By Haroon Ismail
Since Obama took office, the current state of relations with Pakistan and the ongoing events of the Afghan War have been brought up into question. Tensions with India have risen several folds since India was still in the midst of clearing up the root of the attacks on Mumbai. The North-West Frontier Province and remaining parts of rural Pakistan remain unstable with various tribes and insurgencies controlling the regions and instilling their ideologies, causing problems of containment for the Pakistani army and civilians. There is trouble and insecurity in the region overall. No doubt, Pakistan needs U.S. assistance, but opinions on the type of assistance needed seem to be differing between the countries.
The Taliban and other tribes reject the presence of foreign troops on their land and use this as an umbrella excuse to act irrationally. Pakistani police and military have attempted to suppress and control these insurgencies but have remained unsuccessful. Instead, the tribal violence has escalated to affect police, military, and even civilians in Afghanistan and Pakistan. There exists a need for intervention, but not the type that has been in play for the past seven or eight years in Afghanistan. The aggressive policies of the Bush administration have only resulted in large costs for the American taxpayers. Time has called for a democratic solution. The United States has already established its presence in South Asia, so it is time to be the bigger person. It is time to take on social responsibility.
Rather than combating the unstable region filled with insurgencies, the U.S. government needs to engage the common people economically and developmentally. The insurgent populations will continue to act the way that they have been, especially because their motives have not changed. They must engage more with the common citizens and develop infrastructure and education to provide security to the people. The United States stands up for its principles of democracy – a government run for the people, by the people – and thus, should develop the most viably democratic solution to the current problems of Pakistan. Especially in an economic crisis that the U.S. is currently in, the bombing and missile strikes are largely off from a diplomatic use of the taxpayers’ money. Not to mention the U.S. strongly needs to improve its image internationally. With education, economic assistance, and developmental programs, there will no longer be those tribal ideologies that threaten the governments of Pakistan and abroad.
With billions of dollars in foreign aid, Pakistan’s relationship with the U.S. is no doubt beneficial. Pakistan needs the U.S. involvement to stabilize and restrain many of the insurgencies in the northwestern part of the region; however, the United States needs Pakistan just as much. Pakistan is needed to ensure peace in Afghanistan and the overall region. President Barack Obama’s goals to form an anti-terrorism coalition can only be attained through Pakistan’s cooperation to pinpoint those insurgencies involved in the Afghan War. Not to mention the route through Pakistan through which almost 75% of supplies and aid go through to reach Afghanistan. Sure, the U.S. could find alternative routes through Russia and neighboring countries to Afghanistan, but not for free. And let’s just say that the United States currently is not in the position to indulge in excessive and unnecessary spending. America needs to focus on targeting insurgencies in its “war on terror” while at the same time appease India for the attacks on Mumbai. At the same time, the U.S. needs a good and working relationship with Afghanistan.
So, are things going to change with the new administration in Washington?
Compared to the Bush administration, the Obama administration has offered Pakistan much more flexibility. In the 1980s, Obama came to Pakistan for three weeks, meeting people from all different backgrounds. He had similar experiences in Indonesia and Kenya. Barack Obama has interacted with the common man and thus knows the grassroots much better. He knows what the people want and their mindset on the role of the government and international interference. Rather than using compulsion and might, Obama has engaged the officials of other governments. Instead of dictating foreign policy, he will be open to inputs from other foreign officials. The Pakistani people have become tired of the aftermath of 9/11, and there will more than likely be more cooperation not only between the two governments, but also the people of Pakistan.In the end, we see that although popular opinion and the media may point otherwise, Pakistan is not the type of country that can be taken down by a single ideology as we have seen in countries such as Iran and Afghanistan. Insurgencies like the Taliban will never gain popular support because the general population is more supportive of secularism and a lack of violence. The idea of Pakistan being a nuclear threat to the world can easily be negated as nuclear weapons are reshuffled periodically. No matter how they are portrayed in the media, Pakistan is a functioning society –both politically and economically. Through its relationship with the U.S., there may very well exist a future of prosperity and good fortune.