KL bill (08-10-2009)

Hyperbole reaction of a section of the military and their co-evolutionist media and opposition politicians against the ‘Enhanced Partnership with Pakistan Act 2009’ passed by the US Congress lately, has apparently defeated the basic objectives of the bill.

This bill was moved by Senator John Kerry and Richard Lugar following Joe Biden initiative. Some of the main objectives that are elaborated in the Statement of Principles of the official text are : “combating terrorism and violent radicalism, solidifying democracy and rule of law, and promoting the social and economic development of Pakistan; building “mutual trust and confidence by actively and consistently pursuing a sustained, long-term, multifaceted relationship between two countries, devoted to strengthening the mutual security, stability and prosperity of both the countries; to support the people of Pakistan and their democratic government in their efforts to consolidate democracy …”

So far so good. Then where does the problem start? Why is there so much opposition against accepting this aid (mind you it’s not a loan) package? True it is just about 4% of our total budget expenditure but it is the biggest portion of the US$5.28 billion assistance promised by the Friends of Pakistan. It is a reasonably good package for the development of Pakistan and it is separate from the military assistance which was being given under the arrangement with Musharraf government. If accepted by Pakistan it can lead to more investment and assistance from the western block that follows the US lead. That Pakistan should live within its means is another debate we should have some other time.

But the big question is what if it is turned down by the Pakistan government with a “no thank you” note which looks more likely now? What would be the impact of our relations with the US congressmen, senators and the present administration? Would it be possible to get it reviewed by going through a cumbersome process of putting it before the two US houses again? How these powerful members of the US houses would deal with issues related to us in future?

Now let’s analyse why this bill which was approved after hectic lobbying by Pakistan has provoked such a fierce opposition by some politicians and opinion-makers who take their cue from the khaki establishment. First we should address the questions raised above. At the very outset the answer to the last question, that can Pakistan expect the bill to be amended by the US Congress and Senate is that it is quite improbable. According to a senior US conservative journalist Clifford May, who was visiting Karachi last week, the possibility is that if sent back the bill may never be approved again. When I asked him if there is any precedent that such financial assistance has been rejected, if the recipient country has asked to change the language and US has obliged the request? He admitted that he could not think of any such example readily. I also failed to find such a piece of legislation on the net. Some analysts feel that President Obama can recommend the two houses to change the language of some of the clauses, but the issue is would the congressmen and senators agree. And if at all they do it may take ages to get the approvals again. Even this bill has been approved after two years.

So “No thank you” may cost a lot to Pakistan and she will still have to continue to serve the American interest on the current salary in which military aid is fatter than the civilian social sector assistance. The loss is that of the people of Pakistan not sovereignty spitting politicians and analysts.

Though it has been explained by the ruling party many times that this is not a treaty where Pakistan has a say to dictate the language, the media and opposition are still not ready to spare the government and Ambassador Haqqani. (A dear friend has blamed Haqqani because of his book that was published many years back which suggested establishing civilian control on the military establishment. It was this book that has actually washed his past political opportunism sins, so please don’t blame the book.)

What is conveniently forgotten is that these are not the conditions which are imposed on us; we can continue our ‘game’ leaving the US Secretary of State to testify that we are being good boys. Just to refresh the memory of our sovereignty-virgin analysts may I remind them that Pakistan continued its clandestine nuclear bomb project all through the Zia period and the US President did testify to the house for many years that we are not making it. The US needed us then and they need us more than the 80s now, because the heat of Afghanistan and Pakistan has reached the west before global warming.

The proposed act which needs to be signed by the US President within 10 days of the approval of both the houses is divided under three titles. Title 1- “Democratic, Economic, and Development Assistance for Pakistan” envisages to give $1.5 billion per annum to Pakistan for five years starting from 2010. No body in the right mind can have an issue with the areas mentioned in its statement principles for which this aid can be used. Two issues can be raised on the side: one that $15 million would be taken back by the US government for “availability of amount for administrative expenses … in connection with the provision of assistance and for the Chief of mission Fund.” Two, that in section 102 Authorisations of Appropriations” it has been stated in clause 1 (B) the President Special Representative to Afghanistan and Pakistan would certify every year that “assistance provided to Pakistan under this title or the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961 to date has made reasonable progress toward achieving the principal objectives of the United States assistance.” Some anchors and analysts have called it viceroy type supervision.’ The critics must realise if any bank gives a loan or a person donates to a charity he/she wants to know whether the money donated/loaned has made any difference to the project or cause for it funds were provided.

The real issue which has ruffled the khaki feathers and co-evolution opinion-makers is with the “Title II—Security Assistance for Pakistan.” This is for the first time that military or security aid has been linked by the US with not only strengthening the democratic institutions, but also with the establishment of the supremacy of the civilian government over the military establishment. Now this is where they are blamed for being intrusive because it changes the power structure which has been there for over 50 years in Pakistan. As long as all the loans and aid was given for the military with strings it was acceptable with meek opposition. But when the military aid is linked with the certification that democratic government enjoys its due constitutional position or not, it’s blasphemy. Come on wake up democrats!

Clause b (3) of the section 202 Authorisation of Assistance says that the act restricts “assistance to the government of any country whose duly elected head of government is deposed by military coup or decree ….” The real problem which has hurt the ‘perceived national security interests’ of the Khaki and their co-evolutionists is in section 203 Limitations of Certain Assistance. Clause C (1) of this section says that the Secretary of State would have to certify to the US representative houses that “the Government of Pakistan is continuing to cooperate with the United States in efforts to dismantle the suppliers network relating to the acquisition of nuclear-weapon related materials, such as providing relevant information from or direct access to Pakistani nationals associated with such net works.” (emphasis added). This is where the US government failed to understand the sensitivity of Pakistani security establishment and the sensibilities of the majority of the people of Pakistan. Even military dictator General Musharraf did not provide direct access to the Americans to the persons associated with the nuclear programme of the country. Notwithstanding the fact as a pacifist I do not support nuclear weapons, I think the majority of Pakistanis take pride in it rightly or wrongly. Here again this certification has to come from the US Secretary and not from Pakistan. We can continue with the present arrangement where some information has been provided by Pakistan to the US about the network and refuse direct access to “associated person” as in the past.

Clause C (2 A) is also barbed-wired. It says: ceasing support, (emphasis added) including by any elements with the Pakistan military or its intelligence agency, to extremists and terrorist groups, particularly to any group that has conducted attacks against United States or coalition forces in Afghanistan, or against the territory or people of neighbouring countries;”   The phrase ‘ceasing support’ implies that our security forces are at present indulging in such activities which are illegal under the international laws. The American could have got the same objective by being more subtle, but then subtlety is not an American virtue. Many fellow-journalists, who are criticising this clause, have accepted in writing or on television that our security establishment considers Afghan Taliban and India specific Jihadis as their national security assets. This clause is directed against these ‘perceived assets.’ I have always maintained that our national security balance sheet would never be corrected if we would continue to register liabilities in the assets column.

Even sub-clause (B) says that the Secretary of State would have to certify that Pakistan is helping in “preventing Al Qaeda, the Taliban and associated terrorist groups, such as Lashkar-e-Tiaba and Jaish-e-Mohammad from operating in the territory of Pakistan ………dismantling terrorist bases of operations in other parts of the countries, including Quetta and Muridke….” Here again the tense of the composition shows that Pakistan has these bases at present. Those who oppose this clause have to be asked well isn’t that a fact? And isn’t Pak army fighting against a section of these terrorists selectively? So let’s be realistic and accept the fact the nation cannot sit back and suffer the national security policy, which has brought our society violence and intolerance. The reason that we have such dangerous policy is because no democratic government has been allowed to make its own pro-people national security policy. Of course army input is taken by all the countries but they are not allowed to over-rule the elected governments. In Pakistan if any political government has tried to deviate they have been booted out. So the political parties who are making all the hullaballoo should not forget that Mr. Nawaz Sharif was punished for the same reasons. It is because of this history of Pakistan that for the first time the Americans, who have been buddies of all military dictators, have shifted their policy in favour of a democratic dispensation. Sub-clause C (3) makes it clear that the US Secretary of State would have to certify every year that “the security forces of Pakistan are not materially and substantially subverting the political or judicial process of Pakistan.” Again Section 302 clause A (15) asks for the assessment from the US Secretary that “of the extent to which the Government of Pakistan exercises effective civilian control of the military …. oversight and approval of military budgets, the chain of command, process of promotion of senior military leaders …..”

Boy this is intrusive, shouts the anchor persons and khaki co-evolutionists! My humble submission is, Sir all this is in line with the spirit of the Constitution of Pakistan. All this is in the light of the lessons of Pakistan history, where Nawaz Sharif was shoved out of the prime minister house because he used his due powers to change the COAS. All this is in line with the fact that ISPR gives a public policy statement before the parliament of the civilian government who decides the policy. Only recently the general who differed on the Afghan policy of Gordon Brown first resigned and then gave statement of disagreement. India kept its Khakis out of politics because Nehru sacked a handful of generals when they gave a public statement against his China policy.

The political government did not lobby well to get these clauses watered-down because it suits them. The changing policy of the US in favour of an elected government is a welcome move. Those who have always stood by democracy and against army intervention in politics should not be detracted by anti-Americanism to join the band-wagon starting from Rawalpindi. We may have hundreds of differences with the present government, but we should not be pawns of undemocratic forces. Of all the people Nawaz Sharif’s party which has suffered twice should not be a party to this game just to score political brownie points. (ayazbabar@gmail.com)

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