Pakistan & the 2013 Elections

April 19, 2013 | By Isaac Kfir

Pakistan Elections 2013On May 11, 2013, Pakistanis will potentially head to the polls to elect a new government. The importance of the election stems from the fact that the new administration will need to address many structural problems that Pakistan faces, from power shortages and pervasive insecurity to water politics to relations with its neighbors and the US, all of which undermine Pakistan’s stability and democratization.

Historically, violence has always accompanied the pre-election period. The assassination of Benazir Bhutto on Dec. 27, 2007 mired the 2008 elections, which saw enormous bloodletting directed largely against the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) and the Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz) (PML-N),[1] leading to a low voter-turnout that may also affect the May elections.[2] With weeks to go before the election, the country is also grappling with a wave of violence.[3]

Concomitantly, the Pakistan Election Commission (PEC) has become an important battlefield, as Pakistanis attempt to bar certain candidates from running in the election, as seen with the PEC decision to disqualify Pervez Musharraf from running by accepting the claim that he did not meet the standards laid out by the constitution for candidates standing for parliament.[4] The decision, which Musharraf has promised to appeal, and the increasingly visible role played by the Pakistani Taliban and other violent groups[5] emphasize how divisive and violent the pre-election period is.

Thus, as we look towards May 11, a number of issues emerge.

First, the forthcoming election will be an historic event; this will be the first time in Pakistan’s history that a democratically elected government will have seen out its term of office. Throughout the 1990s, the governments of Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif were removed from power due to the intervention of the army.[6]

The current army chief, General Ashfaq Pervez Kayani, has arguably played an important role in facilitating the ability of the Zardari presidency to fulfill its term, because as he has served as a mediator between the government and its opponents.[7] In addition, Kayani has focused on restoring some of the army’s reputation, tarnished by Pervez Musharraf, whose decision not to relinquish his position as chief of the army in 2004 coupled with his ill-fated decision to challenge the judiciary in 2007, led to enormous enmity towards the army.

The anger at the army grew due to such incidents as the Raymond Davis case, the bin Laden raid, the killing of 24 Pakistani troops by NATO, and “Memogate.”[8] These events not only challenged the army’s competency but undermined much of the message that the army has sought to promote, since the creation of Pakistan, that it is the only true national institution in Pakistan that truly has Pakistan’s interest at heart.

Thus, Kayani, as Christine Fair points out, “masterfully restored the people’s confidence in the army” while allaying fears of another military coup,[9] something that he has continued to do and that explains his unusually long tenure. Finally, Kayani has also changed the way the army has addressed the Taliban menace, which Mullick claimed, “help[ed] sell the war to the soldiers”.[10] This policy has help restore stability in the army.

With a newly restored reputation, the question that naturally emerges is whether the army feels that if it should wish to intervene in the political system, it would not lead to widespread public opposition. This question is why the recent survey by the British Council is significant because it indicates that young Pakistanis (18 to 29 years old) have a very low opinion of democracy and the civilian polity, while the army and the religious polity are most popular. It was found that more than 90% of those polled believe that Pakistan is heading in the wrong direction, with responsibility for this result laid on the shoulders of the civilian institutions.[11]

Second, there is increasing evidence of Pakistani Taliban activity against secular parties, especially in the tribal areas. On April 14, 2013 a suicide bomber struck in Yakatoot, Peshawar soon after Ghulam Ahmed Bilour, a senior leader of the Awami National Party (ANP), attended a rally. The attack, which the Pakistani Taliban (TTP) claimed responsibility for, killed 16 people and injured many others.[12] Since last year, the TTP has adopted a policy of targeting members of the ANP,[13] and the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM),[14] which the TTP regards as secularists.[15] In addition to attacking political leaders in the tribal areas, the TTP also has taken its campaign of terror to Karachi, which highlights how brazen they have become.[16]

The attacks, which are becoming more frequent and more lethal, undoubtedly affect the pre-election process, making individuals weary of attending rallies while also discouraging political leaders from meeting constituents and engaging in open discourse. The attacks are also an indication of a change of tactics, with the TTP opting to focus on civilian leaders as opposed to public installations.[17] Thus, if the actions of the TTP lead to low voter turnout, the religious parties may benefit, as historically Pakistanis do not vote for religious parties.[18] However, if these parties do well, they may end up playing an important role in shaping government policies, especially if more young Pakistanis view the religious polity as a positive force. From the TTP perceptive, should it believe that its actions can help swing the election toward the religious polity, it may encourage the TTP to continue its policies of targeting senior leaders of political parties whom it opposes.

The third key issue affecting the election is the role of such people as Imran Khan, founder and chairman of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI, Pakistan Movement for Justice). Khan’s message—which focuses on nationalism, anti-corruption, and anti-Americanism, based on opposition to the US drone campaign and its involvement in Afghanistan, which Khan links to the growth of jihadi groups in Pakistan—resonates with many, particularly the young.[19]

In a speech in March 2013 in Lahore, Khan—the former captain of the Pakistani cricket team—made a number of pledges to speak the truth, end oppression, remain in Pakistan, and keep his wealth in the country. He also emphasized the need to ensure the supremacy of the rule of law, the prevention of nepotism, the protection from misuse of taxpayers’ money, and the championing of the rights of the Pakistani diaspora.[20]

Thus, although one is uncertain how well the PTI will do in the election, because it is unlikely that the PPP or the PML-N will win outright control of parliament, Khan and the TPI may end up serving as kingmaker, even though he has ruled out any potential agreements with either of the main parties. This role may lead to changes in Pakistan’s foreign relations, in particular its relation to the US because Khan has focused much of his message on US drone policy[21] that many in Pakistan oppose.[22]

Fourth, the situation in Afghanistan is affecting Pakistan and vice versa. Relations between the two countries have been turbulent. Afghans consistently claim that Pakistan is supporting anti-government forces and is not a true partner,[23] which only serves to exacerbate relations.[24] With the anticipated foreign troop withdrawal, accompanied by enormous doubts as to the ability of the Afghan security services to counter anti-government forces, Afghanistan will continue to worry regional and international actors, which are concerned that this country once again will descend into violent civil conflict, as was the case in the 1990s.[25]

An unstable Afghanistan, particularly one where there is rising Iranian and Indian influence, will be of major concern to Pakistanis, encouraging further Pakistani meddling in Afghanistan. Pakistan has always feared Indian presence in Afghanistan because it challenges its strategic depth, whereas growing Iranian involvement makes Pakistanis weary because they fear it would coalesce into Pakistan, which has the second largest Shi’ite community in the world after Iran.[26]

Concomitantly, Pakistan also will need to come to terms with the loss of revenue that would come with the end of the foreign presence that has provided enormous financial gain to Pakistanis because Pakistan was the major transportation conduit for the international presence in Afghanistan.[27] Moreover, Afghanistan itself is heading toward what is likely to be a very challenging election in 2014. Hamid Karzai is expected to stand down because he is ineligible to run for a third term. Islamabad will surely play a major role in this election, albeit surreptitiously, which may create even more tensions in Afghanistan because no agreement has been reached with the Taliban. This situation has lead one Pakistani foreign official to claim, “I have absolutely no doubt that there will be complete chaos in Afghanistan if a settlement is not reached by 2014.” This sentiment may explain why Pakistan is seeking relations with opposition figures, including the pro-India Northern Alliance, the Taliban, Washington, and other parties.[28]

Therefore, as we head toward the next Pakistani election, there is much uncertainty and concern. Questions remain as to how a new government, if there is a peaceful transition, will address the many internal problems affecting the country from unemployment to sectarian violence to poverty to foreign relations. What is undoubtedly clear is that the road towards peace, security, and stability in Pakistan is a long way off.

[1] “Ballots and bombs in Pakistan,” The Economist, February. 18, 2008, p. 1.

[2] Jamal Shahid, “Pakistan among Countries with lowest Voters turnout,”, April 14, 2013. <>

[3] “Blast at ANP rally kills 16 in Peshawar,”, April 16, 2013.

[4] Article 62 lays out the qualification for membership in the Majlis-e-Shoora (Parliament), which demands that the person be a citizen of Pakistan, be above the age of twenty-five and most importantly: “of good character and is not commonly known as one who violates Islamic Injunctions” (Art. 62(1)(d)); “has adequate knowledge of Islamic teachings and practises obligatory duties prescribed by Islam as well as abstains from major sins” (Art. 62(1)(e); “is sagacious, righteous and non-profligate, honest and ameen,” (Art. 62(1)(f); “as not, after the establishment of Pakistan, worked against the integrity of the country or opposed the ideology of Pakistan.” (Art. 62(1)(g)).

[5] Ashraf Khan, “In Karachi, life is cheap,” Le Monde Diplomatique, April 2013. <>

[6] Benazir Bhutto, after winning the 1988 election was removed from office in 1990 by President Ghulam Ishaq Khan in August I990, claiming that her government was unable to deal with the heightened level of violence in the Sindh and for engaging in corruption and malfeasance. In 1990, Nawaz Sharif became prime minister and his government lasted for three years before he was removed from power for promoting Lieutenant-General Abdul Waheed Kakar as head of the army. In 1993, Benazir Bhutto returned to office, but the violence in Karachi in 1994 and 1995 and her clashes with President Leghari in 1996, once again brought her downfall. In 1997, Sharif was once again reelected only to be toppled in a bloodless coup by Pervez Musharraf in 1999. John Bray, “Pakistan at 50: A State in Decline?” International Affairs, Vol. 73, No. 2 (1997), pp. 315-331.

[7] See for example, Jane Perlez, “Pakistan avoids pitfall, but path ahead is unclear,” New York Times, March 16, 2009, p. A1; C. Christine Fair, “Why the Pakistan Army is Here to Stay: Prospects for Civilian Governance,” International Affairs Vol. 87, No. 3 (2011), p. 580.

[8] Memogate refers to a 2012 incident whereby a Pakistani businessman, Mansoor Ijaz, alleged that in May 2011, soon after the bin Laden raid, Husain Haqqani Pakistan’s ambassador to the United State at the time, dictated to him a memo, in which President Zardari pleaded for American help against the army. Saeed Shah, “’Memogate’ scandal deepens as American accuser threatens to tell all,” The Guardian, January 12, 2012. <>

[9] C. Christine Fair, “Why the Pakistan Army is Here to Stay: Prospects for Civilian Governance,” International Affairs Vol. 87, No. 3 (2011), p. 579.

[10] Haider Ali Hussein Mullick, an adviser to General Petraeus on Pakistan in 2009 and 2010 notes Kayani’s decision to form a special inquiry commission at General Headquarters (GHQ) that looked as to why the army had been unsuccessful against the insurgents in the past. The Commission, whose finding are not public, seemed to have recommend a number of reforms ranging from confidence measures building for the population and the troops, improvement in training and equipment synchronization among military organizations, and significant intelligence reforms. Haider Ali Hussein Mullick, “Recalibrating U.S. Pakistan Relations” The Washington Quarterly, Vol. 35, No. 3 (2012), p. 95.

[11] The poll showed that 71% had an unfavorable opinion of the government, 67% of parliament and 69% of political parties. Conversely, 77% approve of the army and 74% towards religious organisations. Jon Boone, “Pakistan’s young voters view democracy with despair, finds survey,” The Guardian, April 2, 2013. <>

[12] “Blast at ANP rally kills 16 in Peshawar,”, April 16, 2013. <>

[13] In December 2012, a suicide bomber linked to the TTP killed nine people including senior provincial minister Bashir Ahmed Bilour, the son of Ghulam Ahmed Bilour. “Suicide attack kills senior minister Bilour, eight others in Peshawar,”, December 22, 2012. <>

[14] “Taliban kill MQM election candidate in Hyderabad,”, April 11, 2013. <>

[15] Zahir Shah Sherazi, “TTP Threatens Attacks on ‘Secular Parties’ as Blast Targets ANP Rally,”, December 10, 2012. <>

[16] On April, the TTP launched an attack in Karachi that left four Rangers dead and several others injured. “Blast near Karachi checkpost kills four rangers personnel,”, April 3, 2013. <>

[17] Ehsanullah Ehsan, the spokesman of the TTP has stated in relation to the attack on the WAPDA grid station in Peshawar that the TTP would no longer be attacking public interests buildings and civic organisations, and in fact condemn such attacks. Zahir Shah Sherazi, “Pakistani Taliban claim responsibility of Karachi rangers attack,”, April 3, 2013. <>

[18] In 2002, Pervez Musharrf struck a deal with the Muttahida Majilis-e-Amal (United Council of Action, MMA), a conglomeration of six religious parties that serves as a counter-weight to the PPP and the PML-N. The MMA secured a majority in the North West Frontier Province (now known as Khyber Pakhtunkhwa) and was the second largest party in Baluchistan.

[19] Jason Burke, “Imran Khan: the man who would be Pakistan’s next Prime Minister,” The Guardian, March 3, 2012. <>

[20] “Weather interrupts ‘Tsunami rally’; Imran makes six promises,”, March 23, 2013. <>

[21] In 2012, US immigration services in Toronto detained Imran Khan prior to him boarding a flight to New York. Khan has claimed that the US immigration questioned him over his views on drone strikes and jihad. Sometime before his flight, Khan had organized a high-profile march into South Waziristan to protest against drone strikes. Peter Beaumont, “Imran Khan detained and ‘interrogated over drone views’ by US immigration,” The Guardian, October 27, 2012. <>

[22] In April 2013, Pervez Musharraf in a television interviewed admitted that when he was president, he gave the CIA permission to launch drone attacks inside Pakistan if the “target was absolutely isolated and [there was] no chance of collateral damage.” Jon Boone and Peter Beaumont, “Pervez Musharraf admits permitting ‘a few’ US drone strikes in Pakistan,” The Guardian, April 12, 2013. <>

[23] See for example, Joshua Partlow, “Karzai Accuses Pakistan of Supporting Terrorists,” The Washington Post, October 3, 2011, <>

[24] A top Pakistani foreign official recently claimed, “Right now, Karzai is the biggest impediment to the peace process… In trying to look like a savior, he is taking Afghanistan straight to hell.” “Pakistan sees Afghanistan’s Karzai as obstacle to peace with Taliban,”, March 25, 2013. <>

[25] Richard Norton-Taylor, “MPs fear Afghan Civil War after troops leave,” The Guardian, April 9, 2013. <>

[26] Vali R. Nasr, “International Politics, Domestic Imperatives, and Identity Mobilization: Sectarianism in Pakistan, 1979-1998,” Comparative Politics, Vol. 32, No. 2 (2000), pp. 171-190

[27] Khyber Transport Association chief Shakir Afridi noted in 2011 that his association owned approximately 2,000 oil tankers and 3,500 trailers. The association handled around 90 per cent of the Afghanistan-bound supplies for the allied forces. A trailer carrying a 40-foot container cost between Rs3.5 million and Rs4.5 million and charged a fare between Rs200,000 and Rs250,000, whereas an oil tanker with a capacity of around 50,000 to 60,000 litres cost between Rs4 million and Rs5 million with the transport fare was charged at a rate of around Rs12 per litre . In addition each trailer has a crew of two or three people who receive a monthly salary of (around RS35,000 for the driver and around 20,000 for the supporting staff). “300 Trucks carry supplies to NATO from city daily,”, November 28, 2011. <>

[28]Mehreen Zahra-Malik, “Pakistan sees Afghanistan’s Karzai as obstacle to peace with Taliban,” Reuters. March 23, 2013. <>

Leon Panetta, Dr Afridi, and Why US-Pakistan Relations are at a Nadir

February 2, 2012 | By Isaac Kfir

On January 29, in an interview on CBS,[1] U.S. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta raised the case of Dr Shakil Afridi, the Pakistani doctor who through a CIA-run vaccination campaign was instrumental in providing DNA evidence that Osama bin Laden was living in a secure compound in the military city of Abbottabad.  Soon after the bin Laden operation, the Inter-Service Intelligence Directorate (ISI) arrested Dr Afridi.


Secretary Panetta’s decision to raise the matter on U.S. national television may appear on the surface as somewhat surprising especially as U.S.-Pakistan relations are at a nadir – a product of the OBL operation – though in all probability before raising the matter the issue was discussed with CIA Director David Patreaus, Secretary of State Clinton and other high-level officials in the Administration.

Undoubtedly, what motivated Secretary Panetta, who was director of the CIA at the time of the OBL operation, is concern over the health and safety of Dr Afridi, as reports indicate that he has been subjected to torture and is facing the possibility of being tried for treason.[2] By raising the matter in such a public forum Secretary Panetta could be indicating to Pakistan that it wants an end to Dr Afridi’s detention.


As commendable as Secretary Panetta’s concerns are for Dr Afridi, this latest chastisement by a senior American official of Pakistan is unlikely to help smooth relations between these two countries. Pakistan, which is in the midst of a major scandal (memogate) is likely to view Secretary Panetta’s comments as typifying American hubris and disconcertedness in respect to what is currently taking place in Pakistan. By rejecting claims that Dr Afridi possibly committed treason, the U.S. fails to accept that at the end of the day, the operation called for U.S. military forces to unilaterally enter Pakistan and conduct a military operation in a city located 30 miles from the capital. One cannot help but wonder how Washington would react if President Caldron was to send Mexican Special Forces to hunt down drug barons operating in Arizona or New Mexico or how Washington would react to U.S. nationals working surreptitiously with Mexican authorities to bring down drug barons located in the United States? The remarks also indicate a level of American lack of care that Pakistan is still grappling not only with the OBL operation but the December 2011 incident in which 24 Pakistani soldiers died, for which President Obama has issued no apology (the apology came from other government officials). There is an increasing sense that the U.S. feels that it can violate Pakistani sovereignty to achieve its own national security goals – defeating Al Qaeda – which to Pakistanis often comes at their expense.[3]


Putting aside rising anti-Americanism on the Pakistani street, what Washington ignores is that the OBL strike severely embarrassed the military and the ISI and even though there is no evidence of these entities colluding in OBL’s presence in Abbottabad, U.S. policymakers keep making such allegations.[4] By raising Dr Afridi’s case in public, Secretary Panetta has helped to reassert the ISI and military’s embarrassment resulting from the May operation. It will also probably encourage the ISI and the military to act harshly against Dr Afridi, using him as an example to anyone that may wish to assist the U.S. in locating Al Qaeda operatives without Pakistan’s knowledge.[5] A more effective way to secure Dr Afridi’s release would have been through quite diplomacy, something that U.S. policymakers seem unable to do when they deal with Pakistan.[6]


Trying to understand U.S. foreign policy vis-à-vis Pakistan is becoming increasingly difficult, as it flies in the face of logic and appears designed to exacerbate tensions through accusations and recriminations that often lack substance or evidence. At a time when Pakistan is in the midst of a power struggle between the military and the civilian government and there is growing anti-Americanism on the Pakistani street caused by repeated U.S. violations of Pakistani sovereignty, one must wonder why the Administration would add more tinder to the fire.


[1] “The Defense Secretary: An Interview with Leon Panetta,” CBS News, January 29, 2012. <>

[2] Declan Walsh, “Pakistan ‘Vaccination’ Doctor Accused of Treason,” The Guardian, October 6, 2011. <>

[3] This is the view promoted by Imran Khan and which has won him and Tehreek-e-Insaafincreasing support.

[4] A leaked US secret military report based on 27,000 interrogations with more than 4,000 captured Taliban, al-Qaeda and other foreign fighters and civilians claims that not only do Afghans are preparing themselves for a Taliban takeover once ISAF leaves, but that Taliban operations are directly managed by the Pakistani ISI. “Pakistan Dismisses Nato Report on Afghan Taliban Links,”BBC News, February 1, 2012. <>

[5] Former Directors of the CIA, General Hayden writing on ISI Director-General Ahmed Shuja Pasha in TIME MAGAZINE 100 most influential people noted that since the Raymond David case, (this was before the OBL operation) General Pasha “…has grown progressively more suspicious of U.S. motives and staying power.”  Michael Hayden “Ahmed Shuja Pasha,” TIME MAGAZINE, April 21, 2011. <,28804,2066367_2066369_2066316,00.html?

[6] One need only compare the case of Dr Afridi with that of Husain Haqqani, the former Pakistani Ambassador to the US, who played a central role in memogate. Haqqani’s travel ban was recently lifted after a Prime Minister Gilani and General Kiyani met on January 11 for a private confusion to diffuse the rising tension that Mansoor Ijaq’s memo had caused.

Six Balls in the Air and Counting: A Perspective on the Rising Tensions Between Pakistan’s Army and Government

January 26, 2012 | By Isaac Kfir

As Pakistan strives to deal with the pressures of democracy and the ongoing controversy over Mansoor Ijaz’s memo (memogate),[1] there are heightened concerns that Pakistan is heading towards its fifth military coup.[2] Memogate has polarized Pakistani society, with the army and the government adopting conflicting positions (the army has asked the Supreme Court to investigate the memo and see if its existence is a threat to Pakistani national security, a position that the Gilani government strenuously rejects). The Court led by Chief Justice Chaudary, who is no friend of President Zardari, is now deeply involved in the political furor.[3] The Court however is no stranger to such a role, as seen during the tumultuous 1990s, when Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif were repeatedly sacked as prime ministers mainly because they clashed with the military.[4]  What lies at the heart of the crisis is control over the political system. The army has taken great offence to comments made by Prime Minister Gilani,[5] his decision to sack Lieutenant General (ret.) Khalid Naeem Lodhi, as defense minister[6] and a general unhappiness with the government’s desire to rein in the military.


Pakistan’s civilian-military relations are highly complex as they have many facets and elements,[7]which is why the aim here is limited to highlighting possible reasons as to why Generals Kayani and Pasha are so determined to resist the government.[8] Put simply, if Pakistan is ever to become a viable democracy, a stable relationship between the army and the government is essential as only when the civilian polity truly controls, directs and manages the military, a solid base for democracy can emerge.[9] Thus, to fully understand the tensions heightened by memogate, it is important to recognize that it is intimately linked to the challenges faced by General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, Pakistan’s Army Chief, and Lieutenant-General (ret.) Ahmad Shuja Pasha, the Director-General of the ISI.[10] The two face significant and complimentary challenges that begin with recognizing that both institutions are in desperate need of reform and that incessant interventions in civilian matters are undermining Pakistan’s standing in the world. However, the two must contend with tremendous internal opposition to the substantive reforms necessary, coupled with a history of mistrust vis-à-vis civilian politicians.


Over the last few years, made worse by the Raymond Davis incident and the bin Laden operation, the army has come to feel that its position in Pakistan society is threatened as the total support that it once received from ordinary Pakistanis and the United States is no longer guaranteed. This shift is, at least to the mind of the army, a product of foreign action that has led to the army’s honor and capabilities to be publicly challenged.[11]


A first issue that General Kayani has to address is the nature, structure and fabric of the army, which as an institution has failed to change its perception and nature. The main challenge comes from junior and middle-ranking officers whose views of Pakistan’s security concerns are largely anachronistic.[12] These individuals are seething over the bin Laden killing in May 2011 and the NATO incident that left 24 soldiers dead.[13] Junior officers express doubts and concerns if not clear rejection of Pakistan’s close relations with the United States, whom they feel malign them with claims of collusion with terrorists while not appreciating Pakistan’s sacrifice in the ‘war on terror.’ Thus, over the past few months, General Kayani has worked hard to address the anger of the junior officers, as well as that of the senior military officers. To that end, he has visited garrisons across the country and spoke to officers.[14] Kayani knows that even though the army is generally well disciplined, there is nothing to suggest that it is immune from the prospects of a junior officer-led coup, as history has shown that junior officers are able to overthrow governments.[15] Director-General Pasha faces a tougher challenge to that of Kayani in dealing with his subordinates. This is because the ISI follows an institutional framework designed to address Pakistan’s inherent insecurities, as since the late 1950s, the institution has been able to operate without any real restrictions, first because no other agency challenged its position, but also because various leaders encouraged it to grow and develop.[16] The ISI is an exceptionally intricate organization, well versed in the art of subversions and suspicion, a legacy of the war against the Soviets, which radically altered the ISI, encouraging Islamic conservatism within the organization and embedding a strong Pakistani-Islamic outlook that has grown with the passage of time.[17] Michael Hayden, the former CIA director claims that Pasha has become more suspicious of U.S. motives vis-à-vis Pakistan,[18]leading the ISI to focus more on reasserting its position as the preeminent intelligence unit in Pakistan while making it clear that the CIA cannot and will not operate independently in Pakistan.[19] This position resonates with the rank and file of the institution.


A second challenge is breaking relations with entities and actors that the army and the ISI have helped create. For decades, both organizations nurtured domestic and foreign entities that conduct subversive operations on the behalf or the behest of the army and the ISI under the guise of seeking to promote the interests of Pakistan. Thus, subversive groups emerged in Pakistani cities (many are engaged in sectarian violence), helping to foster sectarian tensions, and in such areas as Kashmir and along some of Pakistan’s borders.[20] These ties have become difficult to break as unofficial lines of communication and support have been establish, which means that even if and when orders are given to cease operation with these entities, it will remain difficult to ensure that the orders are obeyed.


Kayani and Pasha’s third challenge is contending with an increasingly angry Pakistani public, one that feels disillusioned at its own political system, whom it identifies as corrupt, decadent and supine in that it seeks to appease foreign interests as oppose to Pakistani ones. Between 2007 and 2009, the military establishment went through a difficult period, as public support was on the wane due to some of the policies of Pervez Musharraf. This may explain why the army and the ISI both kept a low profile in the February 2008 elections.[21] For the next 18 months, anger continued, as the military was unable to deal with the rising levels of domestic terrorism. The army’s engagement with the militants, whether in the way it conducted its military operations or the way it sought to impose its will, caused as much damage and harm to civilians.[22] Thus, the army being a pragmatic institution altered its approach and accepted a truce with the Taliban and Islamic militants.[23]However, the Taliban push, their brutal slaying of soldiers, police-officers and civilians coupled with the 2010 horrific floods have helped the army restore its tarnished reputation as it did a better job than the civilian leaders (President Zardari opted to continue with his trip in Europe).[24]


A fourth challenge faced by Kayani and Pasha is rising support to non-establishment groups and parties, as Pakistanis embrace regional parties and new actors. These actors adhere to a jingoistic, nationalist and anti-American agenda whereby the traditional parties and the government come under criticism for following the American line, supporting U.S. presence in Afghanistan and not addressing the rising levels of corruption and economic hardship that is paralyzing Pakistan. A good example of this potential shift is the rise of Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), which has been around since the mid-1990s. The PTI was never considered a serious political party, as although many respect Imran Khan due to his extraordinary cricketing career and philanthropic work he was mainly identified as a playboy. However, the PTI has spent the last decade engaged in social welfare programs, while Khan adopted a consistent, nationalist anti-American stance (opposition to U.S. presence in Afghanistan, negotiations with the Taliban and greater accountability, transparency and openness within the political system[25]). He has also positioned himself against the government and the PPP especially President Zardari,[26] winning Khan tremendous support, (in a rally in Lahore in December 2011, Khan drew between 70,000 to possibly 200,000 people[27]). Nothing seems to suggest that interest in the PTI is waning.[28]


Kayani and Pasha’s fifth challenge is finding a way to deal with Pakistan’s relationship with the United States. This has always been a key test for the Pakistani security establishment, which has become much more difficult due to conflicting interests of Pakistan and the United States, especially over Afghanistan. Kayani knows that U.S. policymakers are unhappy with the way in which the Pakistani government, the military and the security services conduct themselves. Washington’s demands begin with ending Pakistani intervention in Afghanistan; controlling the military’s interaction with domestic Islamists; and keeping the army from taking over the political system. These are simply things that take tremendous time and effort to accomplish and must be done diplomatically and quickly to ensure that Pakistani military honor is impinged.

A sixth challenge faced by Kayani and Pasha is Afghanistan. It is becoming clear that Pakistani policymakers do not know how to proceed when it comes to Afghanistan. The two share a turbulent history. Traditional military strategy holds that Pakistan needs Afghanistan for strategic depth. From Afghanistan, the Pakistani army would launch counter attacks against the Indians.[29] Increasingly, the quagmire in Afghanistan has led to new worries for Pakistan one of which is what would the Afghan non-Pashtun population do should President Karzai broker a deal with the Taliban. Pakistanis and others are concerned that following such a move the Afghan non-Pashtun population may decide to break away from the Afghan state leaving the various Pashtun groups to fight among themselves.[30]


Generals Kayani and Pasha and whoever replaces Pasha when his term ends in March 2012, have many challenges before them as they arguably strive to introduce the concept of accountability to institutions that have never known such boundaries before. Pakistan’s weakness stems from endogenous and exogenous factors, which on the one hand demand radical reform. However, radical change is dangerous in a fragile state leading established stakeholders to oppose the change as it normally comes at their expense. Ultimately, as tensions rise and lines are being drawn, instability in Pakistan will also rise, which is often a precursor before a coup occurs. Nevertheless, the military must be aware that the worst thing that could happen to Pakistan at this stage is another military coup, which may explain why General Kayani has discounted such a thing.[31] Yet, the notion of a judicial coup remains a possibility. This would greatly harm Pakistan and add to the fragility of the state, as it an effect would mean that the Court has sided with the army, which in all probability wants to see Gilani and Zardari out of office. Pakistani leaders must come to some sort of an understanding that would allow the Gilani government to fulfill its term and enable Pakistan to hold new elections. This would be enormously important, as it would be the first time that a Pakistani civilian government completed a full term, emphasizing that Pakistan can develop a democratic tradition and that tensions between the various branches can be resolved without resorting to a coup.


[1] Ijaz’s memo refers to a memo allegedly sent by President Zardari via Hussain Haqqani, the Pakistani Ambassador to the United States at the time, to the US government. In the memo, President Zardari offered to assert more control over the ISI and the army in return for a guarantee for U.S. assistance in forestalling another military coup.

[2] These have been abated following a meeting between Prime Minister Gilani and Generals Kayani and Pasha. Salman Masood and Declan Walsh, “Pakistan Leader Softens Criticism of Army and Spy Agency,” New York Times, January 25, 2012. <>

[3] Declan Walsh, “Pakistan Court Widens Role, Stirring fears for Stability,” New York Times, January 22, 2012. <>

[4] In 1990, Ishaq Khan using the controversial Eight Amendment sacked Bhutto in August 1990, 18 months after she became Prime Minister over allegations of corruption and for her attempts to question the powers of the Army.  Bhutto was replaced by Sharif who was also sacked by President Khan for largely meddling in affairs that the army deemed to be ‘army-business.’ In 1997, President Leghari dismissed Bhutto’s second government on charges of corruption, incompetence, and lawlessness leading to Pakistan’s fifth election in 12 years.

[5] On December 22, 2011, Gilani in a speech at the National Arts Gallery in Islamabad attacked the military on an unprecedented scale, accusing it of hatching conspiracies to undermine the government as well as failing to understand that it must operate at the behest of parliament and not as an independent entity. “There cannot be a State within a State: PM Gilani,” The News International, December 22, 2011. <>

[6] According to the prime minister’s office General Lodhi was fired for “gross misconduct and illegal action which created misunderstanding” between state institutions.” “PM sacks Secretary Defence; COAS Calls Emergency Meeting,” Dawn, January 11, 2012. <>

[7] See for example, Husain Haqqani, Pakistan: Between Mosque and Military (Washington: Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, 2005); Ayesha Siddiqa, Military Inc.: Inside Pakistan’s Military Economy (London: Pluto Press, 2007); Shuja Nawaz, Crossed Swords: Pakistan, its Army, and the Wars Within (Oxford University Press 2008); Brian Cloughley, A History of the Pakistan Army: Wars and Insurrections (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999); Stephen P. Cohen,The Idea of Pakistan (Washington: Brookings Institute Press, 2004); Mazhar Aziz, Military Control in Pakistan: The Parallel State (New York: Routledge, 2008).

[8] The numerous works of C. Christine Fair have been enormously helpful as her various studies of the Pakistani army help understand the institution. See for example, C. Christine Fair, “Increasing Social Conservatism in the Pakistan Army: What the Data Say,” Armed Forces & Society, [published on line November 18 2011 <>; C. Christine Fair and Shuja Nawaz, “The Changing Pakistan Army Officer Corps,” Journal of Strategic Studies, Vol. 34, No. 1 (2011), pp. 63-94.

[9] Samuel P. Huntington, The Soldier and the State: The Theory and Politics of Civil Military Relations (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1985), pp. 80-86.

[10] Kayani has repeatedly sought to attest his democratic credentials and was instrumental in brokering a rapprochement between President Zardari and Nawaz Sharif over the reinstatement of Chief Justice Chaudhry

[11] This may explain why senior Pakistani military officials want to see as change in US-Pakistani relations. Karen DeYoung and Karin Brulliard, “As U.S.-Pakistani Relations Sink, Nations Try to Figure Out ‘a New Normal’,” The Washington Post, January 16, 2012. <>

[12] Christine Fair, a leading scholar on Pakistan recalls meeting number of junior Pakistani officers, whom she notes told her that they enlisted because they wanted to kill Indians and not Pakistanis. C. Christine Fair, “Policing Pakistan,” Wall Street Journal, June 30, 2009.

[13] Jane Perlez, “Pakistan’s Chief of Army Fights to Keep His Job,” New York Times, June 15, 2011. <>

[14] Jane Perlez, “Pakistan’s Chief of Army Fights to Keep His Job,” New York Times, June 15, 2011. <>

[15] Kamran Yousaf, “Winter of discontent: With ifs and buts, Kayani quells coup rumours,” The Express Tribune, December 23, 2011. <>

[16] Major-General William Cawthorne who following Partition served as Pakistan’s Army Deputy Chief of Staff established the ISI. The organization was meant to supplement existing military intelligence. By the late 1950s, the ISI focused on three main issues: 1. Safeguard Pakistan national interests; 2. Monitor political opposition; 3. Sustain military rule. Shaun Gregory, “The ISI and the War on Terrorism,” Studies in Conflict & Terrorism, Vol. 30, No. 12 (December 2007), pp. 1013-1031.

[17] On the role of the ISI during the war against the Soviets in Afghanistan and how it changed the ISI see Mohammad Yousaf, Silent Soldier: The Man Behind the Afghan Jehad, General Akhtar Abdur Rahman Shaheed, (Lahore: Jang Publishers, 1991).

[18] Michael Hayden, “The 2011 Time 100,” TIME MAGAZINE, April 21, 2011. < >

[19] Omar Waraich, “Why has Pakistan Targeted Informants who helped Track Bin Laden?” TIME MAGAZINE, June 16, 2011. <,8599,2077838,00.html>

[20] “The State of Sectarianism in Pakistan,” International Crisis Group, Asia Report No. 95, April 18, 2005. <>

[21] Larry P. Goodson, “The 2008 Elections,” Journal of Democracy, Vol. 19, No. 4 (October 2008), pp. 5-15; Aqil Shah, “Praetorianism and Terrorism,” Journal of Democracy, Vol. 19, No. 4 (October 2008), pp. 16-25.

[22] Jane Perlez and Pir Zubair Shah, “Pakistan Army Said to be Linked to Swat Killing,” New York Times, September 14, 2009. <>

[23] Jane Perlez, “Pakistan Makes a Taliban Truce, Creating a Haven,” New York Times, February 19, 2009.

[24] Saeed Shah, “Pakistani Floods: Army Steps into Breach as Anger grows as Zardari,” The Guardian, August 8, 2010. <>

[25] See for example, Imran Khan, “How to Save Pakistan,” The Guardian, November 2007. <>; Imran Khan, “A Vote against Voting,” The Guardian, February 17, 2008. <>; Imran Khan, “Pakistan will Implode if the US does not leave Afghanistan,” The Observer, January 8, 2011. <>

[26] “Govt. sabotaging courts to hide inefficiencies: Imran Khan,” The Nation, January 16, 2012. <>

[27] Atif Salahuddin, “Imran Khan’s Political Inning,” PakTribune, December 8, 2011. <>

[28] Yasir Hashmi, “Youth supporting PTI because of its Manifesto – Javed Hashmi,” News Pakistan, January 23, 2011. <>

[29] The negative view of India does not exist only in the military. In the latest Jang Economic Session in January 2012, the Senior Vice President of the Lahore Chamber of Commerce and Industry Kashif Younis Mehr said that Indian bad intentions are preventing better relations between the two countries. “Pakistan Can Play a Role in Regional Trade Promotion,” The News International, January 25, 2012. <>

[30] Thomas Barfield, “Afghanistan’s Ethnic Puzzle,” Foreign Affairs, Vol. 90, No. 5 (2011), p. 63.

[31] “Army Wants Zardari out but not a coup: Military sources” The Express Tribune, December 23, 2011. <> “Pakistan army chief dismisses coup rumours,” BBC News, December 23, 2011. <>

Pakistani Troops Killed, the Memo, and How it Affects U.S.-Pakistan Relations

November 29, 2011 | By Isaac Kfir

U.S.-Pakistan relations, which had yet to recover from the fallout of the Raymond Davis incident in January and the killing of Bin Laden in May, are now facing another major challenge after NATO (ISAF) forces killed 24 Pakistani regular troops on November 26. The two posts that the troops were manning was located in the Mohmand Tribal area. The purpose of the two posts was to stop Pakistani Taliban militants from crossing the border. This is something that Washington has been demanding of Pakistan for some time.[1] Pakistan has responded to the incident by condemning ISAF and particularly the United States for the deaths; some Pakistanis even described the event as an unprovoked act of aggression.[2] Second, thousands have demonstrated against the United States and have demanded an end to U.S.-Pakistan relations.[3] Third, Pakistan has asked the U.S. to withdraw from the Shamsi air base in Balochistan, believed to be a staging post for US drones.[4]Fourth, Pakistan allegedly also withdrew an offer to encourage Afghan Taliban to partake in negotiations.

This latest development comes after months of speculation over a controversial memo passed by an American-Pakistani businessman Mansoor Ijaz to former American military chief Admiral Mike Mullen on May 10, 2011. The memo, which surfaced soon after the killing of Osama bin Laden, reportedly came from President Zardari via the Pakistani Ambassador to the United States at the time, Hussain Haqqani. In the memo President Zardari offered that in return for U.S. assistance he would rein in the Inter-Service Intelligence Directorate (ISI) and eliminate Section S – the body charged with maintaining relations with the Taliban, the Haqqani network and others. Zardari also offered to establish a new Pakistani national security team[5] that supposedly would be more pliable to Washington’s demands.

The reason why the memo and the killings have caused such anger within Pakistan is that ordinary Pakistanis are trying to come to terms with the way the world sees their country (a hotbed of Islamic radicalism and terrorism, without recognizing the damage caused by terrorism to Pakistan – 40,000 dead and billions lost in revenue). Pakistanis increasingly claim that radicalism and terrorism has come to their country courtesy of the U.S.-led war in Afghanistan. The view on the street appears to be that the U.S., NATO and the Afghan government are the ones not dealing with terrorists, while the Pakistani army battles away. Lieutenant General Asif Yasin Malik, commander of the 11th Corps who is supervising the Pakistani military effort in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa has declared, “We will take action against the terrorists in our area and Nato and Afghanistan should also take action against them (terrorists) in their area across the border… The Afghan government and Nato should not allow terrorists’ safe havens in Afghan provinces along the Pakistan border.”[6]

Second, over the past six months, Pakistan has had its sovereignty repeatedly violated, mainly by the United States, which has sent military forces into Pakistan to conduct operations. To a nation perpetually in fear of attack, this is a major concern, especially as U.S.-India relations are on the rise. Pakistanis are aware that after the T-90S debacle India is increasingly looking for new suppliers,[7] making them fearful of close U.S.-India relations.

Third, Pakistanis are frustrated with their own civilian leaders, whom they feel do not represent their interests and that of Pakistan. President Zardari’s corrupt background has remained with him, explaining his low popularity rating. The debate over the 2007 National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO) has only heightened such perceptions as the country remains in turmoil following the Supreme Court ruling that declared the NRO unconstitutional. These issues have allowed the military, which over the last years has come under criticism as Pakistanis came to see its meddling in politics and especially in sponsoring of radical groups as a threat to their peace and security, to reassert itself in Pakistani society. This cannot help the development of sustainable democracy in Pakistan.

The death of 24 regular Pakistani troops who according to Pakistani sources were over a mile into Pakistani territory has allowed the army to claim again that Pakistan needs the army more than ever, as the country comes under more and more threats. Pakistanis remember the way their civilian leaders capitulated over the Raymond Davis incident and the killing of Osama bin Laden, and Pakistanis are tired of these violations, especially among the rank-and-file who view these violations as a stain on their honor. Thus, as the army’s stock rises on the Pakistani street, politicians and public leaders’ emphasize that violations of Pakistani sovereignty will no longer be tolerated. This has major implications for the U.S. and the region, as we are likely to see a more aggressive Pakistani foreign policy that will only further frustrate Washington. That is, Pakistani leaders – civilians and military – will now need to bang the jingoistic, nationalist drum even louder than before.

All hope must rest on the enigmatic General Kayani, the Pakistani army chief, who now must devise a way to continue to work with the United States, the bête noire for his middle-ranking officers, who last year at the National Defense University challenged their commander as to why they are engaged in a war in the tribal belt.[8] It is imperative that the United States take drastic measures to change AfPak, as it is clearly not working. Afghans appear increasingly frustrated with U.S. presence that many nowadays see as occupation or supporters of a corrupt government and system.[9] Pakistanis are also expressing anger with the United States whom they feel fails to appreciate their sacrifices in dealing with terrorism and insecurity. Washington must understand that U.S. national security should not lie solely on having physical military presence in South Asia. This is because whenever military mistakes occur, it not only destroys months and years of great hard work undertaken by the indefatigable U.S. military whose commitment to bring a better tomorrow for South Asia has been commendable, but instead fosters anti-Americanism. Such mistakes coupled with unguarded statements by U.S. leaders in respect to the region ultimately undermine U.S. national security.


[1] “NATO attack allegedly kills 24 Pakistani troops,” The Guardian, November 26, 2011.

[2] Major General Athar Abbas has declared, “I cannot rule out the possibility that this was deliberate attack by ISAF.” Julian Borger and Saeed Shah, “NATO braces for reprisals after deadly air strike on Pakistan border post.” The Guardian November 27, 2011.

[3] This is not the first time that Pakistani troops have died

[4] “Out of the Blue,” The Economist, July 30, 2011.

[5] Mansoor Ijaz, “Time to take on Pakistan’s Jiahdist Spies.” The Financial Times, October 10, 2011.

[6] “‘Nato should act against terrorist safe havens in Afghanistan,’” October 29, 2011.

[7] In 2001, India purchased 310 T-90S main battle tanks, which include also permission to build 1,000 tanks at the Heavy Vehicle Factory (HVF) in Avadi, Chennai and a full technology transfer. Delivery of the technology has been slowed while the tanks have not been battle-worthy. Ajai Shukla, “Technology transfer, supply of assemblies hit Russian stonewall,” Business Standard, November 28, 2011.

[8] Kathy Gannon, “NATO raid in Pakistan undercuts rapprochement,” CBS News, November 28 2011.

[9] Rahim Faiez, “Afghan students protest at pact to host US troops beyond 2014,” The Independent, November 21, 2011.

Iran-Pakistan Relations and their Effect on Afghanistan and the U.S.

October 25, 2011 | By Isaac Kfir

Iran-Pakistan relations are complicated. They began when Iran was the first country to officially recognize the establishment of Pakistan. In May 1950, the Shah visited Pakistan leading to a Treaty of Friendship. For many years, the two countries cooperated and worked together as they have much in common. What also brings the two together is their perception that their existence is constantly threatened or challenged, making them nervous allies, i.e. Islamabad is apprehensive of strengthening Indian-Iranian ties, while Tehran is concerned with Pakistan-Saudi relations.[1] The two also share a 900km somewhat turbulent border.[2] Other issues affecting Iran and Pakistan are the narcotic trade, transnational crime, terrorism, undocumented workers and commerce. However, it is in Afghanistan, with whom both Pakistan and Iran share a border that many of the two countries’ interests coalesce and diverge.

Although Pakistan and Iran would benefit from a stable Afghanistan – and politicians from both sides have sought to aid in the process – powerful stakeholders within Iran and Pakistan want a weak, unstable and violent Afghanistan. These actors – the Pakistani ISI and the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, designated in 2007 by President Bush as “specially designated global terrorists,” – see an unstable Afghanistan as the way to undermine U.S. South Asian foreign policy goals, making Afghanistan a proxy for those actors that see the United States as the enemy. For these individuals Afghanistan can bleed the United States and undermine its prestige in the world.[3] Afghanistan is also a key reason as to why Pakistan-U.S. relations are at a nadir, with Washington claiming that the Pakistanis through the ISI are destabilizing Afghanistan, while the Pakistanis claim that Washington does not do enough to stem Afghan-based terrorism that affects Pakistan.

It is clear that the ongoing tension between Washington and Islamabad is encouraging the Iranians and the Pakistanis to improve their relations, as Pakistan searches for allies and friends.[4] Pakistani policymakers feel that they may need to have contingency plans should the U.S. turn from ally to foe, especially in lieu of some of the more belligerent rhetoric emanating from Washington over the last few months. Iran in many ways is a natural ally of Pakistan – Islam plays a dominant role in both societies and both have large ethnic and religious minorities, as well as concerns over their neighbors. This is why historically the two have had good relations, with the zenith of Iran-Pakistan relations being the 1970s and 1980s, as the Shah revised some of his views about Iran-U.S. relations following the British withdrawal from the Gulf region.[5] Concomitantly, Pakistan reeling from two major military defeats inflicted by India (1965 and 1971) was searching for allies in the Muslim World just as Iran was also looking for friends. After Bhutto’s demise and with the fall of the Shah, relations between the two countries remained strong: Zia-ul-Haq, the new military leader of Pakistan was one of the first foreign leaders to travel to Tehran to support the first revolution, while Khurshid Ahmed, a member of the Pakistani Jamaat-e-Islami and a confident of Zia-ul-Haq met Ayatollah Khomeini in Paris in December 1978 and January 1979. Strong Iran-Pakistan relations continued into the 1980s, (during the Iran-Iraq War Pakistan opted not to side with Iraq despite strong pressure from the United States and Saudi Arabia). The conflict in Afghanistan in the 1980s brought the two closer as each had an interest in the conflict,[6] each supported a number of mujahedeen groups and both were inundated with Afghan refugees.

By the 1990s however, Afghanistan played a part in undermining relations between the two, as the Taliban with their radical Sunni ideology – sponsored very much by the Pakistani ISI – massacred thousands from the Afghan Hazara community,[7] encouraging the Iranians – particularly the Revolutionary Guards – to remain involved in Afghanistan[8] as a way to protect the Hazara community and stem the tide of radical Sunni Islam.

As things stand, Pakistani policymakers know that an intimate Iran-Pakistan relationship is a major concern for Washington, as better relations may lead Pakistan to share its nuclear technology with Iran.[9] From a realpolitik perspective, playing the Iranian card may encourage Congress to think twice before it cuts US aid to Pakistan, as doing so may simply compel Pakistan to search for alternate means of raising money.[10] In the context of Afghanistan, both Pakistan and Iran have vested interest in the country:[11] the three have strong cultural and linguistic interaction (Persian for example has a strong influence on Urdu) not to mention Arabic, the language of Islam. In addition, millions of Afghans reside in Iran and Pakistan affecting policies and politics in the two countries.[12]

In December 2011, on the ten-year anniversary of the Bonn meeting (the agreement that laid down the foundations for Afghan reconstruction), a second international gathering will occur. It is unclear if Iran will participate in the meeting that is rumored to have representatives from 90 different countries including a senior Taliban official.[13] Clearly, the organizers and the key participants are trying to reduce expectations emphasizing that the meeting is not marked as Bonn 2.0, but rather as a meeting for taking stock of what went right and what has gone wrong as well as determining how to move forward. Although it is highly unpalatable to have Iran in the mix, finding a solution to the crisis in Afghanistan necessitates Iranian involvement, as otherwise only part of the problem is dealt with. Ultimately, U.S. policymakers need to make the tough decision, limited interaction with Iran over Afghanistan or continue with a rudderless, clueless policy that extracts much money and manpower and offers so little in return.


[1] For a good review of Iranian-Pakistani relations see Shah Alam, “Iran-Pakistan Relations: Political and Strategic Dimensions,” Strategic Analysis, Vol. 28, No. 4 (2004), pp. 526-545.

[2] Syed Saleem Shahzad, “Iran Gets its Man,” Asia Times Online, February 25, 2010. []

[3] This may explain why there are calls in India for example, for Delhi to pursue an independent policy in Afghanistan. Satish Chandra, India’s “Options in Afghanistan,” Strategic Analysis, Vol. 35, No. 1 (2010), pp. 125-127.

[4] A good example of this was a suggestion by President Zardari in 2011, following a two day conference on combating terrorism in Teheran to establish an Integrated Border Management Regime, coupled with a trilateral mechanism involving Afghanistan, Iran and Pakistan to combat the narcotic trade. M K Bhadrakumar, “Pakistan, Iran become ‘natural allies’,” Asia Times Online, July 19 2011. []

[5] It appeared that as the British were being replaced by the United States, which pursued an aggressive penetration policy to ensure that the new small states of the Gulf have strong relations with Washington. Shah Alam, “Iran-Pakistan Relations: Political and Strategic Dimensions,” Strategic Analysis, Vol. 28, No. 4 (2004), pp. 529-530.

[6] The conflict against the Soviet presence in the 1980s led to over 4 million Afghans to seek refuge in Iran and Pakistan, which have continued to have large Afghan refuge communities. Khomeini had after all declared “Islam has no borders” explaining why many Afghans were welcomed by the Iranians in the 1980s. Fariba Adelkhah and Zuzanna Olszewska, “The Iranian Afghans,” Iranian Studies, Vol. 40, No. 2 (2007), pp. 137-165.

[7] Security Council Resolution 1214 (December 8, 1998) saw the Council condemning the “capture by the Taliban of the Consulate-General of the Islamic Republic of Iran and the murder of the Iranian diplomats and a journalist in Mazar-e-Sharif.” The resolution found that the actions of the Taliban amounted to a breach of international law and sought Taliban cooperation in bringing those responsible for the murder to justice.

[8] Mir H. Sadat, James P. Hughes claim, “In a generation or two, there is a strong probability that the leading Afghan intellectuals and technocrats will be Hazara, at which point Iran would have a strong ally in Afghanistan.” Mir H. Sadat, James P. Hughes, “U.S.-Iran Engagement through Afghanistan,” Middle East Policy Vol. 17, No. 1 (2010), p. 32.

[9] Arguably, one of the reasons why A.Q Khan sought to work with the Iranians was money. David Albright, Paul Brannan, and Andrea Scheel Stricker, “Detecting and Disrupting Illicit Nuclear Trade after A.Q. Khan,” The Washington Quarterly, Vol. 33, No. 2 (2010), pp. 85-106; Wyn Q. Bowen and Joanna Kidd, “The Iranian Nuclear Challenge,” International Affairs, Vol. 80, No. 2 (2004), pp. 257-276.

[10] Graham Allison, “Nuclear Disorder: Surveying Atomic Threats,” Foreign Affairs, Vol. 89, No. 1 (2010), pp. 74-85; Wyn Q. Bowen and Jonathan Brewer, “Iran’s Nuclear Challenge: Nine Years and Counting,” International Affairs, Vol. 87, No. 4 (2011), pp. 923-943; S. Samuel C. Rajiv, “India and Iran Nuclear Issue: The Three Policy Determinants,” Strategic Analysis, Vol. 35, No. 1 (2011), pp. 819-835.

[11] Writing in 1963, the great American anthropologist Louis Dupree noted “For centuries Afghanistan was a crossroads: economic (the silk route between China and the West); political (conquerors on the way to and from the riches of India passed through here); and cultural (Buddhism spread to the Far East from Afghanistan). The position of Afghanistan still makes it a bridge between the Persian and Indian worlds, transmitting elements of each to the other.” Louis Dupree,” A Suggested Pakistan-Afghanistan-Iran Federation,” Middle East Journal, Vol. 17, No. 4 (1963), p. 386.

[12] Fariba Adelkhah and Zuzanna Olszewska, “The Iranian Afghans,” Iranian Studies, Vol. 40, No. 2 (2007), pp. 137-165; Marvin G. Weinbaum, “Pakistan and Afghanistan: The Strategic Relationship,” Asian Survey, Vol. 31, No. 6 (1991), pp. 496-511.

[13] Reportedly, it is Tayeb Agha, a close personal assistant to Mullah Omar. Carlotta Gall and Ruhullah Khapalwak, “U.S. Has Held Meetings with Aide to Taliban Leader, Officials Say,” The New York Times, May 27, 2011.

‘Anti-Foreign Policy’, Pakistan and the Security-Development Nexus

June 10, 2011 | By Isaac Kfir

In a 2010 article in the influential journal Foreign Affairs, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton outlined her foreign policy philosophy. The article entitled “Leading through Civilian Power” emphasized Clinton’s belief that there is a strong connection between development and security. Clinton argued that there is a direct link between international insecurity and societies affected by poverty, human rights violations and lack of democratic governance. These shortcomings lead to fragile states that become homes to terrorists and criminal syndicates, which then threaten US national as well as international security. Clinton maintained that with a real commitment in terms of manpower and resources these societies can change and she declared that the United States was “willing to accept the responsibility of mobilizing action” to foster the necessary change.

Since assuming the office of Secretary of State, Hilary Clinton has engaged in what some have described as anti-foreign policy, a non-instrumental, non-strategic policymaking focused on self-image and rhetoric as opposed to facts. (David Chandler, 2007). This approach has come to define US policy towards Pakistan, as US policymakers assume that Islamic radicalism and specifically Islamic terrorism not to mention conflict in general is driven primarily by lack of development – poverty, economic hardship and lack of social movement. However, the link between terrorism and poverty lacks strong empirical evidence. (Alan B. Krueger and Jitka Maleckova, 2002) Ultimately, when looking at US foreign policy towards Pakistan what has occurred over the last decade is a foreign policy mishmash that unites security and development. The mishmash is caused by the fact that US policymakers do not understand the root of Pakistan’s instability.

Over the last decade or so, USAID has invested in many development projects, such as the Gomal Dam in South Waziristan, designed to provide electricity to over 20,000 homes in the region. USAID has worked to cure Pakistan of its endemic energy shortages (in some areas of the country there are 14-hour long energy shortages). The assumption behind the electricity drive is that it can help reduce anti-Americanism because electricity “is essential to economic growth and political stability. Efficient energy management facilitates trade, enhances agricultural and industrial production, supports job creation, and increases opportunities for all citizens to benefit from economic growth” (USAID-Pakistan website). Another sector to see a large infusion of US cash and assistance is education (approximately 20 million school-age children out of a population of 170 million do not have regular access to quality education); literacy rates for Pakistanis are 69% for men and 44% for women (USAID-Pakistan website). The focus on education stems from a common misperception that lack of good public education encourages Pakistanis to attend madrassahs that preach a radical version of Islam and a strong dosage of anti-American teaching. (Christine Fair TheMadrassah Challenge: Militancy and Religious Education in Pakistan (USIP, 2008)).

In the area of security, the United States has provided Pakistan with assistance in training and equipment, as both countries appreciate that the Pakistani military establishment, which includes the Frontier Corps, is and was ill-equipped to deal with the Taliban and al-Qaeda. Thus, according to the Congressional Research Service of the $20.6 billion provided to Pakistan since 2001, $14.2 billion has been security related, of which about $8 billion is for Coalition Support Funds (CSF): military reimbursement for supporting US military operations (CRS, May 6, 2011).

Following the killing of Osama bin Laden, Secretary Clinton has repeatedly castigated Pakistanis for allowing the former Saudi national to hide in the military town of Abbottabad. Initially she and others accused Pakistan of incompetency and failure, with the subtext being that Pakistan has failed to live up to American expectations. Clinton in effect claimed that the Pakistanis have reneged on the “aid deal” – US aid money in return for substantive changes in Pakistan that would make the country more stable and thus enhance US national security. However, what Clinton does not appreciate is that Pakistan has deep-seated problems that go beyond aid money – i.e. aid money alone cannot fix these problems. The country grapples with the forces of history, modernity and religion, which pulls it in different directions – Islamists have a vision of Pakistan that many Pakistanis reject (a 2010 Pew report found that less than a fifth of Pakistanis view the Taliban favorably (Anatol LievenThe Washington Post, June 3, 2011)) but Islamists are a powerful force that gather support when Pakistan is humiliated. At the same time, Pakistan also grapples with wealthy landowning elites and powerful industrialists who refuse to countenance reform of the system. Add to this cauldron of troubles and competing interests, a powerful military establishment that operates with little oversight and has done so for decades.

When thinking about the security-development nexus in respect to Pakistan, it is important to realize that development is a long and arduous process that takes decades to accomplish. It takes years to train, educate and build infrastructure, especially when a society faces as many obstacles as the ones faced by Pakistan. Each new crisis has pushed Pakistan back down the development ladder. The recent global economic downturn has added more problems to Pakistan: in the immediate post-2008 period, its GDP tumbled to below 3% (between 2008 and 2011, Pakistan’s GDP grew at an average of 2.6%, the lowest in South Asia – India’s GDP rose by around 8% and Bangladesh’s GDP increased by 6% over the same period). Inflation has increased by 15% whilst food inflation between 2008 and 2009 was 26.9%, which meant that 6.7% of the population enter the poverty cycle each year (2009-2010 was 12% and 2010-2011 food inflation stood at 18.4%). Consequently, 74.12 million Pakistanis live below the poverty line (The News International, June 6, 2011). The floods of 2010 aggravated Pakistan’s difficulties by causing a $10 billion loss to its economy. (Pakistan Tribune, June 5, 2010) Beyond Pakistan’s dire economic and social situation, the on-going insurgency and rampant terrorist activity has occupied much of Pakistan’s security services. It has drained Pakistan’s treasury and wrecked economic and social damage. The Economic Survey of Pakistan has recently claimed that since 2006 direct and indirect costs of combating terrorism for Pakistan have been $68 billion (The Express Tribune, June 3, 2011).

Increasingly Pakistanis are showing greater resistance to the US development program for being laced with too many strings and demands (the Kerry-Lugar Act is a prime example of anti-foreign policy as it has 11 different US objectives vis-à-vis Pakistan). Pakistanis resent the fact that US policymakers feel that just because the US provides aid – to the tune of a billion dollars a year – it feels that it can talk down to Pakistan (the aid to Pakistan needs to be compared with the $19 billion in development aid given to Afghanistan since 2002). What angers Pakistanis is that they know that the aid is provided not because the US cares about them or their country but because the US needs Pakistan. This is why when USAID proposed to build or fix 1,000 schools in the southern Punjab, the project encountered much opposition – many people opposed taking US money (The Nation, May 21, 2011). Shahid Javed Burki a former finance minister and vice-president of the World Bank has pointed out that should US civilian assistance be completely removed it will have an impact of 0.14% on Pakistan’s GDP growth. Ishrat Husain, a former governor of the Pakistan Central Bank, has endorsed this view (Express Tribune, May 20, 2011). Even in terms of security-related aid, there are many problems especially with the CSF. Washington wants to ensure that the money is used correctly – i.e. to support coalition efforts (there are concerns that the Pakistani government uses the CSF money for budgetary support, something that the Musharraf government allegedly did (The Dawn, May 26, 2011). Americans point to various Pakistani abuses of the CSF fund – the construction in of a $200 million 2008 defense radar installation, a $15 million claim for bunkers that were never built (Reuters, May 19, 2011). These legitimate US concerns have meant continuous delays in reimbursing Pakistan (in 2010 the outstanding payment for CSF was $2 billion (The News International, May 25, 2011). Pakistanis for their part resent the delays and accusations, claiming that they are fulfilling their part of the bargain, whether it is in fighting the insurgents (it has claimed the lives of 35,000 Pakistanis (3,500 security personnel) (The Express Tribune, June 3, 2011)) or assisting the US transfer equipment to Afghanistan.

Ultimately, serious questions arise when there is a strong linkage between development and security especially when US aid is loaded with so many restrictions and conditions, which mean that it is unclear what are the objectives of the aid – development or security. The lack of clarity has created a topsy-turvy foreign policy program that fails to satisfy both sides and often accomplishes very little, whether in terms of development or security. What adds to the failures of the program is its heavy emphasis on rhetoric. Air Commodore (Retd.) Khalid Iqbal in a recent op-ed summed up the feeling of many Pakistanis by declaring, “it is time for the Pakistan nation to carry out a reality check, take a fresh stock of the cost benefit asymmetry and make a distinction between reality and myth of American aid” (Pakistan Observer, May 29, 2011).

US policymakers must realize that anti-Americanism in Pakistan is caused by US action (drone attacks and breaches to Pakistani sovereignty), US rhetoric (castigating Pakistan as a failed state and accusing its leaders of incompetency and/or collusion) and US arrogance (US decides what Pakistan needs). In other words, the security-development nexus fails US policy in respect to Pakistan because to a former colony, steeped in its history and tradition, US attitude smacks of imperial behavior. Thus, if the US wants to help Pakistan, it should separate the majority of its assistance funds, as combining development and security has been ineffective, harmful and at times meaningless. Let the military (US and Pakistan) do what it is good at – fight the insurgents – while the development people work towards educating and building a strong infrastructure. A second important policy goal is putting an end to an anti-foreign policy style that simply aggravates allies. Allies need to talk to one another on equal footing and not behave sanctimoniously, when neither can ignore their role in the violence that has plagued the region. Such attitude simply creates more tensions and prevents reconciliation and progress.

US-Pakistan Relations and the China Factor

May 23, 2011 | By Isaac Kfir

The reaction of US policymakers to the killing of Osama bin Laden in a compound not too far from the Pakistani capital and within a stone throw from Pakistan’s military academy has pushed US-Pakistani relations to their lowest point in years. Over the last few weeks policymakers in Washington have sought to out-do one another in their demand for blood over what they see the Pakistani military as being inept or complicity in bin Laden’s ability to hide in Abbottabad. With the dust settling, US defense officials (Secretary Gates and Chairman Mullen being prime examples) have moved away from criticizing Pakistan to emphasizing its strategic importance for the United States, as they realize the harm being done to US interests in the region. These defense department officials know that without Pakistan the US would be in deep trouble in South Asia: 40% of US supplies to its forces in Afghanistan come through Pakistan. The question that is increasingly emerging is would Pakistanis forgive some of the outlandish and derogatory comments  made against them by their American counter parts, which were led by CIA Director and potential new Defense Secretary Leon Panetta who accused Pakistan of being either an accomplice or incompetent.

US anger towards Pakistan comes from the fact that despite the US providing aid to the tune of $2.2 billion annually to Pakistan, insecurity in Afghanistan (which lies at the epicenter of US foreign policy thinking in respect to South Asia) or Islamic terrorism have not ended, or even abated. In addition, American policymakers are further infuriated by Pakistan’s continuous slide towards state failure, as it becomes increasingly ungovernable and hostile towards the United States (according to the Pew Report – before the bin Laden operation – positive views towards the US and President Obama have declined from 16% in 2009 to 11% in 2011). Washington in other words, wants to see value for money, which is why much of the rhetoric following Operation Geronimo was about cutting US aid to Pakistan (US policymakers claimed that Pakistanis were abusing US generosity). The flaw with this approach is that it has alienated and angered ordinary Pakistanis who feel that the United States does not appreciate their sacrifices in fighting Islamic militancy over the last decade. The appearance in 2007, of the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), the Pakistani Taliban umbrella movement was arguably a direct consequence of the American presence in Afghanistan. The TTP claims to promote and protect Islamic Pashtun Pakistani values. It strives to appear as a resistance movement to the hated pro-American Pakistani military that over the last few years – arguably in a desire to appease Washington – has launched military campaigns that have wreaked havoc on those living in the Federally Administered Tribal Area (FATA) and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (previously known as North-West Frontier Province). The campaigns have created humanitarian catastrophes that left over 3 million Pakistanis internally displaced. Pakistanis note that the region as a result has descended into a state of regular bombings (US drones routinely attack targets in Pakistan – according to the New America Foundation there were 118 drone attacks in 2010) and acts of terrorism reign supreme (the South Asia Terrorism Portal noted that in 2010, over 5,000 people including militants, civilians and security personnel have died in FATA due to terrorist activity).

As Pakistanis recover from their shock – the killing of Osama bin Laden and the violation of their sovereignty – they will increasingly question their relationship with the United States, which explains why Prime Minister Gilani is emphasizing Pakistan’s relationship with China and China’s importance to Pakistan. The day after the bin Laden operation, Beijing issued a statement praising Islamabad for providing the information that enabled the CIA to organize the Delta 6 operation. On May 4, Ms. Li Hongmei, an editor and columnist with the online version of the Peoples’ Daily criticized the Obama administration for not only failing to thank the Pakistanis for their broad intelligence cooperation but for castigating the Pakistanis as either incompetent or complicit. Two weeks after the operation Prime Minister Gilani traveled to Beijing to celebrate the 60 years anniversary of Pakistani-Chinese diplomatic ties. Gilani was able to partake in the inauguration of the China-Pakistan Entrepreneurs Forum, which follows such agreements as the Pakistan-China Transborder Economic Zone and the Pakistan-China Investment Company. There have also been discussions between the Central Banks of Pakistan and China on currency swap arrangements. These initiative have helped expand economic relations between the two countries (in 2010 Pakistani-Chinese trade was worth about $9 billion, which Gilani and Premier Wen Jiabao wants to increase to $15 billion in the next few years) as Pakistan strives to emulate the Chinese economic miracle.

American policymakers must realize that Pakistan sees China as a more valuable friend than the United States. This is because since the 1960s Beijing has shown that it would stand by Pakistan in its time of trouble, relations between the two are conducted in privacy and Chinese officials never openly castigate or criticize Pakistan, opting to go out of their way to praise Pakistan for its commitment to fighting Islamic terrorism. When Beijing wants something done, it requests it in privacy – a good example was the Red Mosque incident in 2007, which began when Islamic radicals kidnapped a number of Chinese women working in a Chinese-run health center (a sex parlor). US policymakers must take a leaf out of the Chinese way of conducting foreign policy and realize that when dealing with fragile states, such as Pakistan, with a highly emotional populace, it is sometimes better to say nothing in public and a lot more in private. US policymakers are good at rhetoric and sound bites, but what they often forget is that sometimes words spoken to score political points are remembered. Washington must realize that Pakistanis know that the reason the US provides their country with aid is because they are needed for US national interest, not because the United States has a deep commitment to Pakistan. When US policymakers seek to claim the high moral ground, Pakistanis note US intelligence failure (9/11), Guantanamo Bay and the US’s role in the Afghan Jihad during which Charlie Wilson and others supported Gulbuddin Hekmatyar and other famed Islamists. Thus, the more the US preaches and threatens, the more Pakistan turns away from it, as what Pakistan wants are friends and not masters.

The Real Story Behind US-Pakistan Relations: An Alliance of Convenience

May 5, 2011 | By Isaac Kfir


(First published on PARCC’s Conflict and Collaboration Blog, 5/04/2011)

The fallout from the killing of Osama bin Laden in Abbottabad allows for a closer look at US-Pakistani relations, which has been deteriorating for some time. Historically relations between the two have been turbulent and unpredictable, going through periods of exceptional cooperation to sanctions. It appears that the manner in which bin Laden died only exacerbates the already tense relations between the two (the public spat between US Admiral Mullen, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and Pakistani General Ashtaq Kayani, Chief of the Army Staff is indicative of the deteriorating relations). Pakistanis are extremely weary of the way the United States conducts towards them, expecting that US aid money ensure Pakistani unquestionable fidelity. US policymakers do not realize that ordinary Pakistanis assert that their leaders, government officials, businessmen may be for sale, but not Pakistan and not them, who have the toil under the corruption that US aid fuels.

As American policymakers express their anger and astonishment that Osama bin Laden was able to reside in a mansion so closely to the Pakistanis capital, it would be useful for them to pause and realize how counterproductive this approach is, especially when successive US administrations emphasis Pakistan’s importance to US national interests. In many ways, Pakistanis often claim that the monster of Islamic terrorism is a product of US involvement in South Asia and they point to the role of people such as Charlie Wilson praising such men as Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, the leader ofHizb-I Islami. Put simply, you cannot call an ally work with an ally for years and then begin calling them incompetent, untrustworthy, unreliable and deceitful, and expect them to trust you and work closely with you.

US-Pakistani relations were forged when the US could not form an alliance with India following Partition, as India opted to take a path that at times put them on a collision course with Washington, as Delhi pursued its own agenda. Thus, when the US “lost” India it turned to Pakistan signing the Mutual Defense Assistance Agreement in 1954 and a number of other regional treaties that sought to bring the two countries closer together. From the Pakistani side, its desire for US support stemmed from Ayub Khan’s, (Pakistan’s president between 1958-1969) belief that the United States would and could aid Pakistan’s quest to industrialize and catch up with its archenemy, India. Washington for its part saw in Pakistan an important strategic ally not only against the Soviet Union but Communist China, with who the Americans had no diplomatic relations until the early 1970s. However, Pakistan quickly realized that it was the inferior partner in the alliance and its policymakers realized that overreliance on the US was an existential mistake, as Washington repeatedly abandoned Pakistan in its hour of need. Washington’s position was that it did not want to become entangled in conflicts on the Indian Subcontinent. This meant that whenever Pakistan and India went to war, Islamabad could never rely on US support. Consequently, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto sought an alliance with the Peoples Republic of China (PRC), which has continued to this day and which many Pakistanis value above all else, as China has shown itself to be a real ally, in that it never publically criticize Pakistan, even when Chinese nationals are killed by Pakistani extremists.

With the end of the Cold War, and India’s decision to embrace market capitalism and move away from its brand of socialism, a succession of US politicians and presidents courted Delhi, often at the expense of Pakistan. From an American perspective, this made tremendous sense as India was bigger and more powerful than Pakistan, not to mention a democracy. For Pakistanis what this showed was Washington’s real intention was to have an alliance with Delhi and once this was given, the US quickly forgot forty years of cooperation, friendship and commitment. Thus, in the 1990s as Pakistanis sought to deal with economic woes, the legacy of the Afghan Jihad (which Pakistanis maintain they fought on behalf of the US) and many other domestic issues, the US developed its alliance with India, leading the US to not only publicly criticize Pakistan but shun and humiliate it at times (Pakistanis still remember how many hours President Clinton spent in their country as opposed to the days he spent in India (in 2010 President Obama went to India and not Pakistan)).

When 9/11 occurred, US-Pakistani relations were transformed once again, with Pakistan becoming America’s closest and most valuable ally. US policymakers ignored Musharraf’s bloodless coup, the exiling of Pakistan’s most prominent politicians – Nawaz Sharif and Benazir Bhutto – and actively courted Pakistan, bestowing on Musharraf the honor of being the first South Asian leader to stay at Camp David. The hypocrisy continued, with Washington turning a blind eye, as Army Chief Pervez Musharraf circumvented democracy, allied himself with Islamic political parties and permitted gross human rights abuses to occur. Washington accepted these actions due to its fixation with the ‘war on terror,’ that called for the division of the world between those that support the US and those that stand with the terrorists. In 2007-2008, as Pakistan experienced its own ‘Arab Spring’, the US ended its support for Musharraf, who had been described as “a courageous leader and a friend of the United States” in favor of Asif Ali Zardari, a tainted politician with no real support in Pakistan. Unfortunately, for US-Pakistani relations, the Obama Administration has been as inconsistent as the Bush one, with President Obama continuing to court India, which worries Pakistan to no-end. When President Obama makes statements supporting Indian permanent membership in the Security Council, the temperature in Islamabad rises, as it has such tremendous implications for Pakistan, whether it is in respect to Kashmir or other differences that the two countries have. Such actions, supported by agreements over nuclear technology between the US and India, while Pakistan is forced to endure the humiliation of seeing US aid micromanage under the Kerry-Lugar Act does not assuage Pakistani paranoia about India undermining US-Pakistani relations. If it is true that the four US helicopters entered Pakistani airspace without authorization or without even appearing on Pakistani radars, Pakistani paranoia will increase, with the question of what if India was to undertake such a mission if there is another Mumbai attack, i.e. if the US breached Pakistani sovereignty why not India? Put simply, Washington repeatedly fails to appreciate that its actions and words carry grave consequences, as people take them very seriously.

Pakistanis watching the unfolding bin Laden saga are undoubtedly credulous not so much at the fact that bin Laden was able to find sanctuary in Abbottabad but that Americans despite their drones, satellites and CIA operatives did not find the world number 1 terrorist earlier. US policymakers need to realize that Pakistanis remember insults and finger-pointing. Pakistanis feel aggrieved by the attitudes and words that are being directed at them in the post-Bin Laden period especially as they are continuously rocked by Islamic terrorism that has claimed thousands of Pakistani lives. US policymakers forget or ignore that Pakistan knows that once the dust settles, Washington will turn to it again and seek its aid and assistance because this is what Washington always do, especially as US national security is becoming more and more intertwined with the fortunes of Pakistan. Pakistani policymakers know that the United States would not countenance the prospects of a “failed” Pakistani state, because of Pakistan’s nuclear program and because AfPak means that if one country fails, the other would follow suit. Having two failed states in South Asia is something that the international community (led by the US) will not accept. The challenge US-Pakistani relations face is the uncontrolled rhetoric and the media circus that has seen a litany of US politicians berate Pakistan, its behavior and commitment to the ‘war on terror’, which in turn has only worked to further anger Pakistanis at what they perceive is American hubris.

Implications for US-Pakistan Relations Following the Killing of Osama bin Laden

May 3, 2011 | By Isaac Kfir

Once the commotion and the furor dies down over the killing of Osama bin Laden on May 1, 2011 by US special forces in the Pakistani city of Abbottabad, a small wealthy city located 90 miles from Islamabad and to where many former military officers retire, US-Pakistani relations will go through some form of reassessment. This recent incident would appear to be a tipping point in US-Pakistani relations which have been very tense over the last few months, if not years. At the root of the tension is the belief of US senior military officials and policymakers that Pakistan is not doing its part in the campaign against Islamic terrorism and instability in Afghanistan, with Admiral Mullen among others pointing an accusing finger at Pakistan and the infamous ISI. The fact that the world’s number 1 terrorist was living so close to the Pakistani capital would not assuage American distrust of their Pakistani allies. The Pakistani government however claims that the US does not appreciate its sacrifices nor appreciate the complexity of the conflict.

It is likely that once the euphoria within US circles passes and the jubilation eases, tensions between the two countries would increase, as this has been the course the two have been on for quite some time. The ‘Pakistani Street’ is already angered by America’s unrestricted drone campaign and the Raymond Davis case (CIA operative who killed two Pakistani civilians in January 2011) and will surely resent the fact that US Special Forces were operating on Pakistani sovereign territory. Explaining why it permitted this will be a major challenge for Pakistan’s perpetually fragile Gilani government. The operation is also likely to infuriate many junior officers who take great pride in their own military capabilities.

How the operation will affect the way the US approaches its relations with Pakistan is more difficult to gauge, as many in Washington will use the evidence of bin Laden’s location to support their view that Pakistan is an unreliable ally. Others may see it as a watershed and a real commitment by the Pakistani military to support US efforts in South Asia. American policymakers buoyed by the success in Abbottabad will make more demands on Pakistan, especially as President Obama prepares for the 2012 Presidential campaign. For the fragile Gilani government and the unpopular Pakistani president, Asif Ali Zardari, bin Laden’s death is likely to create more tensions, instability and insecurity, as it emphasizes how beholden the Pakistani ruling elite is to Uncle Sam. Ultimately, the future for US-Pakistani relations is far from rosy.