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Saturday, October 24, 2009

Sequel to the Kerry


Mr. Shah Mahmood Qurreshi, the Foreign Minister, who had gone to the United States after a brief appearance in the National Assembly on Oct 9 after an earlier trip to Washington, told the National Assembly, on October 17, that, ‘he had minced no words in conveying reservations expressed in Pakistan and got a prompt response from the authors of the bill and other US officials in the shape of the explanatory statement to meet those concerns, which included a statement issued by an army corps commanders that ‘expressed serious concern regarding clauses (of the bill) impacting on national security’.

‘We have to understand the environment (,) in which we are working,’ he said and asked parliament members:

‘Please rise above parochial or party interests … and unify for the sake of Pakistan. Pakistan needs your wisdom.’

(However, before they could show that they have risen, the Sessions of both the houses were promptly prorogued).

While justifying conditionality such as those relating to Pakistan’s commitment to fighting terrorism, improving border controls, preventing nuclear proliferations, and strengthening civilian authority that he said were part of the country’s declared policies, the Minister agreed with objection taken to the language of some sections of the bill which he said Islamabad had tried its best to rectify in the face of more resourceful lobbies seeking to harm Pakistan. (An admission of our abject failure in the face of those lobbies).

While extensively quoting from an explanatory statement he secured from the two houses of the US Congress to reject charges from opposition parties and other critics that “the new American law’s conditionalities (y) applicable to a still undetermined military aid would compromise Pakistan’s sovereignty.”

The foreign minister’s second oration before a low attendance in the 100-seat Senate, afterwards was low-pitched, and house chairman Farooq Naik rejected a demand from opposition leader Wasim Sajjad to hold another debate on Wednesday’s explanatory statement, which said its purpose was;

‘to facilitate accurate interpretation of the text (of the act) and to ensure faithful implementation of its provisions’ and that ‘this legislation does not seek in any way to compromise Pakistan’s sovereignty, impinge on Pakistan’s national security interests, or micromanage any aspect of Pakistani military and civilian operations’.

The serious concern expressed by the Pakistan armed forces, the fierce reaction of the media and opposition parties in Pakistan against the Kerry-Lugar Bill left the US Administration with no choice other than to do some repair job and this resulted in the issuance of a Joint Explanatory Statement by the Congress on 14 October 2009.

The Joint Statement of the Congress offered a face-saving to the PPP-led government in Pakistan by emphasizing that the Kerry-Lugar Bill, now an Act, “does not seek in any way to compromise Pakistan’s sovereignty, impinge on Pakistan’s national security interests, or micromanage any aspect of Pakistani military or civilian operations.”

The Joint Statement adds: “There is no intent to, and nothing in this act in any way suggests that there should be any US role in micromanaging internal Pakistani affairs, including the promotion of Pakistani military officers or the internal operations of the Pakistani military.”

On the tricky issue of nuclear proliferation, the Joint Statement expresses the hope that “cooperative effort currently being undertaken by the governments of Pakistan and the United States to combat proliferation will continue.”

Notwithstanding the pious words meant to appease detractors of the Kerry-Lugar/ Enhanced Partnership with Pakistan Act of 2009 in Pakistan, the Joint Statement of the Congress has not brought about any material or substantive change in the situation. It is an attachment to the Kerry-Lugar Act and not a part of it. Not even a Rider.

No amendment or deletion has been introduced, nor was it possible, in the text of the Kerry Lugar Bill which obviously, necessitates a long process if undertaken. Its exceptionable content with insensitive language remains in tact as legislated and now become Enhanced Partnership with Pakistan Act of 2009.

It was never claimed by the knowledgeable circles in Pakistan that the Kerry-Lugar Bill/Act was an attempt on the part of the United States to directly micromanage the internal affairs of Pakistan, including military affairs, which impression the Joint Statement purports to dispel.

It may be noted that the Joint Statement is conspicuously silent on the requirement of an effective civilian control over promotions and strategic planning in the Pakistan armed forces, by the Government, as required under the KLB, which implies that there is no change in the United States stated position on the issue in the Bill now Enhanced Partnership with Pakistan Act of 2009

What was apprehended and continues to be so, is that; by facilitating the civilian control over the Pakistan armed forces the United States intends to achieve the objective of indirectly micromanaging the civilian and military affairs.

Since the text of the Act has not been amended and no provisions deleted, the presumptions that “elements within the Pakistani military or its intelligence agency” are supporting the extremist and terrorist groups, and that the “terrorist bases of operation” exist in FATA and other parts of the country, including Quetta and Muridke, continue to persist.

Similarly, the Joint Statement can not and has not withdrawn the US condition of getting access to Pakistani individuals allegedly involved in nuclear proliferation activities.

From the very beginning the PPP had been in favor of accepting US aid under the Kerry-Lugar Bill/Act. It projected the adoption of the Bill by the US House of Representatives as a great success. The PPP was taken aback when the military, the media and the opposition party vehemently reacted against the Bill.

The government, it was observed lacked will and desire to counter opposition, allies, media and army’s point of view.

The government responses were fixed upon the procedural issues rather than responding to the insensitivities and pre-conceived wrong assumptions in the content of the Bill.

After the meeting of the troika on the implications of the Bill, President Zardari apparently took the queue and sent Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi to the United States, to seek some way out. Now the PPP is ballooning and misconstruing the hollow words of the Joint Statement of US Congress to prove that a fundamental shift has taken place in the US position.

After his return from abroad, Mian Nawaz Sharif made it clear that the PML (N) would never support the acceptance of aid under the Kerry-Lugar Act. Like the ISPR, he also stated that the matter should be decided by the Parliament, which represented the will of the people.

The PPP government knew that it would be next to impossible to get approval of the Parliament for acceptance of US assistance under the Kerry-Lugar Act with its tough conditions and, therefore, the Foreign minister concluded the debate on the Act without seeking vote or even the response from the August Assembly, whose wisdom he so passionately appealed in his speech, on the issue. No attempt was made to forge a ‘consensus’ or develop a ‘national response’.

Simultaneously, an attempt is being made to bail out Ambassador Husain Haqqani, who ought to have acted on the direction of the Government not the President, and shifting the burden of incorporation of anti-Pakistan armed forces provisions in the Act on India and “more resourceful lobbies seeking to harm Pakistan.” (?)

Sufficient evidence is available to suggest that Haqqani was very much involved in the exercise of getting these provisions enacted at the behest of some one in Pakistan. Otherwise he is competent enough to have successfully got them blocked or reasonably diluted.

It seems that the Pakistan armed forces would not abide by the conditions of the Kerry-Lugar Act and the US Administration would have to use waiver, for it is in the US national interest to retain Pakistan on board in its so-called war on terror.

As regards the opposition parties, the PML(N) does not seem to be in a mood to launch any agitation in the near future without tacit support of the military establishment.

Fundamentally, no amount of verbal assurance, even at highest US administration level can substitute statutory laws as these would remain cosmetic sans any substance.

The whole episode has made it abundantly clear that at present critical juncture Pakistan’s immediate need is to have a civilian set-up whose views on national security are in harmony with the views of its, people, political allies, opposition parties, in and out side the Parliament and the military establishment.

It may take a while for the implications of Enhanced Partnership with Pakistan Act of 2009; on issues like, structural departure from the conventional balance of power.

One impact of a fundamentally altered internal dynamics would be the behavior of politicians, known for arrogance. Given the resources, the specie is prone to recurring exploitation.

The loudest drumming and hoarse throats of the people, the media, civil society and state Institution’s optimism and reposing of trust in the Parliament, the Supreme and Sovereign body has, all but died down. Here’s a Meek Hurrah for the Parliament and Political Leadership, for exposing that myth.

Islam, Militancy, Current Affairs

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