After a tumultuous 2010, Pakistan entered the second decade of the 21st century with many wondering if the country was nearing a proverbial tipping point, in this case one to be followed immediately by a sharp fall. Some feared that Pakistan’s fragile government would implode, ushering in another military regime, a radical Islamic regime, or both in some hectic and probably bloody sequence. Some feared that the entire polity would explode, giving rise to de facto partition and chaos.Such speculations are not entirely new. Pakistan’s fragility has evoked worries about its political stability many times before. What is new about current worries is both how widespread they are and how broad the implications appear to be. The United States is seeking a smooth transition out of its nine-year war in Afghanistan, and Pakistan is universally acknowledged to be a key but conflicted element in the process. Indeed, the Obama Administration has flipped the strategic lens, reportedly seeing Pakistan’s travails as the greater potential danger to both U.S. interests and regional peace, even while the war in Afghanistan necessarily remains a more urgent day-to-day priority. Note that all of this was true before the Obama Administration’s decision to take out Osama bin Laden in the heart of Pakistan, an act, however justified it may have been, that has created vast turmoil inside Pakistan’s establishment. The Pakistani army is now being forced to grapple with the country’s own security weakness and dependency on the United States, on the one hand, and the rising anger of its people against the military and government, on the other. It may either choose stability by altering its current ambivalent stance toward the United States, the Afghan Taliban holed up in its western badlands and the Punjabi Taliban and other extremists threatening war with India, or face an uncertain future by maintaining its current course. It is a mistake, however, to overprivilege recent events. It is no mean feat to untangle the various elements that drive Pakistani foreign policy, and in that nothing has changed since May 2. Many of these elements are rooted in the nation’s domestic political culture. Others are based in the unique interplay of personalities presently trying to navigate this political culture. Still others reside in Pakistan’s regional setting and international relationships: its perpetual fixation on India and the fate of Kashmir, its relations with Iran, Turkey and the countries of Central Asia, and its strategic engagements with both the United States and China. Some drivers even qualify as acts of God: unprecedented floods and international economic turmoil far beyond Pakistan’s control, for example. Even in the best of times it is a challenge for Pakistani leaders to balance all of these influences, which push and pull them in different directions simultaneously. And these have not been the best of times, even before the U.S. Special Forces raid that killed Osama bin-Laden on Pakistani soil. Out of Control If one takes a “front page” look at Pakistan these days, even seasoned observers are struck by the tentativeness (or impossibility) of purposeful political action. The weak coalition government led by the Pakistan Peoples’ Party of President Asif Ali Zardari and his Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani is still barely hanging on to power as the summer heat tries to melt its bonds. The government has long been beset by blackmail from its coalition partners in the face of a rising opposition led by former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s Pakistan Muslim League (N). Sharif has been biding his time in hopes that the government will collapse and the reins of power will fall into his ready hands after a fresh election. But Zardari appears to be outwitting him by buying current and new coalition partners; the latest catch was former President Musharraf’s “King’s Party”, the Pakistan Muslim League (Q), once the mortal enemy of the Pakistan People’s Party of Benazir Bhutto and Zardari. Sharif may yet go on the warpath, but if he does, it will happen in an entirely new context. For the first time in Pakistan’s history, the army, the country’s ultimate arbiter of power since independence in 1947, does not have a party waiting in the wings to take over under its aegis. The army chief, General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, appears determined to avoid getting directly involved in running the country. Yet he continues to have a powerful influence on the political system, whether he seeks it or not. That is because the army’s concerns, which strike its leadership as existential in nature, impinge inevitably on what the government can or wants to do. The army’s main concerns are easy to list. They include, more or less in order of priority: to maintain or even grow its defense capabilities to fend off any Indian attack; to control if not eliminate the insurgency raging inside its borders; to maintain its large share of economic power; and to serve as a stabilizing force in a shaky polity. The army, then, would like a government that can generate economic growth and does not gratuitously complicate the country’s foreign relations. Its choices today are limited to three possibilities: the current government, a reshaped PPP-led government, or another coalition that includes many small and pliable partners, including Nawaz’s Muslim League. If none of these choices works, there is the well-worn option of a straightforward military takeover that suspends the constitution for a fixed period, appoints a technocratic government and guides the system from behind the scenes. None of these is an ideal choice at a time when Pakistan’s economy is in dire straits, when any government would face increased pressure from the United States and others to fight the Afghan Taliban inside its western territory, and when arch rival India is zooming up and away on a path of economic growth and global political clout. Meanwhile, Pakistan appears to be entering the advanced stages of a long-gestating identity crisis. Created as a Muslim state by avowed secularists, who were, moreover, from a part of the Subcontinent that did not become Pakistan, the country’s founding contradictions have never been resolved. Will the country become a radical Islamic state or a Muslim country that respects genuine political and religious pluralism? No one can say, for today it isn’t quite either. So weighty and intertwined are its problems that the country is literally out of control, essentially unmanageable for either civilian or military elites. Pakistan has always been a complex country beset by paradox. It has suffered grievously at the hands of its inept and corrupt civilian ruling class, but it has also suffered from the political illegitimacy of modestly more competent military leaders. It has never enjoyed leadership that was both democratically legitimate and competent at the same time. Worse, perhaps, its civilian leaders have consistently played down social problems, while its military leaders have exaggerated external threats. The combination over the decades has produced a kind of stereoscopic distortion, which, in turn, is why its diverse population of some 180 million, half of which is younger than 18 years, remains confused about the causes of its woes and the targets of its anger. This is also why Pakistanis have spun a web of conspiracy theories to explain their country’s falling growth rate, rampant inflation, general lack of progress and fraught relationship with the United States. It is what drives the historian Ayesha Jalal to dub her native country “Paranoidistan.” Who can blame her? Looming particularly large in the vortex of anger and conspiracy theories these days is the United States. The United States has had a tumultuous relationship with Pakistan over its 63 years of existence, not least because the U.S. government has more often than not supported Pakistan most when it has been ruled by a military autocracy. This is due more to coincidence than prejudice: Washington has just happened to need Pakistan most when it happened to be under military rule. U.S. policymakers subordinated concern for Pakistan as such to the strategic need du jour. When it concerned the Red Army in Afghanistan, General Mohammed Zia ul-Haq happened to be running the country, and so became an instrument, one not to be inspected too closely, in a larger stake. When nuclear proliferation took priority, the U.S. government, led this time by Congress, sanctioned Pakistan; once again Pakistan was a dependent policy variable, not a valuable ally. The same sort of arrangement has characterized the relationship in recent years. Pakistan suddenly became important again after 9/11 as a platform from which to tackle a larger problem: the Taliban and al-Qaeda in Afghanistan. First the Bush and now the Obama Administrations have tried to push Pakistan to act on America’s behalf in the Afghan theater of war, even though doing so spites Pakistan’s longer-term political interests. Just as Washington didn’t pause to consider what General Zia was doing to the fabric of Pakistani politics and society in the 1980s, it now ignores a socio-economic and political landscape so complex and constrained that fully doing America’s bidding is simply not possible. Taken together, the condition of Pakistani politics and the attention-deficit disorder on the U.S. side of the bilateral relationship raises an interesting question: What happens when both sides of a bilateral relationship are confused, deluded and seething with blame? The events of 2010 suggest something of an answer to that question, as prelude to the events of 2011. Domestically, 2010 was a difficult year for Pakistan. Divisions within the ruling coalition roiled the political system. The PPP, led by President Zardari, ruled from a weak center while crafting shaky coalitions in the provinces. It tried to gain support from the disparate members of a coalition that included religious parties such as the Jamiat-Ulema-e-Islam of Fazlur Rahman (formerly associated with the government of President Pervez Musharraf and former dictator General Zia ul-Haq), the largely Pakhtun Awami National Party in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (the former North West Frontier Province), and the urban Muttahida Qaumi Mahaz of exiled leader Altaf Hussain, with its strong base in the cities of Karachi and Hyderabad.1 Taking its tactical cue from the preceding Musharraf government, the PPP bought support by doling out ministries and minister-level appointments to its coalition partners, allowing them to profit from access to state resources. The result was an unwieldy and ineffective cabinet generating, even by Pakistani standards, very poor governance. Initially, the PPP managed to produce important results at the national level by concluding the deliberations of the National Finance Commission (NFC). This commission reset the revenue-sharing formulae between the center and the provinces, laying the ground for the devolution of financial and fiscal powers to the provinces. Under the NFC Award, some 56 percent of Pakistan’s federal tax resources were to be transferred to the provinces in the first year, and 57.5 percent in subsequent years. All this happened at a time, however, when the central government’s expenditures were rising, with interest alone scheduled to more than double in 2011.2 Eighteen years in the making, the NFC Award thus faced formidable implementation problems. Not only is the federal government reluctant to let go of more money, but the corrupt and inefficient regimes in the provinces show even less fiscal discipline than the center. This is too bad, because the principles of the NFC dovetail nicely with the passage of the 18th Amendment, which removed certain powers from the presidency and returned them to the Prime Minister and parliament where they belong, in effect reversing the usurpation of powers by Musharraf. Pakistan’s political dysfunction goes deeper than that, however. Beyond the constitution and various and sundry well-intentioned commissions, Pakistan’s political parties show little interest in or capacity for governing for the benefit of the vast majority of people. All the leading parties are “family businesses” run on dynastic principles. Zardari has retained his powerful hold over the PPP by virtue of his position as co-chairman with his son Bilawal. Quoting his assassinated wife Benazir Bhutto, Zardari proclaimed that “democracy is the best revenge.” Yet there was little to show of democratic principles inside his own party, not to speak of the other leading political houses of Pakistan. Then there is the country’s propensity for ethnic violence, which the political system channels and sharpens more than it diffuses or controls. Two of the coalition partners clashed bloodily in the summer of 2010 in Karachi, a megalopolis of some 18 million persons whose population, according to the 1998 census, is 48 percent Urdu-speaking, 14 percent Punjabi-speaking, 12 percent Pashto-speaking and about 9 percent Sindhi-speaking. Open battles broke out between followers of the MQM and the ANP; dozens of people were killed and hundreds wounded. Karachi’s four million Pakhtuns, including an estimated one million Taliban refugees, mostly support the ANP. The MQM, largely comprised of the descendants of the Urdu-speaking refugees from India at the time of independence in 1947, has become a potent force agitating against the local Sindhi population and other ethnic groups in Karachi. The 2011 census, which threatens to weaken the MQM’s hold over electoral districts in Karachi and Hyderabad in the face of rising internal migration of Pakhtuns from the north, has further magnified this bloody conflict, which has continued into this year. The government was not only incapable of governing and of keeping the peace among its own coalition groups; it could neither fall nor stabilize itself, which is arguably the worst of all political worlds. Near the end of 2010, the Jamiat-Ulema-e-Islam of Fazlur Rahman left the cabinet following the sacking of one of its ministers. Although the party has only seven seats in the national assembly, it has more than a dozen members in the Senate and so can take away the PPP’s majority there. That gives it disproportional clout as it negotiates for greater powers and access to resources. The MQM also quit the cabinet in December but did not join the opposition, having burnt its bridges with the PML (N). (It came back into the cabinet in May 2011; blackmail worked, yet again. But then it quit again the following summer. The drama continues). The demands of coalition maintenance made it impossible for the PPP to pass economic reforms. It had some extensive ones in mind aimed at re-ordering center-periphery relationships and restoring fiscal stability and growth to the economy, but these ambitions far outstripped the PPP’s fragile capacities. So try as they might, the leaders of the PPP government failed completely to improve the fiscal deficit, to reform tax policy, or to streamline tax administration in line with its own promises to, and the demands of, the International Monetary Fund. That, in turn, meant that Pakistan was unable to draw the last two tranches (totaling $3.5 billion) of its $13 billion IMF loan. Aside from its political weakness, the government lacked a clear vision of what it wanted to achieve. Indeed, it could have supported the new technocratic economic team it put in place in 2010 in many ways without much new legislation, if it had a clearer idea of its aims. As a result, by year’s end it sought and received a nine-month waiver from the IMF with a promise to meet the Fund’s conditions in 2011. Those conditions were stringent ones. An IMF statement demanded: Full implementation of a reformed GST involving a broader base, reduced exemptions, and input crediting, both at the federal and provincial level, parliamentary passage of the amendments to the State Bank Act and the Banking Companies’ Ordinance, agreement on measures to achieve the revised fiscal deficit target, including a realistic envelope for energy subsidies in 2010/11 based on a plan that is yet to be endorsed by the Asian Development Bank and World Bank staffs, and third-quarter fiscal performance that is consistent with achieving the full-year target . . . . None of this has happened as of summer 2011, and very likely none of it will before the nine-month waiver expires. Therefore, inflation, measured at about 66 percent between June 2007 and October 2010, will continue to rise, and deficit financing and the attendant fiscal deficit will continue to mount, adding to an already high inflation of almost 15 percent per year now. There are no signs that the government can garner the support needed in parliament to pass the necessary legislation to change course, so the IMF program is effectively dead. Worse, extensive capital flight is likely, investment is shrinking, and with them will go any prospect for sustained growth. Public sector pump-priming will not help either because the Pakistani government’s expenditures, which are not very large relative to the economy in any case, are misallocated to unproductive sectors on account of the distortions of political patronage. Meanwhile, as the Titanic steams toward the iceberg, President Zardari appears to be relying on the relatively large cushion of Pakistan’s foreign exchange reserves of $16.7 billion, disregarding the fact that most of these reserves are themselves borrowed. His government is also relying on Western aid donors, primarily the United States, to come to Pakistan’s rescue if its economy tanks altogether. After all, if defense spending has to rise to meet U.S. demands to fight the Taliban, isn’t it obvious that the United States should pay for the increase? Actually, no, it’s not: not if the Americans become convinced that Pakistan is playing a double game—a game it believes it has to play to protect itself against the day that the Americans leave, which everyone knows will come. And so we are brought to the matter of Pakistan’s foreign relations. Foreign Relations It is odd that any Pakistani leader could still assume that U.S. largesse will flow after what happened in 2010, not to speak of what has happened since May 2. Despite the massive U.S. aid package approved under the Kerry-Lugar-Berman Bill, which promised $7.5 billion over a five-year period, little of that money actually reached the population of Pakistan by the end of 2010. Project preparation at both ends and at all levels was slow and contentious. The revival of the U.S.-Pakistan Strategic Dialogue at a high level produced some coordination of efforts, but progress on the ground was slow due to a lack of operational ability on the part of the USAID program inside Pakistan and the inability of USAID’s Pakistani counterparts to produce viable projects at a fast enough pace. The Pakistan army also had reservations about some of the conditions attached to the aid package relating to non-economic issues, adding to the mistrust between the two countries. Complicating the aid flow was the massive flood that ravaged Pakistan in August 2010. The flood displaced about twenty million people and caused some $10 billion in damage to infrastructure. By year’s end, some seven million people were still displaced. A senior international relief official told me in December that hundreds of thousands of people in Sindh province had not yet received any aid. By this past February, that situation had improved only marginally and large numbers remained homeless. Large parts of Sindh remained under water. Meanwhile, less than half of the $1.8 billion pledged to the United Nations for flood aid to Pakistan was actually delivered. Pakistan’s leading friends, such as Saudi Arabia and China, reportedly held back because of a lack of confidence in the Zardari government. The Saudis only came forward with aid after an appeal by the army chief. China provided assistance in the form of infrastructure and a technology park to produce Chinese goods in Pakistan. Even India provided $25 million in flood-related aid, much to the discomfort of the Pakistani government, which took a few days to acknowledge and thank India for that contribution. In foreign relations, however, money was the least of Pakistan’s worries. Its western border heated up as U.S. drone attacks increased substantially inside the Federally Administered Tribal Areas bordering Afghanistan. There were more drone strikes in 2009 alone than in the previous three years under President George W. Bush, and 118 in 2010 compared with 53 in 2009. These strikes evoked a strong public backlash inside Pakistan, although reports of support for the attacks inside the Federally Administered Tribal Areas have been substantiated by some surveys,3 and Wikileaks revealed Pakistani civil and military officials’ privately condoning drone strikes while publicly condemning them. The drone strikes had a mixed impact in another, more important way. The purpose of the attacks was to make Pakhtun lands on the Pakistani side of the Durand Line less attractive as a safe haven for the Taliban and al-Qaeda. It was supposed to achieve this end by killing high-value leadership targets and by stimulating resentment against them on the part of local residents. This worked to some extent, but the enemy responded by moving away from targeted areas and dispersing. That made it harder to get actionable intelligence for further strikes, which in turn increased the chances that those strikes would kill innocents and drive militants farther into Pakistani territory. (Al-Qaeda leaders were the first to realize the dangers of living in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas. They sought to move into Pakistani cities, where some of them were captured and where their leader bin Laden was killed.) As the number of targets decreased and levels of resentment and politically counterproductive violence increased, the number of attacks fell off, leaving the U.S. effort more or less in the same place it was when it began. Two things, however, had changed: Now Pakistan faced a more virulent insurgency in its own territory, and more tribesmen were seeking revenge against U.S. troops in Afghanistan for the killing of kinsmen. Pakistan faces difficult choices, but at least its leaders could at one point identify them. Pakistan could confront the Afghan Taliban inside its territory and force them to ally with the local Taliban and especially the Punjabi Taliban, in effect opening up a fresh front for its overstretched army. Or it could avert action against the Afghan Taliban and try instead to intermediate between them and the U.S.-led coalition and the Afghan government of President Hamid Karzai. By the end of 2010, however, these alternatives had begun to blur. The difference between Afghan and local Taliban appeared to be diminishing. Attacks on Pakistan’s army inside North Waziristan, for example, were linked to comingled Taliban entities. So Pakistan’s dilemma shifted. Instead of having to choose between fighting and mediation, with neither option likely to change anything decisively, now the Pakistanis had to choose between fighting in their own territory (and possibly getting chewed up in the process) and alienating the United States, the source of one of their last hopes for bailing out their flailing economy. More specifically, the Pakistani army was reluctant to launch another major operation in North Waziristan against the Afghan Taliban group of Jalaluddin Haqqani. The army isn’t well equipped for that sort of fighting. It hasn’t done it very effectively in part because it lacks civilian support and involvement in different stages of the operations and risks widening ethnic fissures within the country every time it tries to throw mostly Punjabi soldiers against almost entirely Pakhtun enemies. They have had to move back into areas that they had cleared earlier. For example, current operations in the Mohmand Agency are in the third round there. General David Petraeus, however, when he was head of the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan, pushed for just such an attack by the Pakistani army in North Waziristan. General Kayani held out, citing remaining pockets of Taliban in the northern districts of the Federally Administered Tribal Areas and an emerging sanctuary inside Konar province of Afghanistan abutting Bajaur and Dir in the north. Pakistan had 34,000–37,000 troops inside North Waziristan, he claimed, but it needed more troops and helicopters to launch a major operation. (Almost a decade after the start of the Afghan war, Pakistan still doesn’t have enough helicopters to prosecute a war against mobile insurgents in difficult mountain terrain. Meanwhile, some 700 helicopters in the United States sit with National Guard units that are not involved in the Afghanistan conflict.) More important, the army had to decide whether to take on the Afghan Taliban at the same time that President Karzai’s government was trying to talk to them. Senior Pakistani officials told me that they were confused by pressures to act against the Afghan Taliban at a time when at least some of its constituent parts were exploring reconciliation. In the end, the army will always act more out of its own interest and to protect itself against attacks inside the Federally Administered Tribal Areas than to meet U.S. demands. That is not playing a “double game”, as some American analysts and policymakers like to portray it; that is common sense tied to the drive to survive. The sum of all this is nevertheless to add shading to Washington’s perception that Pakistan is playing a “double game.” It also increases talk about the prospect of U.S. boots on the ground in the form of Special Forces operations inside the Federally Administered Tribal Areas, and that encourages “double game” theorizing about the United States in Pakistan. As in the past, any such U.S. Special Forces incursion will almost certainly lead Pakistan to stop the land supply of coalition forces via the Khyber Pass and Chaman in Baluchistan. Worse, it could also block aerial lines of communication that are even more critical for the U.S. war effort in Afghanistan. Pakistani civil and military elites continue to fear that the United States contemplates partnering with India from inside Afghanistan to press Pakistan from two sides and neutralize its military and nuclear power. Additional fears that the United States leads an anti-Islamic movement in the region grow into full-blown paranoia. The U.S. quest for permanent bases inside Afghanistan feeds that fear. These views are widely held in Pakistani society, both among the urban elites and inside the officer corps, most of whom are now recruited from urban settings. Pakistan needs to clarify its own long-term vision of Afghanistan. General Kayani has already tried to shift the definition of “strategic depth” in Afghanistan, a concept advanced in the late 1980s by then-army chief General Mirza Aslam Beg under which Afghanistan provided geographic depth against an invasion by India. Kayani believes a stable and prosperous Afghanistan better serves that end. But to achieve such an Afghanistan Pakistan will need to support all Afghans, not just the Pakhtuns who straddle its border. It has a lot of catching up to do on that score by opening up ties with the Tajiks, Uzbeks, Hazara and others. The increase in three-way exchanges between ISAF, Afghanistan and Pakistani military commanders, and direct consultations between the civilian leaderships of Afghanistan and Pakistan, augurs well for this relationship. But if the coalition messes up its withdrawal from Afghanistan, leaving unfinished business behind, the ensuing civil war will further divide the Afghans and tempt Pakistan to play its Pakhtun card again, as it did with the rise of the original Taliban government in the 1990s. The Pakistani army believes it would be irresponsible to discard that option in case bad times return. The problem is that keeping it alive leads to policies now that arguably make the return of bad times more likely. In the end, as everyone by now knows, Pakistan’s attitude toward Afghanistan is at least in part a function of its view of India. Pakistan doesn’t need Afghanistan as strategic depth if its fears of encirclement by India ebb. That can happen, in turn, if Kashmir either remains quiet or, even better, moves toward a more stable long-term arrangement—such as turning the line of control into an international border by mutual agreement. That fear may also fade if trade and other relations between India and Pakistan move toward normalization. How likely is any of that? Public resentment inside India and Pakistan appears to be thawing, with a push for greater trade, travel and contacts at the person-to-person level.4 But in the Pakistani military there is a lingering fear that India retains the capacity and desire to reduce Pakistan to a vassal. And despite the warmer attitudes, the memory of the Mumbai attack by members of Lashkar-e-Taiba and its Indian and Bangladeshi partners is fresh on both sides of the border. India has continued to press for swift action against the group’s headquarters in Pakistan’s Punjab province. It is unclear if Pakistan’s military and intelligence agencies are holding fire on this for reasons of logistics and politics or for lack of ability to control their erstwhile agents in Kashmir. Perhaps it is a combination of factors. There is substantial support for better relations with India among the public and for India-Pakistan trade among leading business entities in Pakistan, according to polling by the Pew Forum. Recent research on Indo-Pakistan trade prospects indicates that it would likely increase from less than $2 billion per year to between $40 and $100 billion per year, producing a notable increase in GDP and per capita income on both sides.5 But official discussions between Pakistan and India have foundered on past differences and the perennially contentious Kashmir issue. Until the Pakistani military is brought into those exchanges as part of a broad and high-profile discussion of regional issues, it will likely remain hostile. One option that has yet to be explored is to grant official backing to retired military officers to act as interlocutors, given their continued relationships with uniformed colleagues on both sides of the border. One does not get far in any discussion of Indian-Pakistani reconciliation without the question of mediators and go-betweens coming up. As a general rule, the more one knows about the problem, the less realistic the prospects of a successful American mediation seem. Nevertheless, the United States lost an opportunity to bring India-Pakistan relations into the discussions of the Afghan war when President Obama, in the face of Indian opposition, failed to extend Ambassador Richard Holbrooke’s mandate to India. Ambassador Holbrooke made an effort anyway to draw India into his discussions but did not get very far. Meanwhile, the U.S. push to establish economic and military ties with India in 2010, crowned by President Obama’s highly publicized (though not very successful) visit to India, helped shift the U.S. balance in favor of India. Once again, Pakistan is becoming a second-order concern in American eyes, despite, or maybe because of, Afghan war fatigue. It is also hard for the Pakistani army to shed its fears of Indian encirclement when India has invested $1.2 billion in Afghanistan and has used the Indian Border Works Organization (a military unit) in Afghanistan for road works near the Pakistani border. Anyone inside Pakistan would require a lot of political courage and strength to change this situation. Only the army chief seems to fit that bill today. He seems to be willing; whether he is able remains to be seen. The Civil-Military Imbalance The army continues to dominate the scene inside Pakistan. Having ruled the country for more than half of its existence, it remains front and center in the public consciousness. And recent polls indicate that it continues to be the most highly respected institution in Pakistan, while Pakistani politicians suffer the indignity, mostly self-inflicted, of being the Rodney Dangerfields of the country. President Zardari got a mere 19 percent favorable rating in a July 2010 Pew survey, compared with 61 percent for General Kayani. The Pakistani army received the highest rating of any national institution at 84 percent approval. The army’s approval shot up after it took the battle to the militants in May 2009, with its “Rah-e-Rast” (True Path) operation inside Swat and Malakand, and expanded its efforts against the Tehrik-e-Taliban of Pakistan to most of the Federally Administered Tribal Areas. But its campaign was hampered by shortages of manpower and equipment. The August 2010 flood took away a lot of spare resources from the Indian border and forced the military to change its rotation policy for troops on the western border from one year to two years of combat duty. All this has taken a toll on its operational capacity. Inside the Federally Administered Tribal Areas, it has been active in “clearing” and “holding” and doing some “building” in its counterinsurgency operations, but the “transfer” component has been slow in the absence of civilian institutions on the ground. The battle inside the Federally Administered Tribal Areas is further complicated by the presence of different warring groups, including al-Qaeda and its affiliates, and the appearance of Punjabi militant groups that have entered the sectarian conflict between the Shi‘a and Sunni in Kurram Agency. The army was unable to stop Punjabi militants from entering the Federally Administered Tribal Areas. And as the Afghan Taliban and local Taliban develop ties, it is worried that a military operation against the Afghan Taliban would unite all the Taliban groups and their Punjabi henchmen under a common cause. This would make it doubly difficult to hold and transfer authority inside the Federally Administered Tribal Areas to the civilians. Though it is the most disciplined, effective and best equipped institution in the country, the army has generally ignored the interplay of counterinsurgency and counterterrorism in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas and the struggle within Pakistan proper—a conflict for which civilian police agencies are better placed than the army for monitoring and attacking militancy and terror at its roots. The civilians have not helped matters either by delaying implementation of a new National Counter Terrorism Authority (NACTA). A draft bill that has been discussed since early 2009 is still awaiting approval by the Ministry of Interior before being passed on to the government to place before parliament. The government has also been spooked by opposition from the religious members of its fragile coalition. These religious forces, small in number but vociferous, have taken to the streets on numerous issues to achieve a larger voice in the public discourse. Demonstrations against the possibility of revising or removing an anti-blasphemy law that has been used frequently to settle scores against minority groups inspired a counter-protest and national strike in December 2010. A resolution to discuss this law, a vestige of General Zia’s Islamization program, was proposed by PPP member of parliament and former minister Sherry Rehman and supported publicly by the PPP Governor of the Punjab province, Salmaan Taseer. Taseer paid with his life on January 4, 2011, when a member of the elite police force that was supposed to guard him and other dignitaries assassinated him in Islamabad. Subsequently, the Minister for Minorities’ Affairs, a Christian named Shahbaz Bhatti, was also gunned down because of his support for amending the blasphemy law. The government surrendered to its opponents without a fight, repeatedly declaring that it had no intention of changing the misguided and anachronistic law—this despite President Zardari’s personal support for such an amendment. The army has stayed out of this debate, although substantial numbers of its members may be swayed by the religious groups’ arguments, especially given that recruitment has now shifted from northern Punjab to the cities and to central and southern Punjab, the heartland of the Punjabi extremist militancy.6 What to Expect? The government appears to have used up all of its nine lives but is somehow still not dead, confounding critics and supportive political pundits alike. It also appears to be a source of concern for Pakistan’s friends abroad. Changing Prime Ministers may not be enough. The government needs to present a clear vision of its objectives for Pakistan in the next decade and get its partners to sign on to it. No more tactics without strategy. No more caving in to coalition partners’ demands on issues that are central to good governance, especially on economic issues. The United States ideally would like to support a strong civilian government that meets the country’s needs and is a partner in the fight against militancy and terror inside Pakistan and in the region. It has rhetorically upheld civil supremacy but often acted in concert with the autonomous military in Pakistan. This has added to the confusion about U.S. intentions inside Pakistan, especially since it has pressed for military action in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas seemingly in isolation from the swirling socio-economic and political issues that engulf Pakistan’s fragile democratic polity. If the civilians fail to manage the economy and political system and public backlash mounts against rising prices and lack of services, there will be increased pressure on the army to step in yet again. This will take Pakistan back to square one. But given the stakes, this may be the only course open to General Kayani. That should give people in Pakistan and abroad some pause and encourage them to help Pakistan achieve stability and growth. In 2011, as the United States seeks some signs of hope in Afghanistan, it may choose to push Pakistan further on the issue of the Afghan Taliban. Or, if it takes matters into its own hands by launching cross-border raids in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas or repeating the bin Laden raid with other targets inside Pakistan proper, it may push Pakistan over the tipping point and jeopardize its fledgling democracy. Trying to cow Pakistan by withholding money from the Pakistani army, as the Obama Administration has done since July, is one such dangerous policy. The effects of pushing past the tipping point will not be restricted to Pakistan alone but may extend to Central and South Asia as a whole. Is that risk worth taking? Both Pakistani and U.S. leaders must make that determination, and it would be best if they do so jointly rather than separately. 1Note that when Pashtuns themselves and most others write about Pashtuns in Roman script, one sees an “sh” in the spelling of the word. When many Pakistanis write about them, they use a “kh” instead. The pronounciation of the word describing the people of the area in the north favors “Pakhtun” after their language “Pakhto.” In the south it is often “Pashtun” after the more popularly used “Pashto.” 2See Ashfaque H. Khan, “Salvaging the 7th NFC Award”, The News, January 4, 2011. 3See Peter Bergen and Katherine Tiedemann, “Pakistan drone war takes a toll on militants—and civilians”, Afpak channel, Foreign Policy Online, October 29, 2010. 4See, for example, the Aman ki Asha (Hope for Peace) movement launched by two newspaper groups. The Times of India and The Jang Group of Pakistan conducted surveys indicating that more than 70 percent of respondents wanted better relations between the two countries. 5See Mohsin S. Khan, “India-Pakistan Trade: A Roadmap for Enhancing Economic Relations”, Peterson Institute for International Economics (July 2009). 6See C. Christine Fair and Shuja Nawaz, “The Changing Pakistan Army Officer Corps”, forthcoming in the Journal of Strategic Studies and published online in November 2009 at SSRN.
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Appeared in: Volume 7, Number 1Ungovernable
Published on: September 1, 2011
Published on: September 1, 2011
Pakistan is stuck fast in a crisis of governability.