Pakistan Policy Brief: 2008 - 2009

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Country Overview

·         Pakistan was carved out of India in 1947 to enable the Muslims of India to build a homeland for themselves in a region where Hindus were the majority and Muslims feared that they would become second class citizens in a Hindu-majority country.  The founding father of Pakistan, Muhammad Ali Jinnah, some argue, wanted Pakistan to be a secular country and not a theocratic country,[i] while others have argued that Jinnah saw Pakistan as essentially a Muslim country[ii]. 

·         The newly formed Pakistan was made up of a western section and an eastern section – West Pakistan and East Pakistan.  The latter became the new country of Bangladesh in 1971 after a bloody civil war in which India’s army, coming to the aid of East Pakistanis, routed the Pakistan military.  Since that ignominious defeat, Pakistan’s rulers have not just chafed about India’s role and India’s strength but sought to use Islam as an ideological tool, a political wedge, and an inspiration for violence against India.  That “jihadi” concern has now morphed into a global threat spreading its tentacles around the world.  

  • The Islamic Republic of Pakistan, over the decades, acquired a self-avowed role of training and arming Islamists for a variety of political, regional, and international agendas, and especially to weaken India, its larger neighbor.  The present-day Pakistani ambassador to the United States, Husain Haqqani, in a serious moment of introspection and clarity, said the following: “Pakistan’s status as an Islamic ideological state is rooted deeply in history and is linked closely both with the praetorian ambitions of the Pakistani military and the Pakistani elite’s worldview.”[iii] 

·         Pakistan has been ruled by the military for extended periods of time and has suffered political instability almost from the beginning of its founding. 

·         Pakistan is the sixth most populous country (with about 173 million people) in the world.  After Indonesia it has the second largest Muslim population.  It is a founding member of the Organization of the Islamic Conference.  Because of its strategic location and its alignment with the U.S. from the early days of its formation, it has emerged as a major non-NATO ally of the United States.  It has acquired nuclear capability through clandestine and criminal means, with the U.S. turning a blind eye, for a long time, to the truancy of this ally in the South Asia region. It is reported that some senior U.S. officials “were breaking US and international non-proliferation protocols to shelter Pakistan's ambitions and even sell it banned WMD technology”.[iv]

·         The Islamic Republic of Pakistan presents a complex set of problems to the world in general and to India in particular.  The problems posed to the world are in relation to the nurturing and growth of radical Islamic groups and terrorist organizations in Pakistan, with both overt and covert support from the government and military.  The growth of radical Islam pre- and post 9/11 has assumed a larger significance in light of Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal acquired clandestinely and otherwise.   

·         The threat posed to India is the proxy war in the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir fought by Pakistan which has supported groups like the Lashkar-e-Taiba, and the encouragement of local, Muslim extremist cells in India to enable terrorist actions across India, as exemplified by the Mumbai events of November 2008.[v]  While the Taliban and the Al-Qaeda have had an Afghanistan base, and used the border lands between Pakistan and Afghanistan to continue to fight the multi-national forces now, experts[vi] have pointed out that it is the inability or unwillingness of the Pakistan government/army to rein in groups like the Lashkar-e-Taiba that poses threats to India in particular, and even to the stability of Pakistan.

·         General Musharraf, who assumed power after a bloodless coup in 1999, played a careful and calculated role in bringing Pakistan to center stage after the events of 9/11, providing the U.S. support for its war in ousting the Taliban, and in the continuing action against Taliban and Al-Qaeda forces in the region. Claiming to hunt down terrorists and shut down their training camps, but quietly allowing those activities and activists to carry on their deadly work, Musharraf and his administration hoodwinked the West, especially the U.S., into pumping billions of dollars into Pakistan, ostensibly to help the Pakistan government deal with the extremists and Islamists. American aid was diverted mostly toward buying conventional military equipment to seek parity with India’s military might.[vii]

·         Musharraf had to resign in 2008 in the wake of the assassination of Benazir Bhutto, the popular political leader and former prime minister.  After the September 2008 presidential election Asif Ali Zardari, Benazir’s widower emerged as the choice of president. Zardari was recently admonished publicly by the Indian Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh, for Pakistan’s role in fomenting and abetting terrorism in the region.[viii]

·         Pakistan continues to struggle with an Islamist insurgency from groups that it has harbored and nurtured over the past three decades.  In November 2008, Pakistan-based Islamist groups launched a murderous attack on Mumbai, India’s industrial and business capital that put Indo-Pakistan relations on edge, once again.[ix]  It is now being reported that Pakistani intelligence services and military elements might have been involved in orchestrating the attack from Pakistani soil.[x]

·         The Pakistani Government is also faced with a deteriorating economy as foreign exchange reserves decline, the currency depreciates, and the current account deficit widens.[xi] 

Hindus and other minorities in Pakistan 

·         In 1947, Hindus were approximately 15%-25% of the population of then West Pakistan. Hindus constituted nearly 30% of the population of East Pakistan (present-day Bangladesh).  Now Hindus constitute less than 1.6 % of the population in Pakistan, and about 9% of the population of Bangladesh.[xii]

·         Pakistan officially and routinely discriminates against non-Muslims through a variety of discriminatory laws, such as blasphemy laws.  According to the USCIRF, “Sectarian and religiously-motivated violence continues, particularly against Shi’a Muslims, Ahmadis, Christians, and Hindus, and the government’s response continues to be insufficient, and in some cases, is outright complicit. A number of the country’s laws, including those restricting the rights of Ahmadis and criminalizing blasphemy, frequently result in imprisonment on account of religion or belief and/or vigilante violence against the accused”.[xiii]

·         On March 24, 2005, Pakistan reincorporated the discriminatory practice of mandating the inclusion of religious identity of individuals in all new passports.

Current Situation – Government complicity in spreading hate; the Taliban and Swat; Impact on Hindus and other minorities

·         School textbooks continue to promote Islam, hatred and intolerance towards non-Muslims, including Hindus.[xiv]  

·         Islamists continue to extend their influence throughout the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), and other parts of the North West Frontier Province (NWFP)[xv]

·         Recurring reports point to an alarming trend of Hindu girls being kidnapped, raped, held in madrasas (Islamic seminaries) and forcibly converted to Islam.[xvi]

·         Poor Hindus continue to be subjected to inhumane conditions through the bonded labor system, while Hindus across the country have suffered as second class citizens.[xvii]  

·         Minorities have been terrorized and driven out of Swat valley, reflecting the vulnerable and fragile condition of non-Muslims across the nation.[xviii]

·         Pakistan has launched military action against the Taliban after Swat Valley was overrun by the Taliban militias.[xix]   

·         Despite assurances not to do so Pakistan is expanding its nuclear arsenal. Pakistan is increasing its capacity to produce plutonium at its Khushab nuclear facility.  These developments do not bode well for regional security and it increases the potential of these arms falling into the wrong hands.[xx]  

US Policy Impact: Nuclear weapons; Destabilization of the region; Implications to India and Afghanistan 

  • In the above context, and given the long lasting but complicated U.S.-Pakistan relations, what do the present U.S. policy prescriptions and support for Pakistan imply? 
  • Pakistan has played its cards well with the U.S. defense establishment and Washington elites and used its geographical location, religious affiliation and willingness to fight for American causes to extract money and arms from Washington. 
  • Since taking office in September 2008, President Zardari’s op-ed pieces in American newspapers amount to five – the highest ever for a foreign head of state or government.  On September 25, 2008 The Boston Globe published, "Pakistan will Prevail Against Terrorism"[xxi]; on December 9, 2008 The New York Times published, "The Terrorists Want to Destroy Pakistan, Too"[xxii]; on January 28, 2009 The Washington Post gave space for "Partnering with Pakistan"[xxiii]; on March 4, 2009 The Wall Street Journal obliged with "Pakistan is Steadfast Against Terror"[xxiv]; and on June 22, 2009 The Washington Post gave him more space for, "The Frontier Against Terrorism".[xxv] 
  • Pakistan’s politicians and army generals have been savvy interlocutors, and have effectively framed the argument and provided the context for the Western response to the issues and challenges in South Asia.  The five op-ed pieces by President Zardari are relevant testimony for this approach which has won Pakistan not just space to maneuver and manipulate, but to seduce Western countries into doling out billions of dollars ostensibly to counter terror and to improve the lives of ordinary Pakistanis.   
  • That terrorist and extremist groups continue to thrive in Pakistan is an uncomfortable fact that the U.S., especially, has decided to ignore calculating that Pakistan’s services in the region are more important than the cost of its truancies.  Vice President Joseph Biden and Ranking Senate Foreign Relations Committee Senator Richard Lugar’s (R-IN) acceptance of Pakistan’s highest civilian award is an acknowledgement of the kind of relationship that American administrations are willing to have with Pakistan.[xxvi] 

Appropriations -- Berman Bill; Kerry-Lugar Bill

  • The Pakistan Enduring Assistance and Cooperation Enhancement (PEACE) Act 2009 was passed by the House of Representatives by a roll call vote of 234 to 185.  The chief sponsor of the bill was House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Rep. Berman (D-CA).[xxvii] 
  • The Senate Foreign Relations Committee approved the Kerry-Lugar Enhanced Partnership with Pakistan Act of 2009, the Senate version of the PEACE Bill by a vote of 16-0 on June 16, 2009.
  • The bill, sponsored by committee Chairman Senator John Kerry (D-MA) and ranking member Senataor Richard Lugar (R-IN), would give Pakistan $7.5 billion through 2013, which is the total requested by the Obama administration.
  • The bill seeks to triple funding, lift restrictions on domestic aid, and tie military aid to Pakistani efforts to resist the Taliban.  It requires a strategic plan from the president to Congress and broadens U.S. aid to include Pakistan's judicial system, educational system and economy.
  • Ostensibly seeking promises from Pakistan, the Bill does not clarify how American largesse will actually be spent and who will monitor that spending.  The Senate version of the Bill actually waters down the stricter conditions laid in the version passed by the House.[xxviii] 

Conclusion

·         Given the long and complicated relationship of the United States with Pakistan, it is difficult to expect immediate and major changes in the American response to Pakistan’s official and non-official political, military, social, and religious schemes in the region.  However, unless extreme care is exercised and strict conditions imposed on the disbursement and use of American funds in Pakistan, the potential for a major law and order breakdown in Pakistan is high.   

·         One of the conditions for the disbursement of American aid should be that Pakistan remove or alter its blasphemy laws.  Several sections of Pakistan’s Criminal Code comprise its blasphemy laws. Section 295 forbids damaging or defiling a place of worship or a sacred object.  Section 295-A forbids outraging religious feelings.  Section 295-B forbids defiling the Quran.  Section 295-C forbids defaming Prophet Muhammad.  Except for Section 295-C, the provisions of Section 295 require that an offence be a consequence of the accused’s intent. Defiling the Quran merits imprisonment for life.  Defaming Prophet Muhammad merits death with or without a fine.  If a charge is made under Section 295-C, the trial must take place in a Court of Session with a Muslim judge presiding.  Section 298 states:

Whoever, with the deliberate intention of wounding the religious feelings of any person, utters any word or makes any sound in the hearing of that person or makes any gesture in the sight of that person or places any object in the sight of that person, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to one year, or with fine, or with both. 

·         Section 298-A prohibits the use of any derogatory remark or representation in respect of Muslim holy personages. Section 298-B and Section 298-C prohibits an Ahmadiyya from behaving as Muslims behave, calling themselves Muslims, proselytizing, or "in any manner whatsoever" outraging the religious feelings of Muslims. Violation of any part of Section 298 makes the violator liable to imprisonment for up to three years and liable also to a fine.

·         Those imprisoned under blasphemy laws should get their day in court within a period of two weeks. Long imprisonments without court appraisal constitute human rights abuse.

·         Pakistan should reverse the 2005 decision mandating religious identification in passports.

·         Pakistan should set up a Human Rights Commission and a National Minorities Commission to monitor the human rights condition and to enable minorities to enjoy the rights provided to the majority population.

·         Pakistan should reform its education system in order to remove inaccuracies about and attacks against other religions, and promote tolerance and pluralism.

·         The United States should demand that Pakistan stop supporting and financing all Islamic militants groups operating in the subcontinent, and establish a monitoring agency or mechanism that will assure that whatever aid is provided Pakistan is used for the purposes agreed to by the donor countries.



[i] Wolpert, S (1984).  Jinnah of Pakistan.  Oxford University Press.

 

[ii] Sharif al Mujahid (1974).  Ideology of Pakistan.  Progressive Publishers.

 

[iii] Haqqani, H (2004).  “The role of Islam in Pakistan’s future,” The Washington Quarterly, 28:1, pp. 85-96, http://www.twq.com/05winter/docs/05winter_haqqani.pdf

 

[iv] Levy, A., & Scott-Clark, C. (October 13, 2007).  “The man who knew too much,” The Guardian, http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2007/oct/13/usa.pakistan

 

[v] “26/11 has changed the way the world looks at terrorism”, Rediff on the Net, July 2, 2009, http://news.rediff.com/news/interview/2009/jul/02/bbc-reporter-richard-watson-on-his-controversial-report.htm

 

[vi] Harrison, Selig, (June 17, 2009).  The other Islamist threat in Pakistan.  The Boston Globe.  http://www.boston.com/bostonglobe/editorial_opinion/oped/articles/2009/06/17/the_other_islamist_threat_in_pakistan/

 

[vii] “Pentagon: Pakistan terror aid diverted,” UPI, June 6, 2009, http://www.upi.com/Top_News/2009/06/06/Pentagon-Pakistan-terror-aid-diverted/UPI-72731244289284/

 

[ix] “2008 Mumbai Attacks”, Wikipedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2008_Mumbai_attacks

 

[x] Addy, P. (July 6, 2009).  “Pakistan’s wages of sin,” The Pioneer, http://dailypioneer.com/187134/Pakistan’s-wages-of-sin.html

 

[xi] “Pakistan’s economy: Sweets and stones,” The Economist, September 11, 2008, http://www.economist.com/displaystory.cfm?story_id=12209394

 

[xii] “Hindus in South Asia and the Diaspora: A Survey of Human Rights  -- 2008,” Hindu American Foundation,  http://hafsite.org/pdf/HHR2008.pdf

 

[xiii] USCIRF (May, 2009).  Report on International Religious Freedom.  http://www.thepersecution.org/ussdcirf/usirf2009.html

 

[xiv] Subramanian, N (June 9, 2009), “Will Pakistan’s schools get a curriculum that weeds out hate?”  The Hindu,  http://www.sacw.net/article953.html

 

[xv] Abbas, H. (September, 2008).  “From FATA to the NWFP: The Taliban Spread their Grip in Pakistan,” CTC Sentinel, 1:10, 3-5, http://belfercenter.ksg.harvard.edu/publication/18537/from_fata_to_the_nwfp.html

 

[xvi] “Another Hindu girl forcibly converted to Islam after being abducted,” January 9, 2007, Asian Human Rights Commission, Urgent Appeal, http://www.ahrchk.net/ua/mainfile.php/2007/2158/

 

[xvii] Ahmed, K. (May 14-20, 2004).  “Plight of Hindus in Sindh and Balochistan,” The Friday Times, http://www.hvk.org/articles/0504/78.html

 

[xviii] Kumar, U.J. (May 13, 2009).  “Why Pakistan needs its minorities.”  Institute of Peace and Conflict Studies.  http://www.ipcs.org/article_details.php?articleNo=2866&cID=2

 

[xix] Khan, O. F. (May 6, 2009), “5 lakh flee Swat as Pak takes on Taliban,” http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/World/Pakistan/5-lakh-flee-Swat-as-Pak-takes-on-Taliban/articleshow/4486075.cms

 

[xx] Kelly, M. L. (May 6, 2009), “Scrutiny of Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal increases,” National Public Radio, http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=103865483

 

[xxi] Zardari, A. A. (September 25, 2008).  “Pakistan will prevail over terrorists,” The Boston Globe, http://www.boston.com/bostonglobe/editorial_opinion/oped/articles/2008/09/25/pakistan_will_prevail_against_terrorism/

 

[xxii] Zardari, A. A. (December 9, 2008).  “The terrorists want to destroy Pakistan, too,” The New York Times, http://www.nytimes.com/2008/12/09/opinion/09zardari.html

 

[xxiii] Zardari, A. A. (January 28, 2009).  “Partnering with Pakistan,” The Washington Post, http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/01/27/AR2009012702675.html

 

[xxiv] Zardari, A. A. (March 4, 2009).  “Pakistan is steadfast against terror,” The Wall Street Journal, http://online.wsj.com/article/SB123612594791323985.html

 

[xxv] Zardari, A. A. (June 22, 2009).  “The frontier against terrorism,”  The Washington Post, http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/06/21/AR2009062101793.html

 

[xxvi] Haider, Z (October 28, 2008).  “Pakistan gives award to Biden, Lugar for support,” Reuters, http://www.reuters.com/article/politicsNews/idUSTRE49R5I120081028

 

[xxvii] Jha, L. K. (June 12, 2009).  “U.S. House of Representatives passes bill tripling aid to Pakistan,” Rediff on the Net, http://news.rediff.com/interview/2009/jun/12/us-passes-peace-act-trples-aid-to-pak.htm

   

[xxviii] “U.S. Senate panel clears Pakistan aid boost,” AFP, June 16, 2009, http://news.yahoo.com/s/afp/20090616/pl_afp/uspakistanaidcongress_20090616205629