Wanderlust…

The International Reporting (and Life) Adventures of Vivian Salama

Back in Pakistan

Posted by vmsalama on April 3, 2009

Hey everyone. I’m back in Lahore after several weeks of trotting in the Gulf. For as good as it was to get back to my stompin’ ground in the Arab world, it is equally great to be back in Pakistan with all that is going on. I have a radio report coming out in the next day on the escalating violence in the country. In the meantime, this report was released yesterday by Reuters. I found it very interesting because i am a firm believer that at the core of Pakistan’s militant problem is a growing economic crisis.  So many are pushed into lives of extremism based on a lack of opportunity in the country. While I was in Doha I attended a talk at the Brookings Doha Center where one of the speakers actually described the militants as predominantly mercenaries — hired killers involved in the so-called Jihad NOT for religious motivations, but rather, because their families financially benefit from their participation.  It is a fascinating topic.  While in the Gulf, I met Lahore native Saleem Ali, a Brookings visiting fellow. He recently wrote a book called Islam and Education: Conflict and Conformity in Pakistan’s Madrassas.  In it he argued that the problematic madrassas that tend to foster a climate of militancy are not the hardline religious schools, but rather some of the more secular madrassas where economic hardship and social disenfranchisement are an everyday reality. This report, detailed below, discusses how Pakistan biggest security threat is its economic deterioration.  I wholeheartedly agree. 

By Claudia Parsons
NEW YORK, April 2 (Reuters) – Pakistan must be central to U.S. policy on Afghanistan and needs up to $50 billion over the next five years to avoid an economic meltdown that risks turning the country over to Islamic extremists, said a report released on Thursday.

The report by a think tank with close ties to the Obama administration said Washington must also act to strengthen civilian government in Pakistan and persuade Islamabad to stop using militant groups as an instrument of foreign policy.

The Asia Society, whose chairman was Richard Holbrooke until he was appointed U.S. special envoy on Afghanistan and Pakistan in January, convened a task force to compile the report: “Back from the Brink? A Strategy for Stabilizing Afghanistan-Pakistan.”

The report, made public on Thursday, was provided to President Barack Obama’s administration before he unveiled his strategy on Afghanistan last week. It closely mirrors Obama’s policy, while focusing more on politics than military issues.

The report said the global economic crisis risked further weakening Pakistan’s civilian government, which has little control over tribal areas that have become safe havens for al Qaeda, and which struggles to match the sway of the military.

“Perhaps the most urgent priority is to prevent economic collapse which could undermine state authority even in major urban areas in the next few months,” the report said.

It cited estimates that halting the economic decline in Pakistan might require a five-year package of $40 billion to $50 billion, a sum that dwarfs Pakistan’s existing $7.6 billion International Monetary Fund bailout.

It said 1 million workers joined the ranks of the urban unemployed in the past six months — a volatile source of tension in a country where 40 percent of the population live on an income of under $1.25 a day.

The report urged Washington to work with a “Friends of Pakistan” group at the United Nations to mobilize donors to provide an urgent rescue package that could involve direct budget support and or a World Bank-administered trust fund.

CENTER OF GRAVITY IS PAKISTAN

Task force co-chair Barnett Rubin said the United States and its allies had for too long focused on Afghanistan while allowing problems to fester in Pakistan.

“The regional center of gravity of the problem is not in Afghanistan,” Rubin said. The report argues that there are no al Qaeda bases in Afghanistan, but many in Pakistan, where a variety of other militant groups have long thrived on covert backing from the military and intelligence apparatus.

“Because it faces India, which it sees as an enemy … Pakistan has adopted formally the use of Jihadi groups as instruments of their foreign policy,” Rubin said at a panel discussion in New York on the report.

“One of the aims of our regional diplomacy should be to use all the resources we can to encourage, cajole, force, persuade Pakistan to change its policy away from using those Jihadis.”

Essential to that would be meeting Pakistan’s legitimate security concerns, the report said, and easing tensions with India. Relations between the nuclear-armed rivals were strained further by November’s attacks in Mumbai, which India says were conducted with the involvement of Pakistani state agencies. (The full report can be seen here ) (Editing by Peter Cooney)

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One Response to “Back in Pakistan”

  1. Challengepotential said

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