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Saturday, October 10, 2009

Kerry Lugar Got Carried away


After President Obama made his policy statement on Afghanistan and Pakistan in March 2009 it was expected that in future the United States would focus more on the need of the people rather than the governments in pursuing US interests in the region and would come up with sustained strategic commitment with Pakistan.

However, no one anticipated that in its final shape the much awaited Pakistan-specific Kerry-Lugar Bill would look more like an indictment of Pakistan armed forces and its security agencies than an instrument whose purpose is to consolidate democracy and promote sustainable long-term development in the country.

Evidence is emerging that the final versions has more to do with, the insecurities of some segment of the Government of Pakistan, which has opted to connive or more realistically, opted to rely on US administration in addressing those insecurities, believing that it may save the day for them. In the process it seems the zealous framers of the Bill have read more than what those elements of the government represent in the name of Civilian or Democratic system in Pakistan.

It is there for every one to see that the Parliament, Judiciary and the government are functioning without any fetters; rather the Armed Forces have saved the situation and sustained the system by making the restoration of judiciary a reality in the near past.

There is no interference in the functioning of the government any quarter of the armed forces or security agencies. A lot has been achieved against the menace of terrorism and it continues to be a sustained effort by the Armed Forces. These are the realities widely accepted by the US Administration, including the State department and the Pentagon.

If accepted, the stringent conditions of the Kerry-Lugar Bill are likely to entail a fundamental alteration in the power-structure of the Pakistani state with far-reaching consequences for its national security.

With its intrusive character and humiliating demands, the Kerry-Lugar Bill amounts to an assault on Pakistan’s honor and sovereignty and agreeing to its conditions would mean an abject surrender and out-right sell-out of national interests.

No surprise that the ISPR press release issued after the Corps. Commanders 122nd Conference held in Rawalpindi on 7 October 2009 stated: “The forum expressed serious concerns regarding clauses impacting national security.” Since, constitutionally, it is not for the Corps. Commanders to decide for or against the bill, they just gave their viewpoint and the ISPR rightly observed that it was for the Parliament, which represented the will of the people, to debate the issue and enable the government “to develop a national response.”

Although the Corps. Commanders have called for developing a “national response”, Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani wants to build a “consensus” between the President on one side and the army high command and the opposition parties on the other on the Kerry-Lugar Bill, overlooking the fact that the differences over the bill represent a far deeper divide: it is between the President, supported by few of his ministers and loyalists, including Ambassador Husain Haqqani, and the nation.

The Kerry-Lugar Bill is reflective of the US motive to strengthen the democratic-civilian set-up in Pakistan at the cost of the armed forces and the country’s premier intelligence agency the ISI and, simultaneously, to reduce Pakistan to a chastised innocuous state, protecting US interests in Afghanistan and Central Asia and playing second fiddle to India in the region. And to achieve these objectives, the United States is offering a paltry sum of $1.5 billion per annum as non-military assistance.

The section of the Kerry-Lugar Bill that is most difficult to swallow pertains to limitations on security-related assistance and arms transfers to Pakistan. It says that no security related assistance may be provided to Pakistan or letter to offer to sell major defense equipment or license to export major equipment to Pakistan may be issued in a fiscal year until the Secretary of State, under the direction of the President, makes the certification to the appropriate Congressional Committees that:

“1. The Government of Pakistan is continuing to cooperate with the United States in efforts to dismantle supplier networks relating to the acquisition of nuclear weapons- related material, such as providing relevant information from or direct access to Pakistani nationals associated with such networks.

“2. The Government of Pakistan . . . . has demonstrated a sustained commitment to and is making significant efforts towards combating terrorist groups . . . . including taking into account the extent to which the Government of Pakistan has made progress on matters such as (A) ceasing support, including by any elements within the Pakistan military or its intelligence agency, to extremist and terrorist groups, particularly to any group that has conducted attacks against the United States or coalition forces in Afghanistan, or against the territory or people of neighboring countries (B) preventing al-Qaeda, the Taliban and associated terrorist groups, such as Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jaish-e-Mohammed, from operating in the territory of Pakistan, including carrying out cross-border attacks into neighboring countries, closing terrorist camps in the FATA, dismantling terrorist bases of operation in other parts of the country, including Quetta and Muridke, and taking action when provided with intelligence about high-level terrorist agents, and (C) strengthening counter-terrorism and anti-money laundering laws. . . .

“3. The security forces of Pakistan are not materially and substantially subverting the political or judicial processes of Pakistan.”

The inclusion of the above-mentioned certification as a pre-condition for continuing arms supplies to Pakistan, whom the United States claims to have given the status of a major non-NATO ally, amply demonstrates the US lack of confidence in Pakistan.

Agreeing to receive US assistance with these conditions would amount to pleading guilty on the part of Pakistan of being epicenter of international terrorism and nuclear proliferation activities.

It would mean reopening the Pandora box of the so-called Khan Network of nuclear proliferation, dismantling the Kashmiri jehadi infrastructure – so important at a time when India is blatantly promoting insurgency in Balochistan and supporting factions of Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan in FATA and some settled areas of NWFP – and crippling the ISI .

By referring to Quetta, the Kerry-Lugar Bill is implying that if Pakistan did not comply, the United States might go ahead with drone attacks in Balochistan and, by referring to Muridke, it is implying that Pakistan is responsible for terrorist attacks in India, including in Mumbai in November 2008.

The Kerry-Lugar Bill does not care about Pakistan’s national security interests but there is a provision for waiving certification under the direction of the US President “if the Secretary of State determines that it is important to the national security of the United States to do so.”

In order to undermine the role of the armed forces of Pakistan in the country’s affairs and make them subservient to the civilian government, the Kerry- Lugar Bill provides that “any direct cash security-related assistance or non-assistance payments by the United States to the Government of Pakistan may only be provided or made to civilian authorities of a civilian government of Pakistan.”

Further, amongst the various areas to be covered by the Secretary of State in his semi-annual monitoring report “an assessment of the extent to which the Government of Pakistan exercises effective control of the military” is to be included.

In his description of civilian control over the armed forces in Pakistan, the Secretary of State is required to mention the extent to which “civilian executive leaders and parliament exercise oversight and approval of military budgets, the chain of command, the process of promotion for senior military leaders, civilian involvement in strategic guidance and planning, and military involvement in civil administration.”

Obviously the Pakistan Armed Forces are very sensitive on most of the above-mentioned matters. In principle, there should be civilian control over the armed forces and the military budget should also be open to scrutiny. But in case of Pakistan the civilian leadership is immature and unreliable. In the past, the armed forces intervened because the civilians brought the situation to a precipice. There is no guarantee that this would not happen in future. Besides, as is the case is elsewhere in the world, due to security considerations Pakistan Armed Forces, also need to hide some of its expenditures and all the details of defense expenditure can not be made public.

Historically Pakistan Armed Forces have played a central role in country’s foreign and defense policies. They have supervised the country’s nuclear program very successfully despite all sorts of pressure and threats. On Afghanistan and Kashmir issues, the armed forces have by-passed the civilian leadership and the Foreign Office to safeguard Pakistan’s interests. It is unthinkable that the armed forces would abdicate their role abruptly.

No individual or institution should take precedence over Security of the Republic. If the civilian government succumbs to US pressure, that seems to be the case at least as far as the Presidency, Foreign Minister, Pakistan’s Ambassador to USA and some members of the Cabinet. The signs are ominous and don’t augur well for the Country.

The points of view emerging from the Presidency, the GHQ and resultant crisis of confidence would suck in the other institutions of the Republic, including the Parliament and Judiciary that could lead to institutional confrontation and collapse of the established order.

If Kerry Lugar Bill leads to such horrific situation, USA and Pakistan both could do without it and still be friends. Some reaching out to people of Pakistan.

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