Getting back on topic, essentially what the international community can do for Pakistan is to decide whether the Haqqani group and the Taliban are to be integrated within the new government, or if they are to be considered enemies. If reports coming from NATO are true, and the Taliban (the Haqqani network, not the Quetta shura) are in discussions with the Afghan government, then Pakistan after all is in the right. This means that the ISI should be praised for keeping ties with the Haqqani network in Peshawer and Mullah Omar in Quetta. Pakistan, however, cannot increase the pressure in Waziristan since this is the territory from where the Haqqani network primarily operates from. This creates a paradox for Pakistan who, unlike NATO, are not at war with the group and will not apply pressure on them. Particularly since, after NATO’s withdrawal, Pakistan may have to put up with a Haqqani included government from whom they would have now severed ties. Pakistan does not want to lose its locus standing with Afghanistan, especially with the growing Indian power to the east. Regardless of the actors within the Afghan government, the United States must ensure that their relations with Pakistan are first and foremost, if they truly want Pakistan to be comfortable with divorcing from ‘Jihadist’.
The United States also seems to be keen on including regional neighbours to assist in the stabilization of Afghanistan. Both Iran and India may play some part, as well as China and Russia. Russia most recently has been in the news since it will assist NATO forces in the region. Karzai has also admitted that Iran has been financially aiding the government for many years, an issue with which the United States has no problem. This is most likely because it is another method to counter Taliban influence. However, Iranian influence in Afghanistan is again countering the Quetta and Peshawar shuras with whome the Afghanistan government is negotiating. This, again, confuses Pakistan as to which stance the United States wishes to take with the Taliban. India’s role in Afghanistan and within the region is Pakistan’s main priority and therefore the United States must realize that the Kashmir question is at the heart of Pakistan’s security concerns via India. If the United States can at least attempt to garner a solution, it will go a long way in the eyes of Pakistanis.
India, of course, will not allow that to happen; it has always regretted international involvement in the Kashmir question. As Christine Fair so eloquently explains, there lies a fundamental difference between India and Pakistan’s approach to the issue. She states:
India seeks to engage Pakistan to legitimize the territorial status quo by finding some means to formalize the LOC as the legal international border. Thus for India, the status quo is a basis for a solution to the ongoing dispute over the disposition of Kashmir.
Where as the absolute opposite works for Pakistan:
Pakistan seeks to engage India to find some means of altering, in various ways, the status quo and publicly rejects the possibility of transforming the LOC into the international border as a viable means of dispute resolution. For Pakistan the status quo is the problem, not the solution to the problem.
(India and Pakistan Engagement: Prospects for Breakthrough or Breakdown?- January 2005)
India wants the status quo to remain; they have no problem with the Kashmir issue being just that, an ‘issue’. As long as they are in control of Kashmir, they have no problems. It is Pakistan that wants borders to change and the status quo to absolve. Yet, because India is stronger, Pakistan’s military cannot go to war with them and India will never voluntarily give up Kashmir.
Consequently, what the United States needs to do, and this is not at all an easy job, is bring the Kashmir issue to the forefront. If they can come to some sort of conclusion concerning Kashmir, Pakistan will have no use for terrorist cells and hence create a more stable Subcontinent. Pakistan will be able to focus more on their economic welfare and the wellbeing of their citizens.
In my opinion, since Pakistan controls the Quetta shura headed by Mullah Omar, if Pakistan feels that negotiations are beneficial, it will allow him to negotiate with the Afghan government. However, the main problem, as mentioned, lies in Kashmir unless the United States puts a concentrated effort into creating a solution for the disputed territory, nothing will change. If this does not happen, Pakistan will not divorce itself from terrorists, especially Lashkar-e-Taiba.
The odds, so far, do not look promising. In a recent report brought out by CNAS, written by Richard Armitage and Richard Fontaine, called Natural Allies: A Blueprint for the Future of US-India Relations, there was no mention of Kashmir whatsoever; though that is where the main problem lies. Kashmir can no longer be an issue only concerning Pakistani-American relations, but must also push over to Indian-American relations.
Until this takes place, Pakistan will continue to rely on militia groups and push the international community away.