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Schaffer's Pakistan policy for US
Aziz Haniffa in Washington, DC
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July 26, 2007 05:57 IST
Teresita Schaffer, a former US diplomat who had dealt with and served in South Asia for nearly three decades, has said the United States "needs a Pakistan government that can keep order and has legitimacy" and will be one that "will not allow Pakistan to be used as a platform for insurgency or irredentism in either Afghanistan or its nuclear-armed neighbor India."

Schaffer, who heads the South Asia Program as the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, DC, told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, which had convened a hearing on the future of Pakistan, acknowledged that "Pakistan today is going through the most severe crisis it has faced in the past eight years," and that it's future "matters profoundly to the United States and to the region."

She said that two priorities for Washington is to "put its weight behind a return to civilian rule" in Pakistan "through free and fair elections," even as it "urgently needs to try to strengthen and broaden the anti-terrorism consensus within Pakistan."

Schaffer said that the recent Supreme Court ruling reinstating the Chief Justice who was fired by Musharraf "...was a serious embarrassment to Musharraf" and also interfered with his "...strategy of seeking re-election later this year."

She said that the Supreme Court's ruling had given the US and Pakistan, "an opportunity to stand up for the rule of law," and argued that "this is the only way to set Pakistan on the course toward 'enlightened moderation,' that many Pakistanis believe is their country's birthright."

Schaffer lauded the Administration for welcoming the Supreme Court decision, but said it now behooves Washington "to make clear as events proceed that we expect the coming elections to be fully free and fair, with Musharraf choosing between the offices of president or army chief."

While acknowledging that "this may seem like an odd time for the United States to be taking a strong stand for moving back to a freely elected government and democratic institutions," she argued that "this policy, however, is not just a reflection of American values.

It also reflects a hard-nosed judgment about the relationship between the Pakistan army and the militants who threaten to destroy the progressive, modern Islamic character of the state that underpins real policy cooperation with the United States."

Schaffer recalled that "in the past, when the Pakistani state has cracked down on extremist militant, the army has often pulled it punches, making sure that militant groups remained alive and available to work with them across Pakistan's tense borders in the future."

"That policy," she said, " doomed to failure. Extremism cannot be kept half-contained in this fashion. It poses a mortal danger to Pakistan's domestic well-being. As long as the army remains in charge of policy, it is unlikely to treat the extremists as the enemy they are, and will not be able to end the domestic threat they pose."

Schaffer said, "Doing this requires a committed political government, with full legitimacy. The army will of course play a critical role enforcing the government's policies and defending Pakistan. But this role needs to be anchored in a set of institutions in which elected political power is firmly in change, and fully accountable."

On the problem in the tribal areas, she said she strongly opposed direct US military intervention, saying, "I can think of no quicker way of turning all of Pakistan against the anti-terrorism goals that are so important to the United States, and turning the Pakistan army into a hostile force."

While acknowledging that military assistance "is also an important expression of our long-term commitment to the people of Pakistan," Schaffer said that 'here it is important to draw some distinctions we have not drawn in the past."

"Military sales should focus in the first instance on equipment that will help Pakistan with its vital counter-terrorism goals. Military sales that relate more to general defense upgrading should take a back seat, and should be contingent on Pakistan's effective performance in countering militant extremists, both along the Afghan border and elsewhere."

Schaffer warned that "if we continue to find that Pakistan's army is hedging its bets in Afghanistan and providing support for the Taliban, or for domestic militant groups, we should put this type of military sales on hold."

She also castigated the Bush Administration defense of Musharraf as the only game in town noting that "the administration has tended to speak of Musharraf whenever it is asked about policy toward Pakistan."

Schaffer argued, "We need to shift our emphasis to the whole of Pakistan. Obviously, leaders are important, especially in troubled countries at troubled times. But the sustainability of Pakistan's political system and its ability to grow new leaders are absolutely critical to the goal of combating terrorism that has been at the top of our list for the past six years."

"This means that we need the Pakistani political system -- or as many parts of it as possible -- to buy into the goal of eliminating extremist influence in Pakistan."

She said, "Especially since the invasion of Iraq, this has become a very tough job in a country where public opinion now regards the United States as a country that 'attacks Muslims.'

Thus, Schaffer said it is imperative " listen to what Pakistanis are saying about their hopes for a better future for their country. If, as I suspect, there is widespread but amorphous sentiment for 'enlightened moderation,' we need to help strengthen and deepen that, and to show by our actions that this is where we want to go, together with Pakistan."

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