Acorn | My op-ed in WSJ Asia – Cut Pakistan Loose

Bailing it out will only impede its transformation into a normal state.

You have read about what the military-jihadi complex is and why it is a problem. In today’s Wall Street Journal I argue that the United States, China and Saudi Arabia should discontinue aid and instead, allow Pakistanis to decide the future of their state.

Read the whole thing on WSJ. Here’s an excerpt:

The international community should therefore rely on domestic processes to dismantle the military-jihadi complex. So far, the Pakistani elite who lead the putative state have had little incentive to put up an existential struggle against the complex: They know that the latter enjoys the West’s tacit support and they believe that foreign sponsors will avert the fiscal crises caused by the army eating up resources. The elite is likely to fight harder if they know that there is no bailout package in the offing.

They can certainly fight, if they want to. Over the last decade, they first backed Pervez Musharraf, the military dictator; then Chief Justice Iftikar Chaudhry in his legal battle against the dictator; then Mr. Zardari and so on. Clearly, the elite are pragmatic; they will support whichever side can win. If the military-jihadi complex is seen to be losing, they will pile up against it.

The time is right for Islamabad’s three chief bankrollers, the U.S., China and Saudi Arabia, to cut it loose. So far the onus of preventing really bad outcomes in Pakistan—the most extreme of which is represented as a jihadi takeover of the nuclear-armed state—has fallen on them.

But the current moment provides an opportunity for them to get out of the way of Pakistan’s political transformation. Recent incidents, from the killing of bin Laden in Abbottabad to the raid on a Pakistani naval base, should begin to turn public opinion against the army. The civilian leaders of the state have the opportunity to force reform. They can reduce defense expenditure, place the military under civilian control and wind down support for militants. However, if external aid and political support shores up the credibility of the military establishment, this process will stop and the old dynamic will resume.

Needless to say, turning off aid flows to Pakistan comes with risks. The army will try to play the U.S., China and Saudi Arabia against each other. In the past month, Pakistan has made a show of cozying up to China for military support. Yet China’s response has been lukewarm, indicating that Beijing or Riyadh wouldn’t want to become the sole guardians of a delinquent ward. Their own self-interest, along with persuasion from Washington, might bring about cooperation.

And what if tough love actually brings about the nightmare, putting a jihadi regime in control of nuclear weapons? Yes, the risks of nuclear proliferation, international terrorism and war with India are likely to increase. Even so, the overall situation would at least inject clarity in the minds of statesmen to allow them to work together and move to contain or dismantle the source of the threats.

But this worst-case outcome is unlikely simply because it is not in the interests of the Pakistani elite. It is certainly not in the interests of the army, which is primarily interested in its own survival. When threatened with the risk of punishment by the Bush administration in 2001, Mr. Musharraf promptly changed course.

Once aid is cut off, ground realities will create more chances for Pakistan’s own state to force the army to change course. All the more reason then for the world to allow Pakistanis to decide what they want to do about their state.
[WSJ]


DISCLAIMER: This is an archived post from the Indian National Interest blogroll. Views expressed are those of the blogger's and do not represent The Takshashila Institution’s view.