A false crisis and the grand followthrough of silence

Here’s “Empty rhetoric” —By Najmuddin A Shaikh

(via Daily Times) The only conclusion that the world could draw was that no one studies things in Pakistan or, having studied them, deliberately keeps quiet until a false crisis can be created.

The furore over the Kerry-Lugar bill appears to be dying down. We now have our TV pundits — the incorrigible ill-informed ones apart — beginning to acknowledge that the skies have not fallen and that Pakistan’s “ghairat” has not been as mortally affronted as was originally thought.

Hopefully, parliament will now trumpet as a great feat the securing of the explanation of the bill that Senator John Kerry and Representative Howard Berman put together at Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi’s request. The explanation said that there was no intention on the part of American legislators to either interfere in Pakistan’s internal affairs or to micro-manage Pakistan, and Foreign Minister Qureshi made it clear that in his view this had satisfactorily addressed the questions that had been raised in Pakistan about the violation of Pakistan’s sovereignty and other issues.

In an earlier article, I had pointed out that the original bill had been passed in two versions by the House and Senate on June 11 and June 24 respectively and that there was nothing in the bill finally passed on September 25 which was not contained in these two versions. The time for complaint and for seeking rectification was the four-month period in which the two versions of the bill were being reconciled. A grand silence prevailed at that time on our TV channels and for the most part in our print media.

If we go back further, however, we would discover that what was deemed offensive in the Kerry-Lugar Bill had for the most part been American law since August 2007 when President Bush signed into law a “Bill for Implementing Recommendations of the 9/11 Commission Act of 2007”. This bill contained a special section on Pakistan (Section 2042) which states in its findings that “(4) Publicly-stated goals of the Government of Pakistan and the national interests of the United States are in close agreement in many areas, including…E) addressing the continued presence of Taliban and other violent extremist forces throughout the country.”

Its Statement of Policy “calls for© increased commitment on the part of the Government of Pakistan to take actions described in paragraph (4)(E), particularly given

(i) The continued operation of the Taliban’s Quetta shura, as noted by then-North Atlantic Treaty Organisation Supreme Allied Commander General James Jones in testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on September 21, 2006; and

(ii) The continued operation of al Qaeda affiliates Lashkar-e Taiba and Jaish-e Muhammad, sometimes under different names, as demonstrated by the lack of meaningful action taken against Hafiz Muhammad Saeed, Maulana Masood Azhar, and other known leaders and members of such terrorist organisations.”

Finally the bill states that the President cannot provide aid to Pakistan for FY ‘08 until he certifies that the government of Pakistan

“(A) is committed to eliminating from Pakistani territory any organisation such as the Taliban, al Qaeda, or any successor, engaged in military, insurgent, or terrorist activities in Afghanistan;

(B) is undertaking a comprehensive military, legal, economic, and political campaign to achieving the goal described in subparagraph (A); and

(C) is currently making demonstrated, significant, and sustained progress toward eliminating support or safe haven for terrorists.”

This bill has reporting requirements also that require the Secretary of State to submit six monthly reports to the congress on the progress Pakistan had made in achieving the objectives set out earlier. The last such report was to be submitted under the terms of this bill on October 15, 2009.

It is apparent that the President did provide the certification required by this law since otherwise Pakistan would have received no aid in the period October’07 and September ‘08 (this is the American financial year FY ‘08). It is also apparent that the Secretary of State provided the reports required by Congress and that it provoked no furore.

What was the net result of this storm in a teacup?

President Obama quietly signed the bill. There was no elaborate ceremony. There was no handing out of pens to the congressmen who had contributed to the quick passage of the bill. There was no statement hailing the bill as a major advance in Pakistan-US relations and as concrete evidence of the long-term commitment that the United States was making to its partnership with Pakistan.

Many congressmen and their staff members, who had worked hard to complete the reconciliation process and enabled President Obama to announce the passage of the Bill at the Friends of Democratic Pakistan meeting in New York on September 25, felt that befriending Pakistan was a thankless task that they would not readily undertake in the future. Some congressmen, not always friendly towards Pakistan, suggested that if Pakistan did not want the aid, America could put it to better use elsewhere.

In other words, what should have been an occasion for bonhomie turned into an occasion for the venting of anti-American sentiment in Pakistan and the creation of anti-Pakistan sentiment in the American Congress and administration.

What did this prove to the world?

If the American involvement in Afghanistan and by extension in Pakistan has been a source of concern then the world expected that all those having concerns would follow closely all developments relating to Pakistan in the power corridors of Washington. Some of what was happening would not be publicly available but surely they would follow all material including American legislation, the full text of which is available on the Internet within days of its passage.

The only conclusion that the world could draw was that no one studies things in Pakistan or, having studied them, deliberately keeps quiet until a false crisis can be created. Even this last explanation is incomprehensible. After all it was in August 2007 that the offensive portions of the bill passed by Congress should have been found useful to fuel the opposition to President Musharraf. At that time it could be said that the bureaucracy or the military under the iron control of President Musharraf could have done nothing if Musharraf did not want it. There was however no such bar on the politicians. Thus the only conclusion the world can reach is that the politicians in this country do not follow anything and do not study anything.

It would be difficult to suggest that those who prompted and orchestrated the current furore had Pakistan’s interests at heart. At this time our focus should have been on asking for the removal of the Afghan refugee camps from Pakistan’s border with Afghanistan in Balochistan, for concerting NATO deployment and action with the Pakistani armed forces to ensure that NATO forces act as the anvil as Pakistan used the hammer against the TTP and its allies in South Waziristan and thus prevented reinforcements from Afghanistan reaching Waziristan.

We should have been focusing on what we needed to do to ensure that the economic aid offered would be properly utilised and that as little as possible of this money went to administrative expenses. They should have noted that the Kerry-Lugar Bill gave only $10 million to USAID and $30 million to the American Comptroller General to implement and audit the aid programme requiring these two organisations to fund the rest of the requirement from their own resources. They should have been suggesting that all aid programmes be properly vetted by our experts, and qualified government and non-governmental organisations in Pakistan be used to implement them. They should have been holding hearings to determine what our government had set as aid priorities and suggested such changes as would optimise the benefit.

Perhaps this i
s what they should start doing now. That is what the people of Pakistan need in place of the empty rhetoric that has pervaded the airwaves for the last few weeks.

The writer is a former foreign secretary

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