The Unstable World – Pakistan

Pakistan may well be the most dangerous nation in the world. It is riven by religious extremism and sectarian violence. Successive governments have failed to provide decent education, health care or economic growth. About two-thirds of Pakistan’s nearly 200 million people, live on less than two dollars a day. And, of course, Pakistan has the bomb.

In December, 1946, Muhammad Ali Jinnah, the founder of Pakistan, recorded an address to the people of North America, expressing his hope that one day, his country would be a stable, well-governed nation like the United States and Canada.

Jinnah’s vision was never realized. The separation of India was marked by riots in which as many as half a million people were killed. And in Pakistan, the violence continues to this day. Over the last few months, a political crisis has gripped Pakistan, as protestors demand the resignation of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.

To explain why Pakistan has failed to fulfill the promise of its founder, Michael is joined by Husain Haqqani and Farahnaz Ispahani, who have spent their careers fighting to improve the lives of their fellow Pakistanis.

Ms. Ispahani is a journalist, and was a member of the Pakistani parliament; her husband, Mr. Haqqani, was Pakistan’s Ambassador to the United States from 2008 to 2011. They are both passionate advocates of liberal, secular values, democracy and the rule of law.

It has cost them. Ambassador Haqqani was forced to resign over allegations that he had sought U.S. help to head off a possible military coup. He has received numerous death threats. Ms. Ispahani was stripped of her seat in parliament, ostensibly because she holds dual U.S.-Pakistani nationality. They now live in exile in the United States.

Ambassador Haqqani is director for South and Central Asia at the Hudson Institute in Washington; his most recent book is Magnificent Delusions: Pakistan, the United States, and an Epic History of Misunderstanding. Ms. Ispahani was a public policy scholar at The Wilson Center until June; her forthcoming book on religious extremism is called Waiting to Die.

A few years ago the couple was included in Foreign Policy Magazine’s list of Top 100 Global Thinkers, for “pushing tough love for their troubled country.”

Click here to listen to interview :

A Foreign Economic Policy

For decades, pundits have described India and China as rivals for leadership in Asia. Chinese President Xi Jinping’s recent visit to India suggests that economic cooperation, rather than strategic competition, could be the main driver for the two Asian giants. If Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s forthcoming meeting with US President Barack Obama also gives due weight to economic considerations, India could be on the verge of significantly redefining its global role.

It is good that Modi pays attention to economics, unlike the entrenched establishment in Pakistan, which clings to military strategies even when the cost is the country’s impoverishment. India and the United States could still emerge as strategic partners, but with shared economic interests rather than just shared concerns about the balance of power. And Sino-Indian rivalry could be postponed to a day when both countries have modernised their economies.

India has yet to realise its full potential as a leading global economy. The rapid economic growth that India has witnessed since the mid-1990s was ushered in by much-needed reforms. After being criticised by economists for its low rate of growth, India finally earned a place among the world’s leading emerging markets. Further reform could lead it to greater success among the BRICS, that is, Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa, and beyond.

Americans believe that India can achieve rapid economic growth through innovation if it opens up its economy to foreign technologies. As Modi and Obama meet, Indian policymakers must recognise that economic factors are as important to Washington as they are to Beijing. For American FDI, India must strengthen its intellectual property right regulations and protect foreign investors who are exporting new technologies to India. Greater protection for foreign technologies will not only encourage growth and innovation, but also bring in vital FDI.

New Delhi cannot afford to persist with its dated modes of thought on pharmaceuticals or the defence industry either. Spending on healthcare is only about 1 per cent of the GDP in India, making the country one of the lowest spenders in the world. A number of issues plague India’s healthcare sector, ranging from a lack of infrastructure and financing to a dearth of health workers across the country. Hatred of Western pharmaceutical corporations cannot be the core of India’s healthcare strategy.

While India has emerged as a hub for IT outsourcing, it has lagged behind in exporting value-added manufactured goods. It has been unable to increase its share of technology-intensive products. With wages rising and productivity falling in China, India has a great opportunity to attract American FDI in its manufacturing sector. Such investment could go a long way in kickstarting India’s economy.

The country will require over $500 billion just for funding its infrastructure needs in the next five years. This fact makes capital market reforms a critical component of the agenda. Lack of liquidity and transparency as well as an excessive government footprint in capital markets are a few of the problems plaguing this sector. Any positive commitment from Modi in this area would be music to American ears and might help attract dollars for infrastructure.

With India seeking to modernise its armed forces and diversify its arms acquisitions, opportunities for stronger US-India defence ties will arise. The speed with which the two countries collaborate will largely depend on how reforms are introduced in India’s defence sector. Both sides speak of the opportunities for defence cooperation. But success in this arena will require streamlining the licensing processes as well as improving foreign and private participation.

As the economy grows, India’s energy needs continue to expand as well. The energy sector has been dominated by monopolies and the state, resulting in a lack of market-based mechanisms in the sector. This has led to governance issues, inefficiencies and a lack of strong competition from private companies. Americans would like to see market-based reforms in the energy sector.

The first set of reforms, implemented in the early 1990s, marked India’s arrival on the global economic map and made the country a key destination for international investors and companies. It has made significant progress in the last two decades and is now counted among the world’s leading emerging markets.

Economic growth led to a rise in India’s global standing and has radically improved the country’s socio-economic indicators. It has also raised the expectations of people within and outside the Indian economy. The burgeoning middle classes expect more growth from the economy and are keen to see even more improvement in the country. So do the major powers courting India.

The success of Modi’s initiatives with both China and the US depend on his ability to put economics at the centre of India’s new foreign policy. India has a remarkable knack for exploring new ideas and then settling for old ones. For peace and stability in Asia, and in order to create a model for its neighbours, one can only hope that India under Modi will have the economic emphasis that the prime minister’s predecessor failed to sustain.

Anti-Government Protests in Pakistan

CNN’s FAREED ZAKARIA GPS features an interview with CNN national security analyst, Peter Bergen, and Former Pakistan Ambassador to the US, Husain Haqqani, on the political protests in Pakistan. Over the past week, protests in Pakistan have erupted in opposition to Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. While the focus has been on the protesters outside of Pakistan’s parliament in Islamabad, the all-powerful military may still wield the real power in Pakistan.

Watch the interview here:

Pakistan #Fail

After paralyzing Islamabad for days, the crowds at boisterous protests demanding the resignation of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif are starting to thin out. But even if Pakistan’s current political standoff comes to an end, the country’s deeper political crisis won’t.

Sharif, who leads the conservative and pro-business Pakistan Muslim League party dominant in the populous Punjab province, has successfully rallied to his side most political parties represented in parliament. A consensus seems to be emerging within Pakistan’s political class that the country’s fragile democratic system should not be derailed. But the underlying causes of instability — terrorism, ethnic and sectarian conflict, and economic stagnation — remain unaddressed.

The protests were initiated by cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan and Canada-based cleric Muhammad Tahir-ul-Qadri. The two political allies are clearly tapping into the disenchantment of Pakistan’s urban middle class, which wants social and political reform even if it does not agree on what reforms to adopt. Sharif’s style of governance, which puts family members and friends in charge of key government functions, doesn’t appeal to most Pakistanis. Nor is Sharif’s tendency to try to marginalize all opposition and his confrontational approach towards Pakistan’s all-powerful military winning him many supporters.

Most Pakistani analysts now seem to agree that Khan and Qadri would not have dared to challenge Sharif in the streets had they not been encouraged to do so by someone from within the army hierarchy. The army has ruled Pakistan directly for 33 years and has played a behind-the-scenes role during periods of intermittent civilian rule, including splitting and forming political parties. The military also influences politics by initiating smear campaigns against political figures it does not like by describing them as unpatriotic.

The army insists it has no political agenda. But the timing of the protests, in conjunction with the retirement of top generals, coupled with Pakistan’s history of military intervention, makes the generals’ role suspect. Moreover, Javed Hashmi, Khan’s close associate and president of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (Movement for Justice) party, has now gone public with accusations that Khan told his colleagues that he was being backed by senior army officers. It’s a story that Pakistan has seen many times in its 67-year history. And it is, sadly, a key component of the country’s continuing political dysfunction.

Khan claims that he wants fresh elections because the vote that brought Sharif to power in May 2013 was rigged. That makes as much sense as Al Gore announcing a sit-in 14 months after the 2000 U.S. presidential election. Similarly, Qadri claims he wants a revolution in Pakistan because the country is mired in corruption. But he also has no explanation for why he chose this particular time to return from a decade in Canada, coinciding with Khan’s agitation. Corruption in Pakistan did not start only this summer.

I, like many others, suspect that the protests were timed to coincide with the pending retirement of five top generals, including the head of the ubiquitous Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), Lt. Gen. Zahir ul-Islam. In Pakistan, prime ministers facing political challenges are often more willing to extend the tenure of powerful intelligence chiefs in order to maintain their favor. Previous civilian governments have faced manufactured crises around the time they had to make critical decisions about replacing ISI directors-general.

Sharif may yet succeed in beating back the latest challenge to his authority. But the euphoria about economic reform and peace with India that marked Sharif’s inauguration last year — the first transfer of power in Pakistan’s history from one civilian government to another — is already gone.

Pakistan’s latest imbroglio highlights the country’s permanent political crisis. Despite the constant rewriting of constitutions — the country has had three since its founding in 1947, in addition to several amendments and draft constitutions — Pakistan is far from developing a consistent system and form of government. Political polarization persists between Islamists and secularists, between civilians and the military, and among different ethnic and political groups.

Political factions have often found it difficult to cooperate with each other or submit to the rule of law. At any given time, one or the other political party has been aided by the military intelligence apparatus, which plays a behind-the-scenes role. Political rivalry, like the kind now on display between Khan and Qadri and Sharif, has been cited throughout Pakistani history as a reason for military intervention.

Pakistan’s military, which dominates the state even in the presence of an elected government, has developed a set of policies that include an emphasis on Islam as a national unifier, hostility towards India as the principal foreign-policy objective, and an alliance with the United States that helps defray the costs of Pakistan’s massive military expenditures. These policies have encouraged extremist Islamism, promoted the pursuit of strategic objectives disproportionate to the state’s capacity, and obstructed Pakistan’s political evolution. But the disproportionate focus on ideology, military capability, and external alliances has weakened Pakistan internally.

The military has been developed at the cost of all other elements of national power, such as the economy, education, technological innovation, and institutional strength. The country’s institutions, ranging from schools and universities to the judiciary, are in decline. The economy’s stuttering growth is dependent largely on foreign aid or International Monetary Fund and World Bank financing. GDP stands at $236.6 billion in absolute terms — the smallest economy of any country that has tested nuclear weapons.

But these issues barely get any mention in Pakistan’s national discourse. The oversimplified Pakistani narrative makes it seem that the country’s real problems are wresting Jammu and Kashmir from India, fighting Indian and American “hegemony,” and keeping in check the corruption of elected civilian leaders.

Sharif’s latest troubles, too, are the direct result of his attempt to modify that national narrative by wresting control of foreign policy and national security issues from the military. He spoke of normal trade relations with India soon after his election in May 2013, without insisting on resolving the Kashmir dispute first, and argued that Pakistan’s interests are better served by staying out of Afghanistan’s internal matters.

The Pakistani military and its political allies see civilian initiatives for peace with India as treason. The military also remains unwilling to revise its policy of employing Afghan proxies, like the Taliban and the Haqqani network. Pro-ISI television news channels heaped scorn on Sharif for being pro-American and pro-Indian, just as they had condemned the government led from 2008 to 2013 by President Asif Ali Zardari.

Allegations of collusion between the political opposition and elements within the army seldom surprise Pakistanis: During periods of civilian rule that have been interspersed with direct military dictatorship, the army has consistently refused to submit itself to the decisions of, or scrutiny by, elected civilians. And it has looked for allies wherever it could find them in the political arena. The scope of direct military intervention in the form of a coup has diminished lately. Instead, Pakistan’s 20-odd 24-hour television news channels have become instruments of pressure on elected leaders through vicious propaganda guided by the army’s psychological operations experts.

Both Sharif and Khan have a reputation for obstinacy and their protests were meant to provide the military with a fig leaf for acting as the final arbiter in a political deadlock. A prolonged sit-in outside parliament by Khan’s hard-core followers, joined by Qadri’s devotees, coupled with Sharif’s stubborn refusal to resign, would be perfect justification for a military-brokered settlement.

Educated Pakistanis are often torn between their support for democracy and civilian control of the military, on the one hand, and their desire for social and political reform, on the other. Just as Sharif is a flawed advocate for democracy, Khan and Qadri’s calls for reform are tainted by their covert ties with the military and its intelligence arm.

At the root of Pakistan’s crisis is a refusal of all major actors to play by predetermined rules and in accordance with the constitution. The Pakistani military does not realize that its meddling makes Pakistan less stable, not more. An elected government must have the right to make policy in all spheres, including foreign affairs and national security. But politicians like Sharif also need to recognize that winning an election does not give them the right to govern arbitrarily. As for the likes of Khan and Qadri, they need to learn to wait until the next election rather than cutting secret deals with generals to secure a share in power through a soft coup.

Pakistan’s problems are myriad: a see-saw economy, low literacy rates and educational performance, and growing international isolation as others see the country as an incubator of Islamist extremism. These come from decades of political mismanagement. Unfortunately for Pakistan, the generals and politicians refuse to change their ways. That’s likely to keep the country lurching from crisis to crisis.

Even Without a Coup, the Military Has Already Won in Pakistan

Nuclear-armed Pakistan is once again mired in a domestic political crisis. Protesters calling for the resignation of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif have paralyzed the capital, Islamabad, for the last several days. Their threats of violence have raised the specter of yet another military intervention in a country that has been ruled by the military for long periods of time.

Whatever the outcome of the current imbroglio, it is unlikely that Pakistan will evolve into a fully functioning democracy, with full civilian control over the military, anytime soon.

Sharif was elected barely 15 months ago amid optimism about economic reform and peace with India. His election marked the first transfer of power in Pakistan’s history from one civilian to another. But the prime minister squandered some of his political capital by opting to govern through a small coterie of family friends and relatives. His daughter’s father-in-law is finance minister while Sharif’s brother is chief minister of the largest province, Punjab.

But the challenge to Sharif’s survival came as a direct result of his attempt to wrest control of foreign and national security policies from Pakistan’s all-powerful army. He spoke of normal trade relations with India, without insisting on resolving the Kashmir dispute first, and argued that Pakistan’s interests are better served by staying out of Afghanistan’s internal matters.

The policies proposed by Sharif in relation to India and Afghanistan were sensible, but he may have acted in haste and without adequate preparation. The Pakistani military treats civilian initiatives for peace with India as treason and is not willing to revise its policy of seeking Afghan proxies, like the Taliban and the Haqqani network.

The generals are also unhappy about Sharif’s decision to put former dictator General Pervez Musharraf on trial for treason.

Cricketer-turned-politician, Imran Khan, and Canada-based cleric Tahir-ul-Qadri were ostensibly encouraged by the military to announce their recent protest campaign, with help from pro-ISI (Inter-Services Intelligence agency) television news channels. Khan’s close associate, Javed Hashmi, has now broken ranks with him to speak publicly of secret contacts between Khan and operatives of the ubiquitous ISI.

Most Pakistanis are not surprised by allegations of collusion between the political opposition and some elements within the army. The Pakistani military sees itself as the country’s ultimate guardian and does not agree with the need to submit itself to the decisions of, or scrutiny by, elected civilians.

Sharif’s civilian predecessor, Asif Ali Zardari, faced down similar machinations with greater skill. Zardari completed his 5-year term as president through compromise, including the willingness to change prime ministers when the judiciary, acting on the military’s behest, demanded so.

The army clearly wants to avoid an overt coup. The protests provide it with a fig leaf for acting as the final arbiter in a political deadlock. Both Sharif and Khan have a reputation for stubbornness. The sit-in outside parliament by Khan’s hardcore followers, joined by devotees of Qadri, the cleric, provided the perfect setting for a military-brokered settlement.

A similar deadlock with the opposition had resulted in Sharif’s resignation in 1993, ending his first term as prime minister prematurely. In 1999, Sharif refused to resign during his second term, resulting in the military coup that brought Musharraf to power.

This time, the prime minister seems reconciled to a protracted battle. He wants to affirm the principles that an elected leader must only be removed from office through another election and that the military must be subservient to the constitutionally established civilian government.

Unfortunately, the realities of Pakistan’s politics are too complex to help Sharif uphold what would otherwise seem to be eminently reasonable standards. Khan and Qadri are tapping into discontent within Pakistan’s middle class with dynastic leadership and old-school patronage politics. Pakistan’s boisterous media, comprising 20-odd 24-hour television news channels, help put out rumors, incite violence and feed religious and ethnic prejudices, making governance difficult.

Many Pakistanis are torn between their support for democracy and civilian control of the military, on the one hand, and their desire for social and political reform, on the other. Just as Sharif is the flawed advocate of democracy, Khan and Qadri’s calls for reform have been tainted by their covert ties with the military and its intelligence arms.

In a perfect world, Sharif would open his government to the idea of reform; the Pakistani military would realize that its meddling has not made Pakistan stable; and Khan and Qadri would reach out to the Pakistani people for their votes at the next election instead of trying to pack off another elected parliament way before its term. But Pakistanis live very far from a perfect world.

For now, it seems that Pakistan’s generals have already succeeded in clipping Sharif’s wings. He will most likely allow Musharraf to proceed abroad and will be too weak to try and assert himself in mending fences with India or Afghanistan.

Meanwhile, Pakistan’s economy continues to slide. Almost one-third of its school-going age children remain out of school, and the world continues to see the country as an incubator of Islamist extremism.

Any prospect of coherent Pakistani military action against Jihadi terrorists ensconced in the country’s northwest region bordering Afghanistan has also been a major casualty of the anti-Sharif protests.

What’s Going on in Pakistan?

Tensions in Pakistan are mounting in demand of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s resignation. Judy Woodruff joins Husain Haqqani of the Hudson Institute and Moeed Yusuf of the United States Institute of Peace to discuss what’s behind the unrest, the prospective violence that lies ahead and how the conflict bodes for Pakistani democracy, and its relations with the U.S.