“The US should stop Aid to Pakistan”: THE GOATMILK DEBATES
“THE GOATMILK DEBATES” will be an ongoing series featuring two debaters tackling an interesting or controversial question in a unique, intellectually stimulating manner.
Each debater makes their opening argument, followed by an optional rebuttal.
The winner will be decided by the online audience and judged according to the strength of the respective arguments.
The motion: ” The US should stop Aid to Pakistan”
For the motion: Saqib Mausoof
Against the motion: Sabahat Ashraf
Saqib Mausoof For the Motion
US should stop military aid to Pakistan. It is seen as a tactical waste by the US lawmakers and blood money by the populist Pakistan media. Some of this aid also bolsters Pakistan’s covert nuclear armament program and extraneous benefits for the top military brass. Very little of this approximately $2.5 bn annual aid trickles down to the Pakistani people. Investing this money at home in the USA for public services and infrastructure upgrades is better use. Eventually, divesting from Pakistan Army will enable US law makers to see Pakistan without the perception of an “ally from hell” but as an independent nation that is not subservient to US interests only.
Since 1948, US have provided $55 bn in Aid to Pakistan and most of it has gone to the Pakistan military. This aid has created an oligarchy which is controlled by various Military foundations. It has further ruined democratic institutions like the judiciary and the parliament. Since early 1950’s, when the Dulles brothers, John as Secretary of State and Allen as head of CIA, snubbed Pakistan’s civilian leadership under then premiere Liaquat Ali Khan and gave Field Marshall Ayub Khan special treatment, Pakistan has served as a “Sipahi” state for American policy makers. The first rectifying treaty on this was the Baghdad pact or CENTO signed between Iran, Iraq, Pakistan, Turkey, UK and US in 1955.
This relationship was fully intact in 1960 when Gary Powers flew out of Peshawar airbase his ill-fated U-2 spy plane which was subsequently shot down by a Russian SAM missile. It continued with Prime Minster Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto negotiating President Nixon’s secretive visit to China, and probably climaxed under Gen Zia’s “Jihad” which created the Mujahedeen’s as a religious force to fight off the Soviets occupation of Afghanistan. During that time, the heads of the Haqqani clan were called the “moral equivalent of America founding fathers” by President Ronald Reagan. A case can be made that successive American administrations have always supported and preferred a military ruler in Pakistan rather than a civilian leadership.
The first decade of the 21st century under the military leadership of Gen Pervaiz Musharraf had seen an increasing amount of US military aid to Pakistan. The offering of the aid carrot was accompanied by a big stick in a not so subtle threat by the US deputy secretary of State Richard Armitage, who told President Musharraf that Pakistan should be prepared to be bombed “back to the stone age” if they refuse to fight against Al-Qaida and the Taliban. The subsequent agreement between the two governments created a complex aid package that constituted of four buckets, Military assistance, Economic Assistance, USAID projects, and coalition support funds.
In the most simplistic way, this money is paid as a bribe to the Pakistani officials to provide full support to American military operations in Afghanistan and look the other way if the hot war spills over the border to Pakistan. For example, coalitions support funds pay for usage of Pakistan’s air bases like Miranshah, Jacobabad, Shamsi which are then used by American aircrafts and drones for monitoring and bombing within Pakistan’s borders. There are also allegations that US supplied advanced Jetfighters (F-16s) can only be flown and maintained only by US approved flyers thereby negating the authority of Pakistan air force. Pakistan’s immigration services already reports all passengers’ activity to the FBI and Gen Musharraf’s regime has been accused of handing over hundreds of Pakistani citizens to the US authorities by extraordinary renditions without any due process of law.
Similarly US backed economic aid projects are privy to much speculation, for example the road construction in Waziristan is not designed to help villages deliver goods to centrals towns, but instead the roads run parallel to the border for supporting future troop movement inside Pakistan borders.
Publicly, this aid also demands a heavy price from the Pakistani populist media, which keeps reminding the public the price Pakistan has paid for this devils bargain. The frequent drone attacks that frequently kill civilian, the sacrifice of 10,000 of Pakistan Army personnel’s, hundreds of suicide bombing, multiple Army operations in the Swat valley and Waziristan, the release of American spy-diplomat Raymond Davos and cross-borders raids, most notoriously the one that got Osama.
If the current tidings are any indication, the populist parties in Pakistan’s election are also demanding an end to the special US relationship, return of dignity and sovereignty to the Pakistani nations. Cornered and humiliated by the Obama administration, the Pakistan army is also now seeking a civilian leader that can bolster their image and boost the nation’s morale. The cricketer turned politician Imran Khan is making headways with the public furor and is demanding a stop to the CIA sponsored drone attacks and unlimited military cooperation with NATO. The charge by the media, right wing populists is clear, US Aid is blood money.
The argument here is for cutting military assistance, but not economic cooperation. Pakistan is a developing country with cash flow problems, power shortage, a high population growth rate, increasing poverty and illiteracy. It needs breathing room so that its business can bounce back. Some sort of debt relief would be ideal for Pakistani civilian government so that it does not fail on its commitment.
This would go further than any sort of military aid. Pakistan received negligible aid during the 90’s from America, even though it was mostly democratic at that time with Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto or Nawaz Shareef at the helm. Not only did Pakistan survive, some businesses recorded phenomenal growth. During that time, most of the Pakistan textile and apparel industry exported to the US, but since then due to high tariffs and stranglehold on cotton quota in US, Pakistan exports are now mostly going to EU and Asia.
Instead of providing military and economic assistance, US needs to provide space for Pakistan’s exporters to enter the US market, especially cotton textile and fashion apparel. Current quota system forces Pakistani businessmen to shift their manufacturing bases to Bangladesh, Kenya and Jordan, nations that enjoy freer trade agreements with the US.
At the same time, Pakistan’s technology and IT industry is more competitive then neighboring India and ripe for Investment. If global franchises like Coca Cola, Carrefour, Makros, McDonalds, Hardy’s, Pizza Hut, can flourish in Pakistan, same can be said for American business and technology companies. With 25 MM internet connections and 90MM mobile phone, Pakistan is a market that can no longer be ignored.
Continuing to empower the Pakistan military also gives the military secret service (ISI) the broad shoulders to push civilians around, intimidate journalists as well as sponsor covert operations into neighboring Afghanistan and India. Because of Pakistan’s strategic positions, nobody expects this “Great Game” to end as long as the US maintains a presence in Afghanistan. The area continues to be a hotbed for strategic leveraging around oil & gas pipelines initiatives as well as security concerns as it borders Iran, China, India and Afghanistan which will continue to remain a US proxy for the next decade or so.
A potential loss for the US from cutting off aid could be that the policymakers might lose leverage with the Pakistan Army. Tis alienation could result in increased cooperation between China and Pakistan military establishment. However, that is a moot point as these two nations have a special relationship that is based on regional cooperation and military technology exchange.
American policy makers know this and have never been privy to that level of trust that exists between China and Pakistan. But with a cut off in aid, Pakistan military strategists will be forced to make some tough decisions and one of the benefits could result in improved relationships with Big Brother India.
Evidence of this is already been seen. Recently Pakistan’s cabinet agreed to normalize trade with India grating it Most Favored Nation (MFN) status while India removed its objections for Pakistan textile to gain duty free access to EU markets as compensation for the devastating floods. If economic and cultural cooperation continues between the two countries, a demilitarized South Asia is possible and Pakistani and India can prosper with mutually assured security.
2012 is election time for both US and Pakistani. The issue of US-Pakistan aid will keep rearing its ugly head in American media and in congress. At the same time, the Obama’s administration has made a public policy of humiliating the only friend they had in an increasing radicalized Pakistan, that is the Pakistan Army. Now this 60 year special relationship is at its nadir, and there is no going back.
The best way forward for both nations is for the US to cut off this aid and start with a clean slate with a civilian government. Pakistan will lose valuable aid money and the US might lose a strategic lever in controlling the Pak Army, but that ship has already sailed. However, through economic and military cooperation that is negotiated on equal footing a new set of agreements could be worked out that re-assess the situation.
Nobody expects military cooperation to stop, as the ties go deep and both countries face a common enemy with the Taliban insurgency. Similarly, ending all drone attacks on militants might not be possible, but having the program under the control of the US military rather than the CIA will go a long way with Pakistani politicians. The way forward is now through mutual respect that is not enforced by blood money, or bribery.
It is time for the US to start treating Pakistan’s democratic institutions as equal partners, rather than embracing the entity that has been responsible for much double dealings. On the same note, Pakistan has to take this time to rebuild its image under a civilian government and put to rest the notion that Pakistan is a haven for international terrorism.
Saqib Mausoof is a filmmaker based in San Francisco. His narrative Kala Pul – The Black Bridge, a topical noir shot in Karachi, was short listed at the Asian Festival of First Films festival. His shorts have played at festivals around the world. He is currently working on his next feature, The Elemental which centers on a US soldier encountering a supernatural spirit in Iraq.
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