The passage of the 9/11 bill by U.S. Congress on 28 July, is a clear sign of the Democratic Party’s legislative dominance. This bill was passed by a majority of 371 – 40 and 85 – 8 in the House of Representative and Senate respectively. It is my conjecture that this legislation will cause difficulties in Pakistan U.S relations and will lead to further Talibanization. The ground for these fears is explained in the following essay. The pattern of this legislation follows closely the unfolding of U.S relationship with Pakistan before the imposition of sanctions in 1990, under the famous Pressler amendment.
Democratic Presidential hopefuls have lost touch with reality; Obama said that under his Presidency an attack on Pakistan would remain a possibility, if it did not prevail on the Talibans. Another candidate has threatened, that if terrorists attacked the U.S, he would be willing to bomb Mecca and Medina with nuclear weapons! He may have triggered another set of agitation in the Muslim world and convinced the doubters that the War on Terror is really a modern day Crusader War. It is a highly immature statement. (1) Such statements show an insensitivity about Muslim feelings, which is is one of the root cause of the present unrest in Islamic countries and unpopulararity of U.S foreign policy.
During the past five years, President Bush and the American people were friendly and generous towards Pakistan. It received $10 billion since 2002, mostly as fees for assistance to U.S military with its Afghan operations. Only ten percent of this amount or about $800 million is for civilian programs. It can be said, that the U.S financial assistance to Pakistan is mostly for military than civilian use; does it also mean that the U.S Pakistan relationship is a military one only?
It is feared that the kind of conditionalities incorporated in the new bill, makes the 9/11 legislation potentially more controversial than the Pressler amendment imposed on Pakistan in October 1990. One of the main consequences of the Pressler amendment in NWFP was its negative impact on primary education; a huge amount committed to this programme, which included girl education, was suddenly withdrawn. Madressahs occupied this vacant space, which molded the minds of a very large number of children into a narrow worldview and who on maturity are the stalwarts of radicalism. The insensitive statements by U.S politicians are endangering the lives of U.S nationals throughout the world.
The principle feature of the new legislation, which will cause problems for Pakistan in the days to come, concern areas that are tied to the war against extremism and the holding of democratic elections in Pakistan; both worthwhile objectives.
According to the bill, starting on 1 October 2007, Pakistan will receive assistance, if the U.S. President certified that Pakistan is making demonstrated, significant and sustained progress toward eliminating support or safe haven for terrorists, and is moving towards democracy through free and fair elections. (2)
Prior to the passage of the bill, the U.S Department of Homeland Security issued a critical National Intelligence Estimate (NIE), as far as Pakistan is concerned. The NIE’s criticism was mirrored by major U.S think tanks. Thus, the Congress was flooded with strong criticism of Pakistan regarding its role in the war against extremism. The NIE has projected, without any proof, that Al-Qaeda and Afghan Taliban have camps in Pakistan. Pakistan has thus been accused of providing support to them.
This is unconscionable and unfair. Seasoned U.S media reporters have commented that such weapons of mass destruction, statements can be made only by inexperienced personnel. Most of the analysts formulating the NIE have on average, less than three years of service.
This should worry President Musharraf and the military. Despite capacity weaknesses, Pakistan has done its best in providing support to the U.S. More than 1000 security personnel have perished and many more injured in the fight against extremists and their organizations. Many civilians too lost their lives. President Musharraf has already protested to the U.S ambassador about the expected negative results of this legislation. (3)
In comparison, witness the U.S own performance in Iraq. Despite its might, terrorist camps continue to exist there. However, this is not to claim that Pakistan is blameless. For instance a terrorist organization Jamaatul Dawa, which is associated with the Lashkar-e-Toiba, was permitted to participate in the rehabilitation activities connected with the 2005 earthquake in Balakot and Muzaffarabad. In this case the government supported a banned outfit and permitted it to gain political good-will, when relief goods were distributed through it. (4)
The 9/11 bill also criticised Pakistan’s anti-terror policy, when it observed that Pakistan must show a greater commitment to eliminate from its territory, any organization such as Taliban, Al-Qaeda or any successor engaged in military, insurgent or terrorist activities in Afghanistan. The reference is definitely to Quetta and Waziristan, where these organizations have a presence and indulge in cross border activities.
Implementing a 0,anti-terrorist tolerance is impossible in this part of the world, with its poor communications and rugged terrain, such an outcome should also not be demanded. Monitoring tribal area, the size of Belgium, is beyond Pakistan’s capacity. Radicals will continue to join Jihad against foreign forces come what may, as long as U.S forces remain in Afghanistan. There is also a historical linkage with that country.
Tribesmen have throughout history gone to support Afghans. It happened during 1895 97, 1919 and 1928. It is certain that Pakistan will now be using more force and coercion to stop these occurrences, but it will not be enough to prevent them totally. On the other hand, use of force increases the level of insurgency. One should be prepared to expect high collateral damage of innocent civilians. There will also be negative results on the country’s economy and the growth rate will slip because of the flight of capital. Pakistan should seek compensation on this account.
The lessons learnt from the U.S – Pakistan cooperation in the field of narcotic policy during the 1980s are relevant for predicting what the impact of the 9/11 conditinalities are likely to be. The U.S at that time pursued a robust anti-narcotic policy internationally. Although, Pakistan produced plenty of raw opium, yet the people within the country did not use it. It was trafficked abroad. Narcotic abuse was unknown.
The U.S. pressurized Gen. Zia-ul-Haq to eliminate opium production. As border controls became stringent, a local market for heroin was created by the dealers within NWFP and Pakistan. That is when Pakistan was drowned in a heroin pandemic and the problem of the rich industrialized world was transferred to it.
Similarly, the purpose of U.S security policy is to shift the focus of hostile or criminal activity away from the U.S mainland to the periphery, where the problem originated. In this way, the problem may not be resolved but does buy space for the U.S and makes it safer and securer than before. (5)
As in the case of poppy, it is predicted that as Pakistani operations against the radicals become more deadly, the number of suicide bombings against Pakistani military and government targets will rise exponentially within NWFP and tribal areas.
Suicide bombings and radical violence will cause general dislocation in NWFP. It is easy to foresee how this reaction generated by greater supression resulting from the conditionalities contained in the 9/11 bill will increase radicalization rather than reduce it. The impact of such a policy in NWFP will increasingly mirror, what is happening in Afghanistan today; business and the little economic activity that exists in Peshawar and other major towns of NWFP will suffer badly.
The new U.S legislation also desires that Pakistan must undertake bigger military, legal, economic and political reforms, to achieve that goal. This is at best a generalization. What is meant by this and how will it be done? Does it mean that the U.S will pay for the extensive reforms and development outlays needed to implement an expensive national transformation policy?
Furthermore, there is a sequencing issue here. How are large sums of money to be provided? For instance in order to improve the economic conditions or undertake military measures will need funds; but the enactment says that funds will only be available, once the U.S. President certifies that Pakistan has made efforts in those specified fields. Efforts will follow capacity building – where will the funds come from. It is thus likely that this chicken and egg situation will contribute to confusion and lead to bad blood between the allies.
Secondly, the omnibus conditionalities contained in the 9/11 legislation require that before the U.S releases money to Pakistan, it must accomplish democratic reform including free, fair and inclusive elections at all levels of government in accordance with internationally recognized democratic norms. (6) This is very commendable but what will happen if the U.S has to choose between the two? Which objective will it give up?
Thirdly, the enactment requires that Pakistan dismantle Lashkar-e-Toiba and Jaish-e-Muhammadi organizations. These are difficult and a diverse set of conditionalities placed on Pakistan. Everyone wants democracy and the rule of law, but will these ideals be selected above measures against extremism?
Let us now examine the issue of lack of clarity in the new law. It makes no distinction between assistance and payment of fees. It is presumed, that the legislation will not cover the re-imbursement of costs of security operations. As indicated before, out of $10 billion provided to Pakistan in the past five years, only $800 million were for development and budgetary support.
Pakistan must also be very gaurded and careful about the increase in budgetary expenditures on new recruitments in the military, para military and police forces. Most of this expansion is the result of increase in coercive measures by the state rather than police handling. Presently, the increase in budget is met by U.S assistance. Who will pick the budgetary tab after the U.S ends its program? This has happened in the past and should not be allowed to be repeated.
Most of the U.S funds are not for development assistance but payment to Pakistan for security services rendered. This amount of about $ 9.2 billion will not come under the purview of the new law. If this presumption is correct, then the negative impact of the legislation will be much more than its positive effects. The question that arises for Pakistani policy makers is that although it is in the nation’s interest to defeat radicalism, but should it undertake this gigantic task for the sake of about $ 180 miilion a year. The recommendation is that Pakistan should not undertake new reform strategies without a firm commitment of funds and a gauranteed funding mechanism.
The impact of past conditionalities on Pakistan has been negative and generated those same hostile forces, which we are now trying to neutralize. Congressional conditionalities have caused some excellent social sector interventions in the past to collapse and led to the rise of Madressahs and consequential radicalization as pointed out below.
Let us see how the Presser amendment encouraged Talibanization. By 1985, Pakistan’s overall financial position had weakened considerably, which forced her to take loans from the IMF. The country’s poor financial condition led her to reduce public sector investments in education, health and clean drinking water sector.
In the 1988, U.S Aid funds were provided to fund these priority sectors. In NWFP, US Aid committed to contribute about Rs. 3 billion for improvement of primary school education for both boys and girls. After an extensive design phase, the plan was made operational. However, the program stopped in Dec 1992, because of the Pressler amendment, without achieving its goals.
Due to Pakistan’s poor financial position it could not replace the lost US funds. The government of NWFP therefore reduced the primary education budget substantially. A very large number of children from poor households thus deprived from state education perforce opted for the Madressah.
It is ironic to note, that the Pressler amendment contributed to the rise of the Madressahs and indirectly the Jihadist, who are now the cause of so much concern. It is feared that many other unintended consequences are likely to arise with the implementation of the new 9/11 conditionalities in a similar way as happened in the U.S assisted Primary Education Program in NWFP.
It is therefore important that the U.S must review jointly and in detail with Pakistan both the implementation and impact of the new legislation. It is therefore essential to reduce its negative impact, which will generate consequences detrimental to the long-term interests of both countries.
In case such discussions are held, it is proposed that both countries should jointly devise agreed performance based indicators to avoid future acrimony. The goals and indicators must be agreed between the two nations. They must be verifiable and include interim milestones for monitoring progress.
This is suggested because unlike previous conditionalities, which were specific and related either to nuclear or missile technology, these conditionalities are much more varied. Every Pakistani military or police action will have a cost. Whether such actions fit an indicator and are therefore re-imbursable can only be determined if there is an agreed action and work plan.
Secondly, Pakistan must also price every type of secret or strategic assistance that it provides. Without going into issues of morality, one would like to know what price was charged for the strategic use of Baluchistan territory for launching of secret operations. There are reports that U.S Vice President, Dick Cheney requested Pakistan’s help in organizing covert operations during his visit in February 2007. (7)
On a strategic level, congressional conditionalities in matter of war and foreign policy could cause the U.S serious embarrassment. For example, US law provides that whenever a Presidential order is issued, Congressional oversight becomes operative. In order to avoid embarrassing disclosures circuitous routes are used for implementing foreign policy objectives. Neither the U.S President nor the Government of Pakistan will ever own them. How will expenses be met for these activities?
As this analysis shows, the increase in state violence resulting from the implementation of 9/11 legislation will result in escalation of Jihadist activities within Pakistan. The tribal areas and NWFP will be the major sufferers in this onslaught. Policy makers should re-visit the design of the war on extremism to find ways and means to limit its impact.
The 9/11 legislation also demands strategic reforms in Pakistan. That is a big mandate. One visible area of reform is the merger of tribal areas into Pakistani main-stream. How will it be done? This report has indicated the need to develop verifiable and agreed goals and indicators to avoid later acrimony.
While the U.S authorities examine how to tackle the demands of covert war in an open society, we in Pakistan must stay awake and away from being sucked into larger regional issues. Finally, we must ensure that our core economic and strategic policy interests are protected.
The 9/11 legislation may also be the first indicator of a shift of U.S policy in the region as presaged by the Pressler amendment; it entered the statute book in 1985 but was imposed on Pakistan after the withdrawal of the Soviet Union from Afghanistan in 1988-89. Is history repeating itself?
- Report. Attack on Makkah, Madina an option: US congressman, News, 3rd Aug, 2007, p. 1
- Giocomo. U.S Congress ties Pakistan aid to terrorism, The Star Online, at http://thestar.com, world updates, 7/28/2007
- Report. Bill can destabilise ties, Musharraf warns US, News, 1st Sept 2007, p.1
- Naqash, Tariq. An unwelcome matt, Herald, July 2007, pp. 90-91
- Friedman, George. Geopolitics and the U.S. Spoiling Attack, Stratfor, March 20, 2007
- ibid (2)
- Report. Iran: Baluchi Insurgents and the Iraq Tango, Stratfor, 4 April, 2007