Pakistan Beyond ‘AFPAK’
The Obama Administration before taking office was well aware that Pakistan would be the most compelling threat for the U.S, foreign policy in the coming days. President Obama’s AFPAK strategy was presented as an attempt to restructure America’s approach in dealing with the Al-qaeda- Taliban challenge. In terms of strategy and approach President Obama’s Pakistan policy appears sound, but it needs to be realized that the nature and degree of crisis confronting Pakistan is yet to be fully grasped. The greatest test for the Obama Presidency will not be to deal with the Taliban threat but to fully comprehend the Pakistan challenge.
First and foremost, President Obama needs to realize that Pakistan’s stability is not merely a means to securing the situation in Afghanistan; it is an end in itself. Arming the Afghan warlords was employed as a means in countering the Soviet influence in the region. U.S. is still paying the price of ‘means-only’ approach with regard to Afghanistan. Now by using Pakistan as a means to ensure Afghanistan’s security the U.S. could stimulate another crisis in Pakistan. Pakistan’s stability is beyond doubt critical for winning the war in Afghanistan, but the U.S. policies towards Pakistan will have to be developed in a broader context. Pakistan’s political, social and strategic milieu will have to be considered before any policy prescription can be implemented. A simple policy of assisting Pakistan in dealing with its current political and social turmoil would go a long way in serving the interests of Pakistan, Afghanistan and the U.S.
The U.S. needs to be tough with Pakistan; but for the sake of Pakistan itself rather than for Afghanistan. The Government of Pakistan needs to counter the Taliban because that is what the people of Pakistan want and that is what most political leaders in the country support. The assertion that the Taliban needs to be countered for the sake of Afghanistan’s stability or U.S. security is a) an irrational demand, and b) an inappropriate pressure tactic for pushing the Pakistani government to act.
Pakistan can, or rather is, using the thesis of Afghanistan collapsing if Pakistan fails, as a bargaining chip to accomplish all unreasonable demands. According to Brahma Chellaney, Pakistan is using the treat of its own implosion to rake in bilateral and multilateral aid. Pakistan’s demands for concessions from the international community have been directly proportional to its strategic worth in a global cause. By closely linking Pakistan’s survival to the success of U.S. mission in Afghanistan, Pakistan’s self-worth has bloated beyond reasonable limits. This is precisely the reason why Pakistan could warn U.S. against attaching conditions to the proposed aid package. The Government of Pakistan, particularly Ambassador Husain Haqqani, is of the view that the aid granted to the country is directly or indirectly used to keep U.S. and the world safe. Pakistan’s social, economic and educational development is undertaken as an obligation for ensuing regional and global stability rather than a national responsibility. It is important to make Pakistan realize that the aid received and used by it is for the welfare of its own people rather than a global service exercise.
AFPAK has provided Pakistan with the opportunity to align and defend its Taliban strategy with the global counter-terrorism approach. The peace deals with Taliban are defended as following the U.S. approach in Fallujah and the recent overtures to negotiate with the moderate Taliban in Afghanistan. This defense rationale is used to conceal the distinct nature of Taliban threat in Pakistan and the faulty peace deals. The Fallujah and Afghanistan militants were allegedly fighting against the foreign occupation forces; the Taliban in Pakistan are challenging the writ of the national government. The peace proposals in Fallujah and Afghanistan have not allowed pockets of distinct politico-judicial systems to emerge. Allowing the implementation of Sharia in Swat Valley could have been a mere revival of the traditional system but was interpreted as appeasement by the Taliban.
Finally it needs to be understood that Pakistan is currently facing several socio-political challenges and these are being tackled to address and pacify the international concerns rather than as a response to domestic pressures. The unrest in Baloch province, recent violence in Karachi, unpopularity of President Zardari, political instability in Punjab are some of the domestic concerns to be managed in accordance with national demands. But the relentless emphasis on Pakistan’s stability as critical to global security is internationalizing most of Pakistan’s domestic concerns. The Government of Pakistan, unable to handle the multiplicity of domestic demands, is thus becoming unduly burdened by the concurrent international pressures. The Government of Pakistan has to respond to domestic challenges as a national responsibility rather than an international obligation. �
Thus the AFPAK strategy may a good policy for Afghanistan but should not be over-emphasized in the U.S. approach towards Pakistan. John Kerry was right in suggesting that the Obama Administration should stop using the term ‘AFPAK’ for describing a unified strategy for the two countries. According to Kerry, “…it does a disservice to both countries and to the policy. The two governments are very sensitive to it and don’t see the linkage.”
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