URGENT: An 'Explanatory' Note From Washington To Pakistan

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Oct 14, 2009, 7:29:07 PM10/14/09
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An 'Explanatory' Note From Washington To Pakistan


Genuine Pakistani concerns about the Kerry-Lugar bill have been summarily dismissed thanks to arrogant US congressmen, a politicized Pakistani ambassador in Washington, and an inept pro-US elected government in Islamabad that has lost the trust of a majority of Pakistanis.  US Vice President Joe Biden should seriously look into who turned his brilliant idea into a huge blunder.




By Ahmed Quraishi

Thursday, 15 October 2009.



ISLAMABAD, Pakistan—When the Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi stood in Washington last night to say, 'This is a historic document' and tried to act excited, a distinct look of confusion was visible on the faces of the two Americans standing to his right and left: Senator John Kerry, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and Congressman Howard Berman, chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee.


For a second it seemed as if both Mr. Kerry and Mr. Berman were looking at Mr. Qureshi and saying to themselves, 'Is this guy for real?'


There is a reason why the two seemed distrustful of the minister.


Only a few hours earlier the Pakistani Foreign Minister addressed a press conference with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton where Mr. Qureshi appeared far more excited about the Kerry-Lugar aid bill than his host.  [Ms. Clinton had to point out a couple of times she couldn't be more 'eloquent' than the Pakistani minister in describing the aid bill.]  At one point, Mr. Qureshi rebuffed a Pakistani journalist who said Pakistanis back home were concerned about offensive language in some clauses.


"I'm very glad that they [Americans] have no intentions of micromanaging Pakistan, nor will Pakistan permit micromanagement," Qureshi said.  "Never will we allow any compromise on Pakistan's sovereignty."


But no sooner he returned to Islamabad than he was back on the plane to Washington.  He had no choice, especially after an uproar in the country where a clear majority in the parliament, media, the public opinion and in the armed forces accused his government of accepting humiliating language that stops short of accusing Pakistan of running terrorist training camps and continuing to proliferate nuclear knowhow, both of which are accusations not backed by any evidence except unsourced US media reports and noise on the US think-tank circuit. The language in at least one clause is carefully drafted to push the civilian government to pick up fights with the military on issues ranging from officer promotions to excluding military input from nuclear-related policy.

So when Mr. Qureshi was back in Washington acting excited all over again, both Kerry and Berman were  understandably unsure whether they should believe the minister or wait for him to go to Islamabad, get an earful again and come back with more reservations.


But a far more serious issue is how Washington's establishment appears to have dismissed genuine Pakistani concerns with a mere 'explanatory' note.  You just have to admire the sense of humor behind naming this piece of paper a 'joint explanatory statement' that will be attached to the Kerry-Lugar bill.


Since the Pakistani parliament is still debating the bill and is yet to pass its final resolution on it, it is too early to say how will Mr. Qureshi be received back home [he is en route as these lines are written.]


But here is an initial assessment.


With the so-called 'Joint Explanatory Statement', Washington has rebuffed President Zardari, Prime Minister Gilani, Chief of Army Staff Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, and ISI chief Gen. Ahmed Shuja Pasha, who huddled for a couple of hours before designating Foreign Minister Qureshi to fly to Washington and seek changes in the controversial clauses or simply the removal of the three or four controversial clauses so that the remainder of the bill focused on aid and cooperation could move forward.


If the bill is accepted in its present form, Pakistan will


1.       Effectively be accepting that two major cities Quetta and Muridke are centers of terror as the bill alleges without any real evidence 

2.      Pakistan will also be accepting that it will entertain possible US requests for access to suspected nuclear proliferators as demanded by US and without stipulating that evidence be produced for such a demand

3.      Pakistan will also be allowing Washington to demand reports from Pakistani civilian leaders confirming their control over internal military promotions and appointments.  Interestingly, this clause opens the door for more US meddling in Pakistani politics since politicians will be using this clause and Washington's muscle to reign in the Pakistani military.  The clause is a recipe for endless civil-military tensions. 

4.      Pakistan will also not be in a position to dispute unfounded US and British accusations that seek to shift the blame to Pakistan for failures in Afghanistan.


Mr. Qureshi has essentially sold off Pakistani interest on the basis of an 'explanatory statement'.  He failed to defend the Pakistani position or prevail on the American officials on the core issue of the insult that most Pakistanis feel today because of the humiliating language in the bill. 


Another problem is how the Pakistani embassy in Washington, under Ambassador Husain Haqqani, continues to feed a wrong picture of the debate back home in Pakistan. Mr. Haqqani is under tremendous attack in the Pakistani parliament for his role in failing to stop the controversial clauses. Members of his own government feel that the buck should stop at his desk for the fiasco.  To save his position, it seems Mr. Haqqani is feeding his friends in the US media and the Washington establishment that the angst is Pakistan over the bill is 'manufactured' by 'anti-America forces' and is 'manipulated' by the Pakistani military.  Some of his friends in the US media are peddling the theory that Mr. Haqqani is under attack because of his anti-military writings when he was out of government.


What Mr. Haqqani is not telling the Americans is that politicians in Pakistan have accused him, and not the US Congress or the US government, of deliberately inserting anti-military clauses in the Kerry-Lugar bill with the help of lobbyists paid for by the Pakistani exchequer and in pursuance of a domestic Pakistani political agenda [in other words, settling domestic scores.]  It is also possible that some quarters in Washington that are not very Pakistan-friendly helped push the bill with unnecessary military-related clauses in a document that is focused on US-Pakistani partnership.


The bottom line is this: While his government spokespeople in Islamabad refuse to recognize there is anything wrong with the US bill [even US Ambassador has conceded the language was a mistake'], Mr. Qureshi could not have been expected to put any real effort into convincing US officials to chance the offending language, especially when it is already beginning to look like a battle between his government on the one side and the media-public opinion-political opponents-military on the other side.


It is unfortunate that an effort that most probably was undertaken in good faith by Vice President Joe Biden has degenerated into a major blot on the face of US-Pakistani ties because of overbearing US congressmen, a politicized Pakistani ambassador in Washington, and an inept government in Islamabad headed by insecure leaders.


Pakistan is left saddled with a bill whose language represents a major Pakistani policy concession on military, nuclear and terrorism issues.  A government that passionately defended the bill's language inside Pakistan made little effort to force a change in language in Washington. 


The worst part is that future US legislation and government policy can now always look back and use the clauses that are part of the bill to perpetuate popular US accusations against Pakistan.


Does Mr. Qureshi really believe he will receive a hero's welcome in Islamabad tomorrow morning?


© 2007-2009. All rights reserved. AhmedQuraishi.com & PakNationalists

Verbatim copying and distribution of this entire article is permitted in any medium

without royalty provided this notice is preserved.



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