Agonist.org: Things Get Interesting in Pakistan

Tina posted an Asia Times report this morning that was basically writing off the Zardari administration in Pakistan. There is definitely some pushback against that narrative coming out of Islamabad. From the Washington Post:

As criticism has dominated in recent weeks — along with reports that the administration is wooing Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari’s principal political opponent, former prime minister Nawaz Sharif — the partnership has grown strained.

“What are the Americans trying to do, micromanage our politics?” a senior Pakistani official said testily. “This is not South Vietnam.”

As Zardari arrives this week for his first official visit with Obama — part of a tripartite summit with Afghan President Hamid Karzai — the administration has asked Congress to quickly approve hundreds of millions of dollars in emergency military aid for Pakistan. That money, and billions more over the next several years, is to come with new authority for the Defense Department to decide what to spend it on.

Tina posted an Asia Times report this morning that was basically writing off the Zardari administration in Pakistan. There is definitely some pushback against that narrative coming out of Islamabad. From the Washington Post:

As criticism has dominated in recent weeks — along with reports that the administration is wooing Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari’s principal political opponent, former prime minister Nawaz Sharif — the partnership has grown strained.

“What are the Americans trying to do, micromanage our politics?” a senior Pakistani official said testily. “This is not South Vietnam.”

As Zardari arrives this week for his first official visit with Obama — part of a tripartite summit with Afghan President Hamid Karzai — the administration has asked Congress to quickly approve hundreds of millions of dollars in emergency military aid for Pakistan. That money, and billions more over the next several years, is to come with new authority for the Defense Department to decide what to spend it on.

Reuters is advancing a theory that Zardari has emerged from the recent crises stronger:

American faith in Zardari’s ability to deliver appeared to wane after he emerged weakened from a crisis involving a showdown with opposition leader Nawaz Sharif in March.

Zardari’s stock sank lower when he was forced to cave in to Taliban demands for the establishment of Islamic sharia courts across a large chunk of the northwest, including Swat.

He had little choice, given his own unpopularity, the threat by a coalition partner to quit, parliament’s overwhelming support for sharia to appease the militants, and the army’s reluctance to fight without public support.

U.S. officials had begun cultivating Sharif more actively, despite wariness over the ex-prime minister’s Islamist leanings.

Analysts say the United States is now likely to try to persuade Sharif to work with Zardari’s government once more.

They say Zardari always knew the so-called Swat deal, exchanging sharia for peace, was doomed, as the Taliban would overplay their hand. Zardari didn’t have to wait long.

He can tell the Americans “I did it my way, and I’m doing it the right way,” said Najam Sethi, a leading political analyst and editor of the Daily Times.

“He’s got everybody on board against the Taliban … without suffering the opprobrium of having done it at America’s behest.”

I think some of the most interesting views are coming out of Pakistan however. Like this take from Amina Jilani in the Nation (Pakistan):

We live in our own world, with only our particular narrative. That narrative is now clashing increasingly with the US view. The Americans do not agree with us on India and Afghanistan, they believe we are up to no good in our region, they think we are unwilling to look upon terrorism and Talibanisation as real threats while at the same time coveting their money.

Some in our national security apparatus still think we are in the 1990s and can work around the Americans. The difference is that the US now has a significant military presence in our backyard (troops in Afghanistan and Iraq, bases in Qatar, Kuwait and Bahrain) and the India-US relationship has become qualitatively different. Moreover, our assumption that the US needs Pakistan more than Pakistan needs the US may not always remain so. American forces are prepared to use the longer and more expensive Central Asian route to supply their forces in Afghanistan. Our claim that we can shoot down drones does not include any calculus about what happens the day after. Until now, the Americans have viewed us as an unreliable ally. What happens when they start seeing us as the enemy?

It seems that we have finally arrived at crunch time. We are now in a state of civil war. Pakistan has to choose if it can (or if so wishes) to be, say, like Syria (a completely valid foreign policy alternative if we so choose) or do we really want to develop a partnership. If we want the partnership, we have to work on changing our national narrative in relation to the United States of America.
We also have to fully realise that the war now being waged in the north is very much ‘our war’ regardless of the historical rights or wrongs.

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