Hasan Jafri is a Pakistani-born journalist who began his career in Karachi. He is currently based in the US. Yesterday he wrote this piece for the Seattle Post-Intelligencer.
Seattle Post-Intelligencer: Pakistan has to earn U.S. aid
Tuesday, July 4, 2006
By HASAN JAFRI
Congress has proposed to reduce aid to military-ruled Pakistan by $150 million for not carrying out overdue democratic reforms. But President Bush's Pakistani allies say they want all, not some of the money, $3 billion over five years.
Ryan Crocker, the U.S. ambassador in Islamabad, has reassured Pakistan, saying, "We are a democracy, Congress has its views, but I would like to make very clear that this administration is totally committed to providing the full amount."
Make no mistake: this would be a misstep. Gen. Pervez Musharraf's military regime should be made to offer specific concessions, not just for democratic change, but with respect also to nuclear proliferation and terrorism.
There are compelling reasons why. Pakistan helps the United States in the war on terrorism but not nearly enough. The leaders of Pakistan's two largest political parties, which also happen to be moderate politically, are barred from contesting elections. And Dr. A. Q. Khan's nuclear parts bazaar welcomed shoppers from Iran and al-Qaida.
Enforcing congressional cuts and spelling out what the United States expects will tell Pakistan's military regime unequivocally to clean up its act.
For starters, the U.S. could tell Pakistan to apprehend more top terrorists. Second, Pakistan should allow the world community meaningful access to Khan. Third, Pakistan must let Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif, civilian opposition leaders languishing in exile, to come home with guarantees they will not be arrested or harassed in the country's Wild West court system. Musharraf is promising elections in October.
Bhutto and Sharif should be allowed to contest.
The United States' Pakistani critics will assail those demands as imperious, but the U.S. has little choice. The hands-off-Pakistan policy initiated following 9/11 is failing. Islamic radicals and Taliban are a dangerous and growing threat in Pakistan.
To build a power base independent of Bhutto and Sharif, Musharraf has appeased radical Islamists. This is the genesis of news stories about Pakistan's leader walking a U.S. tightrope as he tries calming bloodthirsty clerics gathered below. It is also the reason why Pakistan has been so distracted from its international commitments.
After 9/11, Musharraf promised to find Osama bin Laden but the search for bin Laden has turned into the search for Jimmy Hoffa.
All signs point to northern Pakistan as the al-Qaida leader's hideout, yet bin Laden is free. A scalpel put to Pakistan's military budget may induce the country's once prolifically productive secret police to rediscover its knack for finding people.
Khan merely needs to be delivered to the world community. Even Pakistanis, who overwhelmingly support their country's nuclear program, are stunned Khan has not been questioned at length by a neutral government or by the International Atomic Energy Agency.
Musharraf says no way -- Khan is a national hero. Yet Pakistan has not been shy about rendering its heroes before. Many of the detainees at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, are Pakistanis, and before Islamabad turned away from the Taliban they, too, were feted as great icons. Today's terrorists were yesterday's mujahedeen.
Aid cuts and clear conditions for resumption will help Islamabad become a responsible ally. Pakistan is the world's sixth-largest nation, and it must not nurture Taliban sympathizers or hide the sales records of a nuclear Macy's.
Bush should support cuts proposed by Congress and tie future assistance to concrete reform.