Experts See Change in US Policy towards Pakistan

Washington, DC: There has been a visible shift in US policy towards Pakistan since November 3 when President Pervez Musharraf imposed a state of emergency in the country, says Wendy Chamberlin, the former US ambassador to Islamabad.
“We are no more saying that President Musharraf is indispensable. We have dropped that line,” she said.
Robert Oakley, another former US ambassador to Pakistan, agrees. “Gen Musharraf is not indispensable,” he said.
The two retired ambassadors are among a dozen diplomats and scholars who have dominated talk shows and newspaper columns since November 3, sharing their views on the current situation in Pakistan with the American public.
Prominent in this group are Washington’s former envoys to Islamabad who, because of their first hand experience in dealing with Pakistan, are sought after by all major media outlets for commentaries and opinion pieces.
“Pakistani politics run on logic of their own, and are best understood in that way,” says William B. Milam, yet another former US ambassador to Pakistan and now a senior policy scholar at the Woodrow Wilson Center in Washington.
Ms Chamberlin says that Mr. Negroponte “delivered a tough message” when he visited Islamabad during the weekend. “He is telling the Pakistanis that our relationship is with the people, not with an individual. We trust the army and trust the institutions there. And I think we’ve taken the right step,” she said.
Mr. Oakley, who represented the US in Islamabad after Gen Ziaul Huq’s death in a plane crash in 1988, says that despite its disappointment with Gen Musharraf, the US will maintain its ties to the country’s military establishment as long as Osama bin Laden and other terrorists are hiding in the tribal areas along the Afghan border.
“It will be a mistake to stop military, intelligence or economic assistance” on a dispute over democracy, he said. “We need them desperately.” Ms Chamberlin, who now heads Washington’s Middle East Institute, says that the US administration was justified in supporting Gen Musharraf before November 3, but not any more.
William Fisher, a former State Department official, quotes a State Department source as telling him that the US administration will choose ‘realpolitik’ over ‘democracy promotion’ so long as a single terrorist is left in Pakistan.
“We will vehemently vow to reexamine our aid programs, urge free and fair elections, free jailed dissidents, restore the Supreme Court, and then, after some ‘respectable’ period, regress to the status quo ante,” the source told him.
“It’s all about maintaining ‘stability’ while working with the US to hunt down the bad guys,” the source said.
Stephen Cohen, a South Asia expert and senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, sees Gen Musharraf as ‘digging in.’ “He is either suicidal or totally ignorant of the situation,” he argues.

 

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Editor: Akhtar M. Faruqui
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