Pakistan Turns the Corner without War or Revolution
These are the tree observations that lead us to believe that the U.S. will abandon its hostile attitude in order to exit Afghanistan in an orderly manner:
- Drone attacks on Pakistan are becoming a political liability both in Pakistan and the West
- Grudging respect for Pakistani military among Western defense thinkers
- Internal political stability that can withstand major shocks
Protesting Drone Attacks is NOT Supporting Terrorists
It took a long while to get to this stage. Initially, the drone attacks had started in the aftermath of Pakistani military actions against militants. In that context, no politician wanted to openly criticise this act of low-intensity war against a sovereign country. In the bi-polar black-white dichotomy reminiscent of ‘either you are with us or against us’, the U.S. was trying to create an atmosphere of false identities and fear, and succeeding at it.
It was Imran Khan who stuck to his guns and deplored these attacks and slowly opinion began to turn around. Even organisations like Reprieve now have campaigns against these drone attacks.
The domestic rise in the popularity of Imran Khan is also a sign of a maturing democracy: non-ethnic, non-religious and non-feudal political leadership — based on ideas and goals.
Grudging Respect in the Atlantic
When the U.S. wants to attack, it dehumanises. Who the U.S. cannot attack any more, it treats like an evil genius. This otherwise alarmist article in the Atlantic really showed that the opinion-formers of the United States have given up on the sabre-rattling. Sound-bites may ensue but the general consensus is that Pakistan is too wily for a military confrontation.
The United States must, for its own security, keep watch over Pakistan’s nuclear program—and that’s more easily done if we remain engaged with the Pakistani government. The U.S. must also be able to receive information from the ISI about al-Qaeda, even if such information is provided sporadically. And the U.S. will simply not find a way out of Afghanistan if Pakistan becomes an open enemy. Pakistan, for its part, can afford to lose neither America’s direct financial support, nor the help America provides with international lending agencies. Nor can Pakistan’s military afford to lose its access to American weapons systems, and to the trainers attached to them. Economically, Pakistan cannot afford to be isolated by America in the way the U.S. isolates countries it considers sponsors of terrorism. Its neighbor Iran is an object lesson in this regard. For all these reasons, Pakistan and America remain locked in a hostile embrace.
The revelation of an alleged panic memo by the Pakistani civilian government to the U.S. military has caused a major stir. Like the Wikileaks cables, it is nothing unanticipated — such appeals from civilian governments to the U.S. to rein in the Pakistan military are routine, and usually unfounded. Despite its reputation for coups, the military has not acted unless politicians were heading towards constitutional paralysis.
Like the exaggerated premises of the memo, the fallout of its revelation has also failed to ignite desperate and nuclear measures by hostile political forces. Also, despite the lack of a mlitary-backed president, it appears that Parliament will complete its term. Both politicians and the military have learnt to bide their time and plan long-term, and voters are leaning towards ideas and not politics based on identities of region and religion.
Compared to Italy and Greece, it appears that Pakistan is a healthy and evolving democracy, in some ways ahead of Italy and Greece.