Where is a Marshall Plan for Pakistan?

This piece by MNA Farahnaz Ispahani (PPP) was published in USA Today on 27 March.

Just as many Americans are expressing frustration with what they see as Pakistan’s slow progress in defeating terrorism (most recently underscored by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton‘s visit today to Islamabad), Pakistanis are equally frustrated with the increasingly ugly anti-Pakistan sentiment in the United States. Most Pakistanis simply do not understand how cutting U.S. economic and military aid to Pakistan advances the fight against terrorism.

Pakistan is projected by many in the international news media and by some in the U.S. Congress as a purveyor of terrorism but, in cold fact, it remains its chief victim. Three thousand Pakistani troops have been killed (more than all NATO losses in Afghanistan combined). Add to that 2,000 police cut down, the tragedy of 35,000 civilian casualties and the assassination by terrorists of our country’s most popular leader, Benazir Bhutto, and one might understand Pakistani exasperation. This recent al-Qaeda attack on a Pakistani Naval Base in Karachi, killing 10 of our sailors, again demonstrates that Pakistan is the principal target of terrorist rage.

How much of our people’s blood does it take for Washington to get it? British Prime Minister David Cameron said it most succinctly standing next to President Obama in London earlier this week: “Pakistan has suffered more from terrorism than any country in the world. Their enemy is our enemy. So, far from walking away, we’ve got to work even more closely with them.”

Another Marshall Plan?

At the onset of the Cold War, the U.S. understood that political stability in vulnerable countries like France, Italy and Greece was intrinsically linked to the viability of their economies. President Truman advanced the European Recovery Plan (the Marshall Plan) that brilliantly operationalized this thesis, and by doing so saved Western Europe from communism. The same construct should be applied to Pakistan as we jointly work toward the defeat of the terrorist menace and the rebuilding of a peaceful and stable South and Central Asia.

Secretary of Defense Robert Gates has spoken of Kerry-Lugar-Berman Act for economic development, health, education, energy and infrastructure. Yet only $179 million, according to Sen. Dick Lugar, R-Ind., has actually been spent. The rest sadly has been bottled up in a bureaucratic quagmire within USAID.

The people of Pakistan, especially the poor who were most affected by last year’s historic floods, have yet to feel the effects of a U.S. policy that under President Obama was to re-craft the U.S.-Pakistani relationship beyond a short-term military alliance into a sustained economic and social partnership. It is that new relationship that will be the lynchpin to the long-term stabilization of Pakistan and our ability to contain and destroy the terrorist threat to our people, and to the world.

After World War II, the Marshall Plan spent $49.06 per capita in Greece and $30.02 in Italy. Today, the per capita U.S. assistance to Pakistan, adjusted for inflation, is only $7.90. That’s a dramatic 400% less than the Marshall Plan’s assistance to Italy. And let us be clear: The long-term stakes to world peace are as great or greater in South and Central Asia today as in Europe at the end of the 1940s.

Pakistan’s role

We are all aware that U.S. aid alone will not get the job done. For its part, Pakistan’s elected government has mobilized the entire nation, at great political cost, against extremist ideology and terrorist organizations. But if our government is to successfully win the war for the hearts and minds of our people, Pakistanis must feel the economic benefits of globalization. President Asif Ali Zardari has repeatedly emphasized the need for more market access in the West and expanded trade replacing aid over time. The enactment by Congress of the Reconstruction Opportunity Zone legislation, followed by a Free Trade Agreement between Pakistan and America, would not only open up America for Pakistani products but would provide a huge market for U.S. products and grain in Pakistan.

Ultimately, in the epic joint struggle against terror, a prosperous Pakistan with good jobs for our young people would suck the oxygen out of the terrorists’ fire. How better to set Pakistan on this path than a Marshall Plan model of economic reconstruction for a country devastated by war?

Farahnaz Ispahani is a member of Pakistan’s Parliament and media adviser to President Asif Ali Zardari.

We Cannot Rely On China Alone

US and ChinaThese days China is making headlines in our news almost on a daily basis. We Pakistanis in an effort to move away from under the US shadow, somehow feel much better to look to China for help. Noted as a true and an all weather friend, the relationship between the two countries has been described by Hu Jintao as “higher than the mountains and deeper than oceans.” Recent articles in our print media have also been talking non-stop about how China will look after our interests and watch our back and that is what prompted me to explore further into the myth.

Considered to overtake US by 2016, China is well underway to economic prosperity as well. With a population of 1.3 billion and 17.6 percent of this number being the age group of 0-14 years, China has roughly 234 million potential job seekers in the coming years. Please also note that China currently has an unemployment rate of 4.3 percent.

Coming over to Pakistani demographics now, we have a population of 180 million. Out of this 180 million population, 60 percent (roughly 112 million) are between the age group 15-64. We have a literacy rate of 49 percent, and an unemployment rate of 15 percent which is substantial and which puts us only a couple of spaces over Iraq and at the bottom end of the totem pole for unemployment in the world. We have had a demographic explosion and we need a boost in the economy that requires this unemployment rate to be lower than what it is. This means that more jobs need to be created to offset the unemployment percentage.

Now the point I’m trying to make is this: China no doubt is a good friend and alliance with China is important – but let us not indulge in this fantasy world where we think China will overlook its own population of potential jobseekers in the coming years. There are a finite number of jobs and resources available globally to roughly 350 million job seekers combined. China also has a low enrollment rate in school. This means that, unless things change, Pakistan and China will both have growing populations competing for the same jobs in the global economy. China will obviously first look to provide jobs to its own citizens before turning to Pakistan and addressing its economical problems.

We cannot rely on China alone. Pakistan needs to develop good relationships with not just China but other powers including EU, SAARC and US etc. Cutting ourselves off from the US, who remains the world’s largest economy and a major economic partner of China, is limiting our friends and allies and will be detrimental in our effort to expand on all our options in the future. We should be working with all the major economic powers to find areas where our interests overlap and then try to improve our education system and expand our access to markets across the world. This will help us advance our country’s economy, which in turn means better way of living for an average citizen. Depending on just one country and putting all our hopes and dreams on it, hoping that it will be our saviour, is not a good approach economically or otherwise.

Political Storms

US President Barack Obama and UK PM David Cameron serving burgersSeeing the photos of US President Barack Obama cooking burgers with UK PM David Cameron reminded me of the way different countries treat their political leaders. While President Obama is in Europe cooking burgers, over 300 Americans have been killed in violent storms that have wrecked the American heart land. But while the nation’s newspapers report on the devastation caused by these storms, they are not blaming Obama.

America’s media is covering both the deadly storms and the President’s trip to the UK, but reports do not include attacks on the American president for not canceling his trips.

American storm affectees

This is much different from the way that we treated our own President Zardari, with former diplomats even criticising him as “distant and disconnected from the people” for not canceling his schedule last summer.

As I was comparing these events in my mind, I could not help but think that for all of our complaints about anti-Pakistan media in the West, it seems at times that we can be our own worst enemies. The world’s most wanted terrorist mastermind is discovered in the shade of Kakul and Taliban militants attack our base in Karachi, and we demand that no questions be asked or criticisms made on the agencies responsible for securing the country. The democratically elected leaders, however, are defamed and accused of everything under the sun with not an ounce of proof and yet we are never satisfied with the quantity of venom that we spit on them. Especially now during this orchestrated campaign to silence any questions about security agencies under a demand for ‘unity’, I cannot help but laugh. The only thing we seem to be united about is being unsatisfied. When we live under dictators, we cry out for democracy. When we win our democracy, we wish for dictators.

Floods and tornados can wreck homes and lives, but it is the political storms that can wreck whole nations.

No More Excuses

Face of enemy in smoke rising from PNS Mehran

The US raid on Abbottabad pierced the bubble of invincibility that we allowed ourselves to believe. Two shocking facts were exposed on that fateful day: One is that the world’s most wanted terrorist mastermind Osama bin Laden was living comfortably with his family in the shadow of PMA Kakul; Second is that the US military could enter our territory, carry out a mission, and leave without being noticed.

Two weeks later, a second military attack was carried out on Pakistan’s soil. This time it was not against a foreign element but against Pakistan’s own security installation at PNS Mehran. For 17 hours a band of militants wreaked havoc, destroying our crucial military assets and killing our brave soldiers.

These attacks do not indicate that the military is incompetent. This was confirmed by Peter W. Galbraith, former deputy UN representative to Afghanistan. We should remember that even the mighty US military was attacked on one of its own bases by an Islamist militant who by himself killed 13 people and wounded 30 others. So even the mightiest military in the world is vulnerable to terrorists. But this vulnerability cannot be an excuse for complacency.

Reading the news and listening to people discuss these events, I am concerned that there is a section of society willing to sacrifice Pakistan’s actual security to maintain a shattered mirage. We continue making excuses, being unwilling to believe that anyone calling themselves Muslim cannot commit such acts. If Blackwater calls themselves Muslim will we believe that they are our allies also? We must give up this mirage and embrace the hard reality required to protect the nation.

The News makes this point perfectly in their editorial.

PNS Mehran is not a remote outpost in a tribal area but one of our biggest bases. That half-a-dozen well-armed, well-trained and determined men were able to penetrate one of our – supposedly – most heavily guarded airbases and inflict crippling damage indicates a disconnect between the security forces’ level of preparedness against attacks of this type and the level of threat they face. What this attack demonstrates is that the level of preparedness in every sense is outweighed by the threat.

The attack on PNS Mehran was not a failure of might, it was a failure of focus. We have been so long focused on the wrong threats that we have allowed ourselves to get caught by surprise. We were so focused on one threat that we allowed rabid dogs into the house as protection. This was a mistake. Now these rabid dogs are biting us and yet still we continue to pretend that there is no problem. If Pakistan is going to survive, this must change.

If our top generals agree that drones are useful tool against Pakistan’s enemies, if they believe that working with the Americans will make Pakistan more secure, if they will say this privately as is exposed by Wikileaks, why is this not admitted publicly also and explained to the people? No, I am not calling for resignations. Whether anyone should resign or not resign is not for me to say. But, honestly, it doesn’t matter whose name is on the khaki shirt if the man wearing the shirt is thinking the same way.

Pakistan’s security requires leadership, not excuses. These events may be demoralizing, and the public may be angry and confused, but this can be overcome. These are threats only if we ignore reality and avoid responsibility for making difficult choices required to improve national security policy and educate the public. Our military officers will face down the most bitter terrorist if he threatens Pakistan. Why will they not face down the most bitter TV anchor? The most bitter political opportunist?

An editorial in Pakistan Today outlines another important part of the nation’s security solution:

For nearly two decades after 1980 a comprehensive campaign was conducted to prepare the people for jihad. A propaganda campaign was launched which among other things involved idealising the jihadi groups and their leaders. The extremist clerics even radicalised security personnel and elements in the intelligence agencies. Some of those who fell under their spell were found later on to be involved in a conspiracy against the elected government while others conducted attacks against security establishments and personnel. This requires a comprehensive and all out de-radicalisation particularly of the military and intelligence institutions.

We may have allowed the rabid dogs to enter the house, but there is no reason to continue letting them stay. Such a policy of ignoring reality is suicidal. Najam Sethi is right.

The jihadi terrorists were here before drones. The suicide bombing of Egypt’s Embassy in Islamabad in 1995 pre-dated America’s war on terror. It pre-dated drone strikes. As we stand staring into the wreckage of our naval station in Karachi, we are faced with some hard truths. Pakistan is at war. Not with US. Not with India. We are at war with jihadi militants that are killing innocent Pakistanis, killing innocent Muslims. Not because NATO troops are in Afghanistan. Not because drone strikes. But because they believe that Pakistani society and culture does not conform to their idea of what qualifies as Islamic. Because they believe that Pakistan should be wiped from the map, our borders erased and our culture also. The green and white to be replaced by a black flag under the rule of self-appointed mullahs imposing their own twisted ideology on us.

We have ignored the growing band of rabid dogs that have encircled us, and we are suffering for it. Continuing to ignore the reality will not make it magically disappear, it will only make us suffer further.

No more excuses.

Attack on PNS Mehran Clarifies Sides In This War

Militants attack PNS MehranLast night’s attack on PNS Mehran clears the fog and offers stark clarification about the sides in this war that ravages the nation. First of all, to everyone who continues to say that this is not our war, that there is a difference between TTP and al Qaeda and other militant groups, last night’s attack destroyed that lie for good. These groups may operate under different banners during individual attacks, but they have shared goals and when necessary they even share operations.

Well-placed sources in the Pakistani security agencies believe the Sunday night attack might be a jointly coordinated terrorist operation conducted by the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan and al-Qaeda to avenge the May 2 killing of Osama bin Laden.

Now we must ask why the terrorists chose their specific target. Attacking PNS Mehran was a suicide mission, that much is obvious, and it was a suicide mission targeting not drones or NATO supply lines. No. They attacked our defences against India.

Let’s pause for the message here. The Orions are supplied by the United States, something of a bribe for Pakistan’s counterterrorism aid. They play absolutely no role against al-Qaida: Orions hunt submarines — Indian submarines. It’s possible that the bin Laden killing prompted the Taliban to target any U.S.-supplied spycraft. But they attacked a navy base, not the Shamsi airfield used for the drone war. The Pakistani Taliban appear to be saying: Continue your alliance with the Americans, and your struggle with the Indians — Islamabad’s major strategic concern — will be a casualty.

What this means is that the militant groups are working as a united front to destroy Pakistan from within. To do this, they are even willing to destroy our ability to defend the nation vis-a-vis India. We do not have to believe this in theory, they have proven it in their own acts. Compare this with the actions of our so-called enemy America – after 26/11, the US increased military aid to build Pakistan’s defences against India.

Less than a year after the Mumbai terrorist attacks, the United States Mission in Islamabad urged Washington to commit $2 billion over a five-year period beginning April 2011 to enable the Pakistan military to address, among other security needs, its “growing conventional disadvantage vis-à-vis India,” in order to secure its cooperation in the “war on terror.”

The U.S. Government accepted the recommendation. A report in the Washington Post on October 22, 2010 said: “The Obama administration will ask Congress to expand military aid to Pakistan, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said Friday, announcing a five-year, $2 billion package that would increase current financing for weapons purchases by about one-third.”

So who is the real enemy here? America that provided the Orion spy planes allowing us to detect Indian submarines, or the jihadis who destroyed them? The Americans who increased military supplies to strengthen our defences against Indian attack in response to 26/11, or the militants who attempted to provoke an Indian attack on Pakistan? Is our sovereignty threatened by American drones targeting foreign militants or foreign militants targeting our military bases?

Faisal Kapadia’s most excellent post for Dawn reflects my feelings exactly.

I think it’s about time that we as a country understand that our establishment engages in saber rattling because we are unwilling to accept the truth. After all if any one of us had a choice of getting the enemy from up above or sending troops on the ground where some of us might die, we all know which route we would ourselves choose don’t we? The pacifists can go on chanting their mantras of “we don’t need this American war” but we all know that the only way out of this is to finish those against this country by any means possible.

What I am not willing to see any longer is my land desecrated by the blood of my countrymen who are being slaughtered by foreign militants. I am not willing to let this constantly hanging sword of Damocles threaten mine and my loved ones security anymore. I am not willing to sit and cry over the Leaks which tell me what I have known all along. I want to see results and if they come at a faster rate with US involvement let’s go for it now, while there is still a Pakistan to fight for and save. Don’t you agree?

I do agree. 100%.