Pakistan Tensions On The Rise

One year after Osama bin Laden’s death, the West is still scrutinizing Pakistan’s relationship with Al Qaeda and the Taliban. The aftermath of the raid that killed Osama bin Laden was characterized by an explosion of uncertainty: How had the world’s most wanted terrorist been able to hide in his Abbottabad compound for six years?

Had Pakistan’s intelligence agency fallen asleep, or was it a deliberate scheme by corrupt military forces to protect him in order to continue extracting monetary aid from the U.S.? Could the U.S. expect to maintain an amicable relationship with the nation after infuriating the military by excluding their participation in the operation altogether?

It’s almost as if bin Laden’s capture has relaxed one muscle and tensed all the others. We all just really want to figure Pakistan out, especially whose side the country is on, so that we know who to blame and can readjust our approach to fighting terrorism accordingly. Even Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is getting frustrated. Just three days ago she announced that the government of Pakistan “needs to make sure its territory is not used as a launching pad for terrorist attacks anywhere, including inside of Pakistan.”

Well of course I agree 100 percent with Hillary, but I think that the mindset with which we are regarding Pakistan is in need of reconstruction. When we address Pakistan as a nation of uniformity and democratic ideals, we lose sight of the bigger picture. Pakistan may be labeled a federal republic, but it is the military (currently led by General Ashfaq Kayani) that holds the most power and has done so throughout Pakistan’s history. The actual “civilian democracy government” is very unpopular with the military and the people of Pakistan since its president is reputedly corrupt. The U.S. maintains stronger relations with the military of Pakistan for this reason, but there doesn’t seem to be any basis in trusting that the military is competent enough to compensate for a dysfunctional government. Its attempts at taking out the Taliban have proved futile time and time again—not to mention they have led to many civilian deaths.

So either it’s blatant strategic daftness or a general attitude of apathy — one of those is allowing terrorism to thrive within the country like a festering bacterial infection in a body with a feeble immune system. For this reason, I conclude that the allegations that “Pakistan” (not sure if accusers are referring to the country, its military or its government) was protecting and providing resources to Osama bin Laden for six years are false.

Even so, we should regard the military with suspicion because even if it is not on Al Qaeda’s side, how can we trust that General Kayani’s best interests are to remove all forms of threatening extremism from his country and not to accumulate the millions of dollars pouring in from the U.S. to support him and his regime? Well, this is a million-dollar question in itself and, as I remarked earlier, generates a lot of uncertainty. While I don’t believe Kayani has enough incentive to support terrorist groups that garner trouble for him, we should not rule out the possibility that his intelligence did pick up on Bin Laden’s whereabouts and simply concealed the information to continue receiving funds.

Following from this theory, the United States should not be allying itself wholeheartedly with the Pakistani forces. I echo Fareed Zakaria’s opinion from his column in Time that “we cozy up to the military and overlook its destruction of democracy. The only way to get real – cooperation is by helping Pakistan move from being a military state to being a more normal country.”

As a nation that loves to impose its democratic principles on other countries across the globe, America should be redirecting its priority toward correcting the government’s corruption and helping them implement structural reform. It is the sort of investment that would take time and constant supervision on the part of the U.S. but would ultimately increase cooperation and trust between a nation determined to combat terrorism and another determined to oust it from its system. At the same time, we should look to garner the acceptance of the Pakistani people, whose anti-American sentiments are fueled largely by propaganda by a twisted regime but whose cooperation is essential in developing an alliance. That Pakistan is armed by nuclear weapons, contains Islamic extremists and butts heads with our friend India should not be reasons to fear or suspect Pakistan if it is headed by a progressive, anti-terrorist administration. Until then, however, the Obama administration should consider implementing incentives for the military to catch dangerous culprits like bin Laden, or perhaps we should cut aid altogether to wake their Intelligence Agency up and witness better performances.

As of right now, admonishing the crooked Pakistani government couldn’t be a more ineffectual use of Hillary’s time. On the other hand, though, there’s an unruly de facto regime that is in dire need of straightening out.

 

Seema Wadhwani is a second year biological sciences major and can be reached at wadhwans@uci.edu