1. Pakistan Elections Today
Preliminary results trickling in seem to indicate that, as expected, there will be no clear winner with each of the three major parties holding their own with their base — the PPP in Sindh, the PML-N in Punjab, and the MQM in Karachi. However, it remains to be seen whether Musharraf will be the big loser.
There are already reports of voter fraud, intimidation, buying votes, and low turnout according to reports on the ground from Inter-Press Service. For more updates, check out the Dawn election blog for updates and GeoTV‘s election site for national and local assembly as well as a “precinct by precinct” breakdown.
2. The Pakistani Military-Industrial Complex
NPR has a good story mentioning the efforts by Army Chief of Staff General Kiyani, who recently replaced Musharraf at the post, to decouple the military from the Pakistani economy:
Many people feel the army now may be moving away from that kind of dominance, under Gen. Ashfaq Kiyani, the man who replaced Musharraf as the army’s chief of staff.
Over the past month, Kiyani has made some key — and bold — steps.
First, he declared that no military officials could have any dealings with a politician unless it is cleared through him first — a provision that includes President Musharraf.
Then Kiyani called back scores of military officers from plum civilian positions that were handed out as perks by Musharraf, powerful positions in ministries such as transportation, communication and the water and power authority.
Nasim Zehra, a security analyst, says Gen. Kiyani appears aware that he needs to roll back some of the military’s power.
“I think [it’s] the mother of necessity in this case,” Zehra said, “because it’s a question of the institution’s reputation, institution’s well-being, and the country’s well-being at stake.”
But Kiyani must move slowly in order to prevent any backlash. Many generals have a vested interest in maintaining the status quo. Professor Hoodbhoy thinks Kiyani may make some positive changes in the short term — but he says the army has no intention of going back to the barracks permanently.
While this might be an important step from a public relations standpoint, it remains to be seen how far Kiyani will pursue this tack. Ayasha Siddiqa’s groundbreaking book Military Inc. chronicles and theorizes the increasing and seemingly inextricable ties of the military with the Pakistani economy and business. Coining the term Mil-bus, she indicates that such anarrangement yields economic growth without development (or uneven growth), something the U.S. should consider when revamping its aid strategy.
However, it is also worth noting that the public doe not appear to have perceived or fully appreciated this growing trend. World Public Opinion polling shows a majority has strong to moderate confidence in the current government’s handling of the economy despite a two-thirds majority believing the economy is not on the right track for them. Equally surprising, two-thirds of respondents specifically see the army as playing an important role in economic growth and development.
3. Counterinsurgency Strategies for the Tribal Areas
I think this morning’s Washington Post piece by Richard Holbrooke chief of staff Ashley Bommer is a good start to thinking about a redeployment of U.S. resources — almost exclusively allocated to the Pakistani military — to the tribal areas whose poverty actually does play a role in their tacit, and sometimes active, support of the Taliban. She writes:
I would urge establishment of a Global Tribal Fund to raise money from around the world and direct funding into a three-pronged strategy consisting of:
1. Tribal Scouts: a coalition of locally recruited tribesmen and tribeswomen who would begin to contact and negotiate with the tribes in the border areas. The scouts would meet with chiefs to find out what they need for their people. The Pashtun and Balochi people have come together before in jirgas, or councils, to unite their tribes. Can areas of agreement be negotiated with some of their leaders? This would allow inroads to an area now inaccessible.
2. Tribal Life Support. This would include provision of water, roads, transportation, health care, education, employment opportunities and security to live and work. A major investment in infrastructure — starting with building roads — would need to be made. We should provide an infusion of trained Pashto- and Balochi-speaking administrators, builders, designers, health-care providers and educators to jump-start this program.
3. Tribal Security Training, for the Frontier Corps — the paramilitary force consisting of close to 85,000 locally recruited tribesmen who know the language, the tribes and the culture and are the logical security forces. Right now they are poorly supported and funded. Training, equipment, financial resources and compensation should be provided so that they can resist domination by the insurgency.
Extending the U.S. alliance beyond the military to form broader civilian support has been proposed by others including Sen. Biden. It is especially pressing after having forfeited the opportunity numerous times, most notably after a major earthquake in northern Pakistan that revealed the Pakistani government’s inadequacies and U.S. obtuseness. A proposed large-scale and proactive U.S. relief program might have changed the course of downward-spiraling support in the region. Even Cuba managed to send more relief than we did.
One thing to be wary of is trying to end-run the Pakistani military, which could prove difficult and problematic. After all, it behooves us to build up the Pakistani military’s capacity to patrol the borders and take some ownership over a counterinsurgency strategy so we’re not left footing the bill indefinitely.