Pakistan-US Summit

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The Substance and the Symbolism of the F-16s

Cambridge Of the many bilateral and international issues that will come up for discussion during the June 24 Musharraf-Bush summit for Pakistan the sale of F-16s will be a key issue. While economic support speculated in the range of few billion dollars will be welcomed by the Pakistani establishment and the people who believe that in the post 9/11 period ‘Islamabad sold its cooperation cheap’, it is the question of the sale of the F-16s that will be followed most intently. After the former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif was able to extract back Soya beans plus cash instead of delivery of the 28 F-16s , General Parvez Musharraf has consistently been asking the Bush administration to sell F-16s to Pakistan. Pakistan paid for 28 of the aircraft in a deal first negotiated in the late 1980s. Despite having already purchased them, the US blocked their release in 1991 when Pakistan could not certify that it had no nuclear programme. Widely referred toa s “highway robbery” by the US administration which neither repaid the cash it received for the planes nor delivered the planes, has clearly conveyed the extent to which US can prove dependable partners for Pakistan.

Interestingly it is on the eve of Musharraf’s arrival in the US stories on the US decision to sell F-16s are being flashed across the print media. Not surprisingly in Delhi, the US and in Islamabad too Among the US publications the US-based Defence and Foreign Affairs journal reported that “Washington would not only now release the jets, but would hand Pakistan the new Lockheed Martin version.” American officials in Islamabad have refuted these stories as mere “fabrications.” If it is a mere “fabrication” it could be a propaganda ploy by a Delhi or Washington-based Indian lobby to pre-empt any substantive discussion on the sale of F-16s. Instead push the Bush administration in the denial mode. Alternatively this “fabrication” could have been fed by a Pakistani source as a ‘suggestive’ news story. Such media games are common occurrences where Pakistani and Indian interests are viewed by the two governments as clashing.

Whatever the decision on the sale of F-16s there is no doubt that the issue of the US sale of F-16s to Pakistan has become a symbol of the limits and expectations of the Pakistan-US relationship which is otherwise multidimensional. Evidently Washington’s position on ‘to sell or not to sell’ the F-16s to Pakistan will also convey the extent of how much ‘meat’ there is in Pakistan-US relations from the US perspective. In Islamabad it is seen as a test case of whether the Pak-US relationship is a strategic one.

The decision to sell F-16s will demonstrate the degree of trust US has in the current Pakistani government as reliable allies. In case the sale is not cleared and Delhi gets in addition to the Phalcon AWACS, also the Arrows cleared, the growing US-Indian strategic ties will be contrasted with United States limited tactical and issue-based relations with Pakistan.

Hence the sale of F-16s will only help maintain an effectiveness-based and not quantity-based military balance in the two nuclear-armed antagonistic neighbors. The refusal to sell directly or through third party the F-16s would therefore be demonstrative of United States consideration of Indian concerns. The Indian government has always effectively opposed any major military sales to Pakistan.

In November 2001 Pakistan’s request for clearance to purchase F-16s. Then Lee Feinstein, a State Department official in the Clinton administration who worked on South Asia policy had explained that “The United States has a new role in South Asia, and that is as a kind of guarantor of stability for Pakistan. At the same time, it wants to deepen relationship with India. The trick will be whether officials in all three capitals can can accommodate this.” Then the transfer of F-16 aircrafts was seen as upsetting a “delicate balance” both in Pakistan-India military build-up and in the emerging troika Pakistan-India and US relations.; a view which is not shared by the Pakistani national security community of policymakers, media and analysts.

Meanwhile in Pakistan the memory of US refusal to sell the Airborne Warning And Control System (AWACS) at the height of ‘strategic cooperation’ in the anti-Soviet war in Afghanistan, is still fresh. According to an analyst “US has always limited its cooperation with Pakistan, among other factors, by also India’s concerns.” At the peak of the Afghan war with deep military cooperation and no issues of so-called “fundamentalism” and terrorism” US had refused to sell AWACS to Pakistan in the mid eighties. Differences have always existed between the US State department and the Defence Department on the extent to which strategic cooperation with Pakistan possible. That difference still continues. Only the current Secretary of defence Donald Rumsfeld is known to bull doze his own way through, overriding concerns of the State Department. However there is no indication that Rumsfeld will push for the controversial sale during Musharraf’s forthcoming visit..

Pakistan’s concerns regarding the militarization of the region continue to increase. In its region the arms bazaar is at its busiest. Buying and selling are at its peak. The latest Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) report reports that peak. The value of Russian arms exports, on the rise since 1999, increased by more than $1 billion to $4.8 billion last year. Accounting for 36 percent of global deliveries, Russia replaced the United States as the world’s largest supplier of arms to other countries. According to the SIPRI report 2003 India’s arms imports increased 72 percent in 2002, making it the second largest buyer of arms from abroad. China became the largest arms importer in 2002. Similarly arms imports by Pakistan also grew considerably last year, SIPRI said.

Arms race continues in South Asia as both continue to develop missile s and produce fissile material. Both also have a nuclear arsenal whose size estimates remain speculative. However Pakistan, “the poorer of the two, was the underdog measured by both conventional and nuclear arms ” the SIPRI Report maintained. With no signs of sustained peace efforts within South Asia, the unresolved Kashmir problems, the development and possible deployment of nuclear weapons by India are factors that will contribute to the insecurity dilemma of Pakistan.

The Two Contexts of A Growing Relationship

The Camp David meeting between President General Parvez

Musharraf and President George Bush will serve as yet another building block in a growing Pakistan-US relationship Both will re-engage, fourth time since 9/11 to promote what the two heads of state view as their country’s national interest it would be useful to recognize the two different contexts which define this old though troubled relationship; the Pakistani context and the American context. These two contexts also determine what each can realistically ‘deliver’ for the other.

The Pakistani context from which the relationship flows is a highly engaged and politicized one. Given the historical experiences of Pakistan’s relationship from the fifties onwards, a pot-pourri of expectations, disappointments, deep engagement , sanctions, distrust and recriminations, it is a relationship which evokes extreme sentiments. Not least because of a supranational muslim consciousness combined with active State engagement with muslim countries within South, South West and Central Asia.

United States is therefore not viewed only with reference to how it delivers or not on the bilateral front but also what positions it takes on muslim causes, Palestine being the primary one. Interestingly along with Pakistan-India it is the United States-Pakistan relations that are minutely examined by the national security community, the media and the average Pakistani. This relationship remains therefore actively susceptible to the compulsions and criticisms of the overlapping zones of the civilian and military establishments, the political governments, the media and the public. Yet despite all the disappointments it is a relationship that the establishment and all governments have actively sought to promote and the public has generally been cynical about.

Hence in Pakistan it is a virtually schizophrenic compulsion that defines the context; the compulsion both to engage and top not engage. The official policy community of Pakistan however remains clear about the abiding significance of remaining on the ‘right side’ of the United States. Even if the officials feel ‘short-changed’ by the United States for what they have ‘delivered’ to the United States there is a clear consensus on the economic , military and political advantages of this bilateral relations. Although within the public context the economic benefits from this relationship remain buried under the criticisms of United States political policies on issues like Kashmir and Palestine. And now on Iraq and on Iran too.

While the establishment remains mindful of the greater importance that the United ascribes to Pakistan’s troublesome neighbor India, it also argues that Pakistan has remained ‘on course’ where its own critical interests have collided with US policy interests. Critical interests would include the nuclear program, its position on the Kashmir dispute, opposition to unilateralist actions and pre-emptive strikes against sovereign states would be.

Against the backdrop of this context Pakistani governments will continue to extract whatever advantages they can from its relationship with the United States. Pakistan meanwhile continues to ‘deliver’ to the US whatever it can in US’s war on terrorism, the occasionally ambiguous and nebulous ‘adversary’, in the military and political areas. Ultimately to whatever degree and in whatever ways Pakistan supports US anti-terrorism agenda, Pakistani establishment is alone responsible for the decisions it takes in this sphere. As it should be for the decisions it took regarding Pakistan-US cooperation in the fifties and in the eighties. The cost-benefit calculations have to be done in Islamabad. The more consciously and competently they are done keeping national and not institutional or individual interest in mind , the better it is for Pakistan. Pakistani policy makers have to take responsibility for the outcome of this phase of engagement with the US. The time for close and clear examination is now. Later endless recriminations are of little consequence.

Meanwhile the US context from which the compulsion to engage and deliver on the Pakistan front flows, is a straight forward one. It is in the nature of the United States functioning democracy that all its institutions are geared towards promoting what the US establishment determines to be its national interest. The Administration, the elected houses and the media all join hands or at least all provide the checks and balances that generally keep the US government functioning along prescribed lines. Examples of presidential preferences translating into operational policies are indeed limited. If the establishment and the political policy is to support Isreal it is difficult to get out of line.

Similarly if Pakistan must deliver on counter-terrorism along with a domestic dimension, on LOC , on India, on democracy and on proliferation there will be limits to how much an administration can go out of line on this policy. If counter-terrorism is the major consideration then the push for democracy can become weak. It will neither disappear and nor will it not return when the ‘job is done’ on counter-terrorism. Such is the US setup. It expects its bilateral partners, to whom it does dole out concrete advantages, to ‘deliver’ regularly. For example the multi-billion package that will be announced at the Camp David Musharraf-Bush summit it will require annual clearance from the Congress. The option therefore for the US to pull out of an arrangement with a ‘non-performing’ bilateral partner will always be there.

The US set-up works professionally through its institutions. Unlike Pakistan personalities alone cannot determine policies. So the first name basis and back slapping evenings wining and dining with senior officials cannot translate into policy advantages. That’s a different ball game. Strict and serious not susceptible to individual or institutional proclivities. Old timers especially from Gulf countries serving in Washington maintain that unless their countries do not ‘deliver’ as and when the US wants old actions of the ‘faithful’ count for naught. Such is the stringent demand from those who have engaged in a relationship with the US. This is how this militarily and economically strong power functions. After all even when the Europeans did not deliver on the Iraq war sober and serious-minded Americans are known to have attacked even ‘french fries’ésuch was the anger against the French.

Consequently Pakistani policy-makers must remain mindful of this context as they engage further in a relationship which has its clear advantages for Pakistan. Correct cost-benefit calculations based on realistic expectations is essential.

Complaints, Responses, Terrorism and Responsibilities

The Bush Administration’s expected response to Pakistan’s complaint of being ‘short-changed’ for its post 9/11 cooperation would be a listing of the US Administration-backed economic ‘advantages accrued to Pakistan from the various international finance regimes. Washington takes credit for the 12 billion dollar debt rescheduling which subsequently led the bilateral level rescheduling with specific Paris Club member countries. In Pakistan analysts too credit both Ossama Bin Ladin and Shaukat Aziz for Pakistan’s much improved macro-economic picture ! Bilaterally on the US front after the write-off from the $ 3 billion debt owed by Pakistan, now only 1.8 billion is pending. To repay this debt Pakistan has to return 15 million dollars. However it is unlikely that Pakistan’s demand of getting the entire 1.8 billion written off will be met during this summit. US argues that instead of writing off this debt which would only accrue 15million dollar annual savings to Pakistan, only partial write-off will be combined with a major US investment in the social sector. For Pakistan however this formula denies Pakistan cash availability of 15 million dollars to be utilized for other purposes.

However important process-move on the important issue of trade is expected to be finalized during the May 24 summit. The Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA) will be signed. That will be the first step towards a Pakistan-US free trade agreement (FTA). Sri Lanka is the other South Asian country with which TIFA has been signed. When signed a FTA would provide Pakistani products preferred access to the US market. The significance of TIFA however is only that it opens an intensive negotiations track for US and Pakistan on ways to expedite agreement on FTA. Most of the pre-requisite actions on factors like the international property rights and, on procurements etc need to be taken by the Pakistan.

Meanwhile Washington’s emphasis on social sector support flows also from its belief that higher social spending to be a long term counter-terrorism measure insofar as lack of education and employment contribute to so-called “terrorism.” This belief may only partially be true. Yet for Washington focus on this secondary issue rather than on the primary counter-terrorism issue that of political roots of terrorism, is politically ‘convenient.’ If Washington concedes on the primary issue Washington would have take responsibility, given its acts of commission and omission, for contributing to the perpetuation of the most volatile unresolved conflicts of Palestine and Kashmir.

A central question on the home front for any Pakistani government cooperating with the US would be whether Pakistan would completely ‘buy into’ a US counter-terrorism policy. At present US’s counter-terrorism policy is one that is notorious among majority of the Muslims and even large sections of opinion-making Europeans for its anti-muslim bias.

For Pakistan a strategically and morally correct policy on counter-terrorism would be to continue with its Kashmir and Palestine policy which takes steps for the political resolution of these issues, continue to link the beginning of a sincere political dialogue aimed at a principled resolution of the Palestinian and Kashmiri dispute to state repression to the sustained end of violence in these areas. Meanwhile in upholding rule of law, uniformly not selectively, nationally and internationally it must cooperate with international counter éterrorism measures.

Such a counter-terrorism policy, which Pakistan largely follows, cannot support unilateralism, its national security doctrine of pre-emptive strike, its selective and even lie based policy on Weapons of Mass Destruction.(WMD), its policy of threats than of engagement on questions like Iran’s nuclear program, its military occupation of Iraq fast descending into a counter-insurgency operation. Pakistan cannot afford a simplistic view of and decision on any of these issues which directly undermine all objective legal and moral basis required for consensus-based multi-lateral international system. Indeed given the precedents that these US policies set for inter-state relations they also directly undermine positions that Pakistan must uphold for its own national security.

While many of these issues have been thrown up as a consequence of United States post 9/11 policy the Pakistani complain of being “short-changed” by the US has been as old as the relationship itself. Significantly beyond the US response to there is a Pakistan-specific dimension to this issue. After all the bargaining moment for Pakistan in the case of 9/11 cooperation was before making its commitment to the US. Should a very influential Pakistani general then visiting the US have instantly handed a blank check of Pakistani support to Under Secretary of State Armitage within 24 hours of 9/11? The answer to this question will provide a realistic response to who should take the responsibility for Pakistan being ‘short-changed’, indeed if we believe we have been short-changed ? After all none other than the guru of US diplomacy Henry Kissinger expressed shock to his friend Pakistan’s former Foreign Minister Sahibzada Yaqub Ali Khan over Pakistan’s leadership’s failure in the seventies to ask for quid pro quo for facilitating the ‘China opening.’ Having spent reportedly two entire days figuring out what the Pakistanis would demand as quid pro quo the Nixon Administration could not believe their luck when the Pakistanis came blank on a quid pro quo !

That fundamental requirement of hard bargaining at an opportune moment is possible only through competently led inter-institutional thinking; one so often missing in Pakistan’s personalized or group rule. Fortunately inter-institutional strategizing was evident through the Iraq crisis. The outcome has been a correct Iraq policy. Over the crucial question of sending Pakistani troops to Iraq the same inter-institutional decision-making will be required.

Acrimony along with other factors has been a sustained if not dominant element in Pakistan-US relations from the fifties onwards. Even at the ‘high point’ of cooperation acrimony and distrust has continued. The only way in which Pak-US relations will avoid bitterness as the moves forward in this relationship are defined jointly by the two countries factoring in their respective national and international goals. As the Bush administration focuses on its own requirements of the post 9/11 engagement with Pakistan , Pakistan too must candidly and competently focus on its own clearly worked out national interests.

Pakistan-US Summit Special 4

The Six Key Political Issues

There are six key policy issues of bilateral and international significance which are likely to be discussed during General Parvez Musharraf’s Camp David and Washington meetings. These discussions will not necessarily yield new moves by either or both countries on all of these six issue issues. Primarily future policy directions of both countries would be decided. In some cases new decisions may also be made. (Interestingly though on most of these issues it is the United States’ expectation that Pakistan would be expected to respond to.)

One is the cooperation over Afghanistan. A reassertion of Pakistan’s commitment to supporting US objectives in Afghanistan will be sought and gotten by Bush and his team. Musharraf will reiterate Pakistan’s commitments and its view on the political way forward. In the period following 9/11, led by the Pakistan army and in coordination with US agencies , Pakistan began a 70,000 personnel strong security and development operation in Pakistan’s tribal agencies This operation along the Afghan border has led to unprecedented close institutional interaction between the agencies of the two countries. These include FBI, CIA and CENTCOM , Joint Chief of Staff Committee , ISI, GHQ and the IB. The Technical Monitoring Cell (TMC) located in the GHQ has Pakistani army and CENTCOM representatives meets daily. These agencies have pooled their human and technological resources to continuously mount anti-a-Qaeda and anti-taleban operations.

The political challenges in Afghanistan also continue to multiply. On Afghanistan Pakistan’s U éturn on the talibaan was accompanied by its publicly stated concerns after the Bonn Agreement that the near no representation of the Pushtuns would prevent stabilization of the Karzai regime. Islamabad’s Afghan policy includes support of the Karzai regime, of the US troops in Afghanistan and its continuous yet strictly political engagement with Afghan Pushtuns including sections of the talibaans. Reportedly the US has recently sought Islamabad’s intervention to help Karzai open dialogue with the Pushtun ulema and some “moderate talibaan.” Difficulty in handling the situation as election period nears will generate pressure and some blame game. However the countries aim to evolve an appropriate responses to this through the recently set up Trilateral Commission on Afghanistan which has Pakistan, US and Afghan representation.

Significantly the structure

The scale and spread of interaction between the defence and intelligence agencies of the two countries has been unprecedented .The structure of the post 9/11 relationship with the US therefore primarily involves these agencies. Structures like the Hence the military provides the major building blocks of the post 9/11 architecture of this bilateral relationship.

The second issue will be the Kashmir issue. On this a reiteration of Pakistan’s commitment to controlling cross-LOC infiltration will be sought. Musharraf will call for an Indian response to Pakistan clamping down on the infiltration. Beginning with his Geo television interview in which he conceded that there could be 10 to 12 solutions to Kashmir, advocated Kashmiri representation in talks over Kashmir and called for conflict resolution Musharraf has already stated Pakistan’s policy. The ball is in India’s court he will say. Its policy of denial or threats will not work. Instant solutions too are not available. Musharraf, like the former Prime Ministers, advocates initiating dialogue to explore viable solutions to the dispute. He maintains infiltration across the LOC can only be controlled for a specific period. Permanent and complete end to cross-LOC infiltration will be possible only if India sincerely enter into negotiations over Kashmir.

Meanwhile all Washington seeks is aPakistan-Indian dialogue over Kashmir. It has no solution to offer. Only US think-tanks have mostly promoted the Delhi solution to the dispute; a permanent division of Kashmir along the LOC. The US Administration has no road map for a Kashmir solution, it does however have a road map on how India and Pakistan must engage. Musharraf will be ‘advised’ by the Americans to refrain from controversial statements regarding Kargil , future conflicts etc reportedly said in his NDTV. This verbal battling by both sides , through the airwaves and print media will be discouraged.

Musharraf must raise with his American counterpart the viability of the 1899 Hague Convention for the Pacific Settlement of International Disputes as a legal avenue for resolving the dispute. Both India and Pakistan are parties to the Convention. Article 8 establishes a procedure for special mediation. The U.S. government joined by others must also invoke the requirement of Article 33(1) of the United Nations Charter providing that the two parties to the dispute over Kashmir “shall first of all, seek a solution by negotiation, inquiry, mediation, conciliation, arbitration, judicial settlement, resort to regional agencies or arrangements, or other peaceful means of their own choice.” For fear of US rejection Pakistan must not fail to raise this legitimate, credible and peaceful way forward on Kashmir.

Third will be the nuclear issue. Pressure on Pakistan on this issue is exerted through media and think-tanks. Leaked stories and near recommendations of think-tanks flag Pakistan as a nuclear proliferator and an irresponsible nuclear state. There is however an acceptance, at least at this ‘high point ‘of counter-terrorism cooperation, within a section of the US administration of the nuclear program being Pakistan’s genuine security requirement. Reportedly a few weeks ago an influential New York-based think tank attempted to produce a report calling for dismantling of Pakistan’s nuclear program. That move was aborted by some members of the Bush administration and the US national security community who believed that such a move would undermine bilateral cooperation over the anti-terrorism drive, that it would push Pakistan in the lap of ‘extremism’ and a heightened anti-Americanism would destablize the Musharraf government.

Musharraf will stress Pakistan’s track record of no export of nuclear technology to even friendly muslim countries including Iran and Pakistan’s own C3 system. Nuclear roll-back is no option for Pakistan. Infact the development of its nuclear program will continue. India’s development of nuclear tipped missiles and offensive nuclear doctrine based on triad will prevent Pakistan from capping its program at the present level. A roll-back is therefore a complete impossibility. Infact the development and the survival of Pakistan’s defence-related nuclear program remains an abiding pillar of Pakistan’s national security. On this issue there exists a national consensus cutting across political, military and civilian establishment.

Fourth will be the question of Pakistan military being dispatched to Iraq. On Iraq Pakistan’s chose a principled yet non-combative path. While unambiguously ruling out support for US military invasion on Iraq in the Pakistani parliament the Musharraf-Jamali government explained why another policy option could not be exercized. Pakistan balanced its policy of opposing a pre-emptive strike against Iraq, of supporting continuation of Hans Blix’s Weapons Inspection and of actively Musharraf personally exploring with the Saddam government the possibility of Saddam’s ‘peaceful exit’ from Iraq. Now on the most pressing question of Pakistan supplying troops to support US forces in what is undoubtedly turning into a counter-insurgency operation in Iraq the Pakistanis will find it difficult to oblige the US. Despite the government’s keenness to ‘help’ the US two problems remain. One the international including muslim consensus is against sending troops to function under US command. Two Saudi Arabia has opposed Pakistan’s suggestion to allow forces from the muslim country to go under OIC command; an idea with which the US agreed. It will be politically unwise for Pakistan to let its military men become part of a counter-insurgency operation against the Iraqi people. The Iraqis increasing view the US troops as an occupation force.

Five is the signing of a bilateral agreement invoking article 98(2) of the Rome Statute Which allows countries to sign bilateral treaties for a reciprocal arrangement for handing over war criminals belonging to either countries to each other and not to ICC. Many US legal experts argue that US has “distorted” this clause which was not meant to cover future agreements but was intended to respect existing US Status of Forces Agreements (SOFA’s) and existing obligations under international law. Par 98 (2) was added to cover existing obligations under international agreements. SOFA’s deal with ordinary crimes by soldiers committed in foreign countries which are happy to turn the accused back to their own nation for trial. However experts maintain that “Using this loophole, the US began a frantic and determined effort to coerce as many other states as possible to enter into such agreements. ” They argue entering into such bilateral agreements will ” provide the US with the unjustified argument that 98(2) offers immunity from transfer to the ICC. But that would enable the US to thwart the clear obligations of member states to cooperate with requests for the transfer of suspects to the ICC, and would defeat the fundamental purpose of the ICC to avoid immunity for suspected criminals. ” However despite this criticism notwithstanding numerous countries including India, Bangla Desh, Sri Lanka and Afghanistan have signed this bilateral agreement with the US. Given Pakistan’s current level of cooperation the government may agree to sign this agreement. In principle it will be a reciprocal agreement but in practice US is unlikely to hand over a Pakistani war criminal to Pakistan. Instead it would try him under US law. Guantanamo Bay adequately illustrates this fact. Only Pakistan will be obliged to hand over US war criminals to the US. As has always been the case; handing over of Aimal Kansi illustrated this fact. However the possibility of Pakistan signing this agreement may explain the presence of the Establishment ‘s lawyer Sharif ud Din Peerzada’s presence in the very small presidential delegation.

Finally the sixth issue will relate to Pakistan’s domestic politics. The Bush administration has a somewhat of a contradictory expectation from Musharraf. Viewing Pakistan’s domestic politics from US’s national security perspective they may look forward to political engineering insofar as it divides and destructs the MMA. And as an extension of that requirement would be the need to have Musharraf work out a deal with the two mainstream political parties. This is what Musharraf has been disinclined to do. He would put forth his usual arguments of the need to clean up Pakistani politics. Musharraf is unrelenting on the issue of complete democracy versus guided democracy. Few within and outside doubt that he has a role to play , they would also support him but are likely to stress upon the need to be more accommodating towards the other two mainstream parties too.

On a broader note as the Bush Administration faces unprecedented popular resentment in the muslim and the European world over its many arbitrary, illegal and unilateral South-West Asian policies, there is an expectation of ‘ideological support’ from Musharraf. Clearly General Musharraf cannot endorse US policies. His comments on recognition of Israel were rapidly clarified by his close friend and National Security Advisor Tariq Aziz. “Pakistan will be the last muslim country to rrecognize Israel,” he told aprés conference in Lahore.

Musharraf will however yet again advocate moderate Islam as opposed to extremist Islam. He will articulate what is Pakistan’s own requirement and what the Americans want to hear . Yet the sooner the US understands that religious beliefs of those who take to violence as a means of promoting causes is secondary. It is the unresolved political disputes that are primary. Musharraf’s message of moderate Islam is well éreceived against the back drop of internal compulsions, not least of all the intolerance and internal strife preached by originally State-sponsored groups, had led Nawaz Sharif, Shahbaz Sharif and subsequently Musharraf to find ways to ‘moderate’ these groups. However the legitimacy of the message of moderation is based on it being a statement of intent signaling reformation of the State. Not as a message through which to tackle political opponents like the MMA. While there can be differences within Pakistan on MMA’s interpretation of Islam, there is no denying their democratic legitimacy.

Nasim Zehra is a Fellow at the Harvard University Asia Center. She contributed above article to Media Monitors Network (MMN) from Massachusetts, USA.

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