Alfred Stepan and Aqil Shah make out a strong case in puncturing the myth that Musharraf is a ‘real bulwark’ in the war against al Qaeda and the Taliban. They warn that the aid authorised by the Bush administration will serve to prop up Musharraf’s military dictatorship with no corresponding benefits in the war on terror.
Congress is considering the administration’s $700 million annual budgetary request for Pakistan. It might also decide to discuss legislation, introduced by Rep. Gary Ackerman (D-N.Y.), stipulating that the president must certify that a country is a democracy and is participating with the United States in advancing global nonproliferation efforts before declaring it a “major non-NATO ally.”
There is much else to consider. The president’s Pakistan aid package calls for $300 million a year in military aid but only about $20 million for primary and secondary education. One of the reasons so many poor Pakistanis send their children to madrassa hate factories is that the amount Pakistan spends on public education is among the lowest in the world as a percentage of its economic output.
Democracy in Pakistan has not been weak because of Islamic extremists. In the six national elections held since 1970 for which party-based vote shares can be determined, extremists have not managed to garner more than 12 percent of the vote. Elected politicians have not covered themselves in glory. But one of the major reasons that democracy has been weak in Pakistan is that, in its 56 years of independence, not one elected government has been allowed to finish a full term.
The “right person” for the United States and Pakistan is a prime minister put in office by free elections and allowed by the military to finish his or her full term of office. [Washington Post]
The US Congress should heed such advice; but given the extremely partisan mood in the United States in a election year, the Bush administration may well have its way. American dollars may again mean bad news for Pakistani democracy.