Democratic reconciliation must precede reconstruction and rehabilitation in Pakistan
For me personally, there was a sense of dejavu (sic). Nearly 31 years ago, on 25th December 1974, a powerful earthquake had flattened towns along the Karakorum Highway killing nearly 10,000 people. I had traveled with a university team into the same mountains for similar relief work. Prime Minister Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto had made a passionate appeal for funds around the world, taken a token helicopter trip to the destroyed town of Besham, and made fantastic promises for rehabilitation. But then hundreds of millions of dollars in relief funds received from abroad mysteriously disappeared. Some well-informed people believe that those funds were used to kick off Pakistanâ€™s secret nuclear program.
Shall the present government do better? This will only be if citizens, and international donors, demand transparency and accounts are available for public audit. [Chowk]
Shaukat Aziz, Gen Musharraf’s prime minister, has announced that Pakistan requires US$5 billion for reconstruction and rehabilitation. Given Pakistan’s past record in diverting aid funds to serve its other ‘programmes’, and recognising that all its institutions of state remain under the control of the military establishment, the international community must demand greater scrutiny of where and how the aid money is spent.
The jihadi organisations — especially the Jamaat-ud-Dawa — have stolen the limelight away from Gen Musharraf’s government as far as credit for rescue and rehabilitation goes. If Musharraf’s acts of commission strengthened the hands of the extremist Islamic political parties over the last few years, the Pakistani army’s acts of omission have left the field open for jihadi groups. It will be tempting for the heads in Washington DC to conclude that this calls for all good men, women and their cheque books to come to the aid of Gen Musharraf. Lazy, convenient, but most certainly the wrong thing to do.
Unfortunately for Pakistan, the presence of a dubious, unaccountable military dictatorship at its helm at this time of crisis works against it receiving as much international aid and assistance as it requires. Hoodbhoy and Sepoy have identified certain non-governmental organisations that can be supported. These no doubt play a useful role in the short-term, channelling relief to those who need it urgently. But the longer term role of reconstruction and rehabilitation is best played by the government. This is where military dictatorship’s lack of accountability makes it unworthy of receiving international community’s trust. For that to happen, Pakistan needs an accountable, legitimate government. Instead of blindly filling the military establishment’s pockets with all the money it has asked for, the international community would do well to insist that this is tied to how fast it is able to set up an institutional democracy.
Related Link: Hussain Haqqani’s op-ed in the Wall Street Journal, excerpted by Praktike at Liberals against Terrorism, and Ahmed Rashid’s commentary in the Daily Telegraph excerpted by Joel at Far Outliers.