April 19, 2008

America finally sees the light

Filed under: FOREIGN RELATIONS — civilsocietypakistan @ 1:34 am


APRIL 19, 2008


Saturday, April 19, 2008
The changed order of things in Pakistan seems finally to be making an impact in Washington. The administration in the world’s most powerful capital seems to have emerged from a state of virtual blindness which left it obsessed with President Pervez Musharraf, and now appears ready to begin a new relationship with the elected, civilian government. Light has finally shined down over Capitol Hill, illuminating the path ahead. According to reports appearing in the British press, the US has agreed with Pakistan’s new leadership on a new counter-terrorism strategy. Under this, strikes by US drones on targets in the tribal belt of Pakistan, lying along the border with Afghanistan, are to be halted. To support the government, a package worth $7 billion in non-military aid will be put before the Congress for approval. The package will triple non-military aid extended to Pakistan by the US and marks a distinct change in Washington’s strategy on Pakistan. A hint of the changed US tone had already come some days ago, when Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice spoke of the need for Pakistan’s military to be placed under civilian control.

In terms of the war on terror, the US decision to halt strikes by unmanned aircraft is especially significant. Since January this year, up to eight such strikes have been reported, apparently as a consequence of an agreement reached with President Musharraf to ‘step up’ the offensive against militants. For Pakistan, the results of this strategy have been disastrous, with the US action triggering an immense wave of anger. Analysts believe this was one of the reasons behind the upsurge in suicide bombings across the country. In this respect, the US agreement to the strategy proposed by the new government to begin talks with tribal leaders in troubled areas, offers hope for greater peace. Attempts to annihilate militants — and with them many innocent civilians — through bombing raids and armed assaults have not worked. Perhaps dialogue will. Certainly it needs to be given a chance. The US has also agreed to discuss the ‘war on terror’ with the civilian leadership, including the ANP in NWFP which will play a key role in conducting talks and quashing militancy, is particularly encouraging. Pakistan’s decision to use the new aid package to strengthen non-military security outfits, including the police, the FIA and other agencies, is also important as part of a plan to reduce dependency on the military and improve overall law and order.

Washington’s change in loyalty of course leaves President Pervez Musharraf an increasingly isolated man. Like everyone else, the US seems finally to have realized he is redundant — and this will almost certainly have an impact on future events within the country.


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