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Pervez MusharrafThe Bush Administration is contributing significantly to the militarization of South Asia. In pursuit of its War on Terror, the Bush Administration has been subsidizing General Musharraf and his military as they continue to cling to power in Pakistan. Pakistan is most definitely not a poster child for Mr. Bush's "Freedom Agenda". Yet it is a poster child for everything that is wrong with Mr. Bush's War on Terror.

The Bush Administration funds 20% of Pakistan's military budget by writing big monthly checks to the Pakistan military. That American largesse is ostensibly to reimburse Pakistan for its expenses in the War on Terror. However, in reality the money flows regardless of any work Pakistan actually performs in support of Mr. Bush's war. Today's New York Times reports:

The United States is continuing to make large payments of roughly $1 billion a year to Pakistan for what it calls reimbursements to the country’s military for conducting counterterrorism efforts along the border with Afghanistan, even though Pakistan’s president decided eight months ago to slash patrols through the area where Al Qaeda and Taliban fighters are most active.


The monthly payments, called coalition support funds, are not widely advertised. Buried in public budget numbers, the payments are intended to reimburse Pakistan’s military for the cost of the operations. So far, Pakistan has received more than $5.6 billion under the program over five years, more than half of the total aid the United States has sent to the country since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, not counting covert funds.


Some American military officials in the region have recommended that the money be tied to Pakistan’s performance in pursuing Al Qaeda and keeping the Taliban from gaining a haven from which to attack the government of Afghanistan. American officials have been surprised by the speed at which both organizations have gained strength in the past year.

But Bush administration officials say no such plan is being considered, despite new evidence that the Pakistani military is often looking the other way when Taliban fighters retreat across the border into Pakistan, ignoring calls from American spotters to intercept them. There is also at least one American report that Pakistani security forces have fired in support of Taliban fighters attacking Afghan posts.

Pakistan, a nation under arms, spends about 28% of its current expenditure budget on its military. As Pakistan's despot, General Pervez Musharraf, tries desperately to rig the upcoming "elections" to stay in power, the concern in Washington is that if the Musharraf government falls there will be an Islamist takeover of Pakistan. This rationale is used to justify the large monthly money transfers to the Pakistan military:

The administration, according to some current and former officials, is fearful of cutting off the cash or linking it to performance for fear of further destabilizing Pakistan’s president, Gen. Pervez Musharraf, who is facing the biggest challenges to his rule since he took power in 1999.

The concern over an Islamist takeover is fueled by Musharraf to continue to curry favor with the West. The Los Angeles Times reports today:

President Pervez Musharraf acknowledged that Islamic militancy was increasing across Pakistan and said tough measures were needed to fight it.

"We need to strongly counter it," Musharraf said in an interview aired late Friday by the private Aaj television channel.

If the rhetoric from Musharraf sounds familiar, it should. It is thesame rhetoric used by the White House to continue to justify ongoing operations in Iraq. In both cases the status quo, the continued military occupation in the case of Iraq and the military rule in the case of Pakistan, fuels Islamist militancy and in both cases failure of the status quo is deemed unacceptable for fear of an Islamist takeover.

However, while in case of Iraq the resentment to American occupation creates a fertile ground for Islamist militants, in Pakistan the Islamist militants have active support from elements of the Pakistan military. Their rise during military rule in Pakistan is no accident. They are both used by the military to stay in power and used by the military as an excuse to scare foreign benefactors to maintain power.

The Pakistani military has a long history of patronizing Islamists. The military consolidates its power in Pakistan by squeezing out legitimate and moderate political voices and stifling any remnants of a democratic culture. It finds a natural ally in Islamists such as the Jamaat-e-Islami and the Taliban. It was, after all, the military dictator Zia-ul-Haq who promulgated the Hudood Ordinance that instituted Sharia Law in Pakistan. It was Pakistan's powerful Directorate of Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) that brought the Taliban to power in Afghanistan. There are elements in the military and ISI who continue to actively support and protect the Taliban as well as Islamist militants within Pakistan. Today's New York Times article has this bit of unsettling news:

Two American analysts and one American soldier said Pakistani security forces had fired mortars shells and rocket-propelled grenades in direct support of Taliban ground attacks on Afghan Army posts. A copy of an American military report obtained by The New York Times described one of the attacks.

"Enemy supporting fires consisting of heavy machine guns and R.P.G.’s were provided by two Pakistani observation posts," said the report, referring to rocket-propelled grenades. The grenades killed one Afghan soldier and ignited an ammunition fire that destroyed the observation post, according to the report. It concluded that "the Pakistani military actively supported the enemy assault" on the Afghan post.


A second American analyst, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said American soldiers had told him that Pakistani forces supported Taliban ground attacks with mortar fire and rocket-propelled grenades at least two dozen times in 2005 and 2006. Senior American military officials said that they had not heard of the incidents, but added that Pakistani tribal militia, not Pakistani soldiers, could be supporting the Taliban attacks.

It should surprise no one that the Pakistani military offers support to Taliban and Islamist militants. It should shock everyone that our tax dollars are paying for this support.

The most likely scenario in Pakistan if Musharraf falls is not an Islamist takeover. The most likely scenario is a coup by other enterprising generals. The Islamists will remain, as they always have, junior partners to the military in Pakistan. The real question is whether the United States should continue to fund this cozy arrangement. We the taxpayers should ask if this is money well spent.

[Cross posted at my blog.]

Originally posted to Mash on Sun May 20, 2007 at 05:39 PM PDT.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Thank you, Mash! (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Tigana, Mash, willb48, Rippen Kitten

    Great diary, as usual.  

  •  Great diary (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Mash, mariachi mama, willb48

    What do you think might become of AQ Khan without Musharraf?

    •  A Q Khan (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      mariachi mama, willb48, Rippen Kitten

      I think he is considered a national hero in Pakistan. Any regime would find it difficult to punish him too harshly. Plus he knows where all the bodies are buried.

      I think the worse he is looking at is house arrest for his nuclear shenanigans. But it will be very difficult, even for a civilian admin in Pakistan, to get access to him and info from him because the military, and the ISI in particular, will resist.

      The power of the military in Pakistan is unrivaled. No administration has ever existed in Pakistan without military backing. Often the military has simply ruled directly. So it would be very difficult, if not impossible, to get rid of the military. This notion of the Islamists overthrowing the military is utter nonsense - and every time Bush pushes that I have to chuckle.

      The absolute best that Pakistan can hope for in the medium term is that a civilian admin takes over with the military ostensively back in the barracks (a la Turkey). In the long run, the only way to keep the military in the barracks is to slowly defund it. But that wont happen unless there is serious detente between India and Pakistan, and there is a significant shift within Pakistan from the military culture.

      Hmm, I am not sure how I got here from your AQ Khan question, but I hate to now go back and delete what I just typed :)

      •  Thanks, Mash (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        mariachi mama

        I appreciate your very thoughtful answer. I don't know much about the region and would probably believe Islamists could overthrow the military had someone other than Bush said it.

      •  Unrivaled? (0+ / 0-)

        I am not so sure about that.
        The Pakistani military stays in power because Pakistan's legitimacy as a nation is constantly undermined in one way or another.
        Balochistan, Waziristan, the NWFP, Bangladesh, and "Azad" Kashmir are all instances of Pakistan's coherency as a nation being called into question. Think Iraq and multiply the number of competing factions many times.
        It just goes to show you that religious affiliation makes a crappy and ultimately unfulfilling basis for a sense of national identity.
        So the military is only in power because, like in Iraq, there is no real unifying idea of "Pakistaniness" to hold the country together.
        The only thing that can hold it together then, is a strongman.

        •  Unrivaled (0+ / 0-)

          Over 50 years of military dominance in Pakistan I think pretty much speaks for itself. When Pakistan has had a "civilian" leader, when the military got uncomfortable they pulled the plug.

          When I say Pakistan, I mean the former West Pakistan. Bangladesh (or the former East Pakistan) was never culturally or linguistically part of Pakistan. However, Pakistan is bound by language and religion - not necessarily great things to bind a nation by, but there it is.

          There is simply no institution in Pakistan strong enough to challenge the military.

          As for your last statement about "Pakistaniness" I think the over 100 million Pakistanis would dispute that strongly. And unfortunately the "strongman" argument is often used to fund dictators.

          •  . (0+ / 0-)

            Over 50 years of military dominance in Pakistan I think pretty much speaks for itself.

            That's over 50 years of constantly being in a position of military threat in one form or another. Granted, it's largely the military's own fault for committing itself to a strategy of "death by 1,000 cuts" to it's much bigger, wealthier, and more powerful neighbor, but there you have it.

            When I say Pakistan, I mean the former West Pakistan. Bangladesh (or the former East Pakistan) was never culturally or linguistically part of Pakistan. However, Pakistan is bound by language and religion - not necessarily great things to bind a nation by, but there it is.

            Which language? Urdu, Punjabi, Sindhi, Gujurati, or one of the other dialects?

            The entire notion of Pakistan was to have a distinct Muslim state. Hindsight has shown us that it's not sufficient to base a nation on.

            As for your last statement about "Pakistaniness" I think the over 100 million Pakistanis would dispute that strongly.

            I doubt it. Balochistan is in insurrection and the NWFP has pretty much negated any state presence there. That's a pretty strong indication that their loyalty to their region outweighs any sense of "Pakistaniness."
            The Sindhis and the Punjabi ruling class have likewise never had the most amicable relationship.
            Meanwhile the poor Kashmiris in Azad Kashmir barely have political rights at all. Even less so than the rest of Pakistan.

            And unfortunately the "strongman" argument is often used to fund dictators.

            Strongmen ARE dictators. I'm telling you how dictators arise. You're not going to get rid of them unless you eliminate the underlying causes for them coming to power in the first place.

  •  Musharraf (0+ / 0-)

    is walking a fine line between the extreme Islamists who want to overthrow him, and the civil society.  In between lies the military, which also has its Islamic extremist elements (ISI) and the need to keep this population quelled.  If he doesn't please both sides, he's as good as dead.  Dudes a political animal and if he doesn't maintain this balance, the region's goin' Iraq-like in a hurry.

    It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it - Aristotle

    by gatorcog on Tue May 22, 2007 at 07:25:27 AM PDT

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