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Pakistan and Centre Stage at the NATO Summit

Pakistan and Centre Stage at the NATO Summit

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Published by Tom Kirk

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Published by: Tom Kirk on Sep 09, 2012
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Pakistan and Centre Stage at the NATO Summit
Tom Kirk - 22nd May 2012
After much speculation over his country’s inclusion, Pakistan’s president Asif Ali Zardari
attended the recent NATO summit in Chicago. His last minute appearance acknowledged thatNATO can neither sustain the fight nor continue to plan the retreat from Afghanistan without
Pakistan’s cooperation. It also confirmed that, whether they come from multinational
organisations or bilaterally from nations such as the US, Pakistan cannot afford to ignore the
international community’s overtures. Although there are many reasons for both sides’ positions, it is arguably Pakistan’s ongoing reliance on the international community’s
financial assistance that deserved to be centre stage at Chicago.The reasons for the will-they-
they manoeuvring on Pakistan’s inclusion at the summit
reportedly lay in ongoing talks over the opening of NATO supply lines following their
closure late last year. According to Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Kh
ar theclosure allowed her government to make 
 after the killing of twenty four soldiers inSalala in the North Western border regions by US warplanes. Although not openly admitted,the decision was also likely to have been a response to repeated embarrassments for Pakistan-
including last year’s unopposed US mission targeting Osama bin Laden’s hideout in
Abbottabad and the repatriation of CIA contractor Raymond Davis before he could stand trialfor shooting two men in Lahore. However, after the creation of new guidelines for bi-lateral
agreements with the US, NATO’s supply trucks have slowly begun to resume their haul over the Khyber Pass and the organisation’s spokesmen are once again
describing Pakistan ashaving an 
in Afghanistan’s future.
 Along with wishing to use Pakist
an’s roads to continue their withdrawal, NATO member countries are acutely aware that many of Afghanistan’s diverse insurgent groups find refugein Pakistan’s vast border regions and sprawling metropolises. As individual member states
 themselves from any pretensions to be engaged in state-building inAfghanistan, the only justification for keeping troops in the region beyond 2014 will be theelimination of these elements before they can plan attacks locally or further afield. However,destabilising insurgent bases and arresting international jihadists requires locating themamong a population of 180 million; a complex task that can only be achieved with the close
coordination of Pakistan’s security establishment. It also necessitates the acquiescence of the
largely autonomous and, in some instances, heavily armed people of Pakistan, many of whomtacitly support insurgents in Afghanistan and would be willing to interdependently take uparms against any US presence in their own country. Thus, NATO member states realise that
Pakistan is likely to remain on their radars long after the West’s most recent military
intervention in Afghanistan has become a historical episode.
For their part, Pakistan’s elite understand that they benefit from the financial assistance that
periodically floods into the country. Indeed, Pakistan 
 are increasingly pointing to
the effects of international aid on Pakistan’s political economy. They suggest that, whether as
members of democratic governments or officers of the military-bureaucratic oligarchy,
Pakistan’s elites have long been able to use foreign assistance to maintain the economic and
political status quo. They highlight that although Pakistan has received more than 
 in direct aid from the US alone since 1948, it remains one of the most heavily militarised andimpoverished countries on the planet. Furthermore, with only 
people currentlyregistered to pay income tax, Pakistan recently posted a worrying tax to 
, lower even than Afghanistan. These figures have prompted analysts to describe Pakistan as arentier state, deriving income from inefficient state run companies and generous foreignassistance programmes rather than a sustainable tax base. This status enables successiveruling oligarchies to shun democratic accountability, buy votes and maintain their domestic
 patronage networks. The latter is perhaps best illustrated by reports that Pakistan’s two
largest contemporary social safety net programmes, the partially foreign funded BenazirIncome Support Programme and the Zakat Programme, are perceived by ordinary Pakistanisto be slush funds for domestic 
 and, in the case of the former, aninstrument of international 
. From 2001 to 2010 US aid to Pakistan amounted to over 
.Furthermore, throughthe 
 of 2009 the US has pledged another $7billion over five years. Although this figure is relatively low, amounting to less than 1 % of 
Pakistan’s GDP or around two thirds of US spending on the Afghan army a year, the inflowof money arguably entrenches Pakistan’s political economy of patronage and power, andcontinues a trend in which Pakistan’s
elite are buttressed by foreign funds in times of flux andcrisis. Albeit mostly covert, the last time foreign assistance was channelled into Pakistan on
such a scale was during the Soviet’s occupation of Afghanistan. This not only served theWest’s geo
-strategic ambitions vis-à-vis the spread of communism, but also allowed GeneralMuhammad Zia-ul-
Haq’s Islamist regime to retain power through patronage and coercion.The General used foreign money to militarise large swathes of Pakistan’s border regions and
 pursue a nationwide programme of Islamisation that included the infamous 
;legislation which has since been criticised by Western observers for encouragingthe rape and stoning
of women. The episode also led to Pakistan’s use of jihadist groups inAfghanistan long after the Soviet’s fled in 1989 and in Kashmir from 1987. Thus, it was one
of the formative moments of the global jihadist movement that continues to allow outfits suchas Al-Qaeda to find an ideological and material home in Pakistan today.
As during Zia’s regime, contemporary foreign assistance is offered to Pakistan as anincentive to pursue the West’s interests. However, it arguably encourages Pakistan’s elites to
view party politics as a game of probability and state institutions as tools with which to
reward clients and punish rivals. Accordingly, Anatol Lieven’s recent book suggests that
elites are left with few incentives to engage in meaningful social reforms or to pay and collecttaxes. Foreign assistance may also help them to ignore the violent and domestically focussedIslamist groups which are 
 within their vastly unequal and polarisedsociety. Although it is unlikely that Al-Qeada or its affiliates could ever inspire largenumbers of Pakistanis to join their cause, these newer alliances of domestic militant Islamistorganisations are a potent political force; holding well attended political rallies that the
central government appears reluctant to oppose. At these events the groups feed off the elite’s
ignorance of the widespread discontent among their own clients and speak the politicallanguage of the man on the street. This includes portraying elites as compliant with the war inAfghanistan and stooges of foreign powers. In sum, democratic governance is delegitimisedfor being un-Islamic. The groups are also able to promote a brand of localised justice thatmixes Islamic and tribal laws into a particularly exclusionary and violent jurisprudence that

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