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
“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
“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
“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.