Pakistan has weak political leadership and
institutions, a large army which overshadows civilian government and siphons
precious national resources for its own bloated ambitions, an economy in
crisis, an unjust federal dispensation which exacerbates tensions between
Islamabad and the provinces, and huge disparities in wealth between a
kleptocratic ruling elite and the tens of millions of ordinary Pakistanis who live
in poverty and political and social marginalization.
In a security context dominated by the war on terror and the war in Afghanistan, US policy since 2001 has focused on its own short-term objectives in Pakistan to the detriment of democracy and economic and social progress in Pakistan. There are, however, clear indications in the newly articulated "AfPak" strategy, that under President Obama the US now understands that the Pakistani people hold the key not only to the defeat of terrorism and extremism in Pakistan, but also to the long-term stability and security of the country. The shift in US emphasis towards a better balance of military and non-military assistance, the support for democratic governance, civil society, and sustainable development, is an important recognition that the real battle is for the hearts and minds of ordinary Pakistanis.
However the Obama Administration also recognizes that the state dominance of Pakistan's army and ruling elite is such that meaningful progress also requires recognition that the Pakistan state has legitimate security concerns in the region and that these concerns need to be addressed, through regional fora, if Pakistan is to be helped towards normalization. Taken together these moves by the Obama Administration provide arguably the most opportune context for the EU to make a meaningful contribution to Pakistan's security and stability for a generation.
With respect to addressing Pakistan's internal economic, social and political challenges the EU has a huge amount to contribute. Some of the key areas in which EU assistance - financial and technical - could make the most immediate and long-lasting impacts if properly implemented are:
- Policing: the empowerment and training of Pakistani police forces, both in terms of their operational effectiveness and in terms of their responsiveness and accountability to ordinary Pakistanis as representatives of the state;
- Party political evolution: the development of Pakistan's pluralist political parties - national and provincial - which need assistance to move from being the creatures of elite families to becoming the vehicles for the aspirations of ordinary Pakistanis;
- Institutional political evolution: the strengthening and development of Pakistan's political institutions and of the checks and balances within the political system at the national and provincial level;
- Justice: the empowerment of justice systems to deliver prompt, transparent and accountable justice for ordinary Pakistanis;
- Civil society: the support and development of Pakistan's increasingly vibrant, but weak and under-funded, civil society;
- Grassroots economic development: direct investment in small-scale grassroots economic projects which bypass corrupt bureaucracies.
Perhaps even more important, over the longer-term, than any of these is the need for:
- Education: investment to secure educational opportunity and a modern curricula, nationally-determined, for Pakistani children particularly in the more deprived regions. The cornerstone of this - for all Pakistani children - being the teaching of English as a means to empower people within the country - where the elite monopolize resources through English - and build a meritocratic middle-class which will be necessary to ensure Pakistan's future in the context of globalization;
With respect to the regional security concerns of the Pakistan state, the EU has a hugely important
opportunity to support and facilitate regional and bilateral fora in many areas
of concern to Pakistan, and
to facilitate dialogue, understanding and partnerships particularly between Pakistan and Afghanistan
These should include not only specific security initiatives, such as on arms
control, regional security frameworks, and confidence-building measures, but
also areas which impact security such as migration and refugee issues,
irredentist issues, economic co-operation, educational exchanges, and people-to-people
Pakistan stands on the edge of a precipice and will need a great deal of international assistance and goodwill if it is not only to survive as a political entity but reverse its decline and emerge as the exemplar of a democratic, liberal and plural Islamic state its founders intended it to be. The EU has a moment of great opportunity to provide meaningful economic and technical assistance to Pakistan in those areas which will most profoundly affect both the short and long-term security and stability of the country. There is no more pressing security challenge at present for the EU than securing the future of Pakistan.
Dr. Shaun R Gregory is the Director of the Pakistan Security Research Unit at the University of Bradford, UK. His research has focussed on South Asia since 1999 with a particular emphasis on nuclear issues and on international terrorism, internal security, and defence issues. Dr. Gregory has centred his research on Pakistan and specifically on the nexus between nuclear weapons, extremism and terrorism, and the stability and cohesion of the state in Pakistan.
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