Tuesday, July 19

Painting a smiley face on a terror-sponsoring regime

Pakistan's next Foreign Minister

July 19, the (U.K.) Independent:
Pakistan is poised to appoint its first female Foreign Minister before almost immediately dispatching her to India for crucial talks due to take place later this month. Hina Rabbani Khar, 34, has been serving as acting Foreign Minister for several months and her elevation was widely expected. [...]
From the rest of the Independent report, I think Khar's critics are being a little unfair to her. Pakistan's civilian and military leaders are scrambling to paint a smiley face on their regime for the benefit of Washington, Brussels, the UN and IMF and for Pakistan's upcoming talks with India. From that limited angle Khar isn't a bad choice. Who cares if her appointment:
... is another glaring example of political patronage. Ms Khar has few, if any, credentials for the top job at the foreign office, even if she appears to have acquitted herself reasonably well as a junior finance minister under [the former leader, President Pervez] Musharraf," said Dr Farzana Shaikh, a fellow of the Royal Institute of International Affairs, based at Chatham House in London. "However, what she does have in spades is the political clout of her family name and the rich, feudal, patriarchal aura that comes with it."
Okay; so she's from a feudal family and okay, these types are the only females in Pakistan with any political power. Khar is also Western-educated (she holds a master's degree in management from the University of Massachusetts) and business oriented (she owns a restaurant in the grounds of the Lahore Polo Club,) and she positively oozes the message that Pakistan's feudal families want to be on better terms with India.

Trouble is, those families don't run things anymore in Pakistan, no more than the mullacrats run things any longer in Iran. The military runs things. As for Pakistan's feudal lords and ladies, they live in fear and with good reason; they step out of line and they know they'll end up like Benazir Bhutto.

So it's only in the last sentence that the Independent report gets down to brass tacks:
A perhaps even greater test will be the way [Khar] deals with Pakistan's military, which has always traditionally controlled key issues of foreign policy, especially in relation to both the US and India.
Khar is not in a position to deal. She's being used by Pakistan's generals to present a face to the world that it feels it can live with. Behind the face is a regime that cannot change at this time in history, and which considers terrorism a legitimate tool of policy, both external and domestic.

Why can't the regime change? Because Pakistani society is in the same boat as Egypt's although they got on board via different ramps. The military now permeates the fabric of both societies. That's why the White House announcement that it was withholding military aid but continuing civilian aid to Pakistan is a joke.

Actually, it was Pakistan's Army Chief of Staff General Kayani who recommended to the U.S. government that it stop aid to Pakistan's military and give the aid instead to Pakistan's civilian sector. He made the recommendation at least twice: during the first U.S.-Pakistani strategic partnership discussions, and after the Abbottabad raid.

Why did Kayani make such a recommendation? Because the Pentagon was putting in too many oversight mechanisms for the military aid and earmarking aid for very specific equipment and projects, whereas civilian aid is very hard for the Congress and State Department to monitor and in many cases simply not doable.

You've heard Pakistani President Zardari called, "Mr Ten Percent" for his alleged skimming from business deals? Well Pakistani's military leaders are Mr 50 Percent although that figure is a stab in the dark; I think several observers would put the estimate much higher.

As with Egypt, Pakistan's military runs so many businesses, has its fingers in so many pies, that no matter what's shown on World Bank and IMF reports, in practice there's not a clear division between the military's business dealings and those in the country's civilian business sector.

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