Learning has a very different meaning in Pakistan. For its military elite, that is. Days before President Asif Ali Zardari is to begin an official visit to the US, his army has begun regaining ground lost to the Taliban. There are noises within its establishment about the Taliban being a bigger threat than India. So much so that even US President Barack Obama has said Pakistan’s obsession with India being a “mortal threat” is ebbing.
Since 9/11, the US has been very liberal with providing assistance to Pakistan: Billions of aid dollars have come its way. Now, the mood has darkened, even if American purse strings still remain open. For example, section 4(6J) of the Pakistan Enduring Assistance and Cooperation Enhancement (PEACE) Bill requires that it cease support to terrorist groups operating against India. Another part of the Bill, section 203(b)(3a), mandates that money under this law cannot be used to purchase or upgrade F-16 aircraft. But it has exceptions and waivers built into it. More money is contingent on Pakistan improving its image. Thus, more than a sense of the peril that it confronts, it is the money that is likely to be the reason for recent military successes in the Buner and Dir districts.
The learning is clearly Pavlovian.
The issue at hand, however, is that the Obama administration needs to see things in their true colours and not through the tint of the military headquarters in Rawalpindi. What Obama said, however, indicates that the decks are being cleared to give Zardari what he is demanding.
That would be short-sighted. The US is sure to be short-changed for the aid it will provide. Can anyone rule out military “reverses” will not occur in Pakistan’s North West Frontier Province (NWFP) and its tribal areas once money starts flowing into the treasury in Islamabad?
External efforts to bring Pakistan back on track have two parts: the carrot, exemplified by the PEACE Bill, and the stick, such as military intervention in NWFP and other trouble spots. What the Obama administration has done is to put the carrots on the table without a stick in its hand. The assumption that harsh growls can substitute military means is clearly mistaken.
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