The new President-elect Barack Obama has already begun putting together his new Cabinet. Meanwhile, how the new U.S. administration will handle its array of issues continues to garner major news coverage. On the foreign policy agenda, Pakistan continues to be at the top of this list. Below, Mahir Nisar, a law student and founding member of the Future Leaders of Pakistan, discusses how an Obama/Biden White House should approach Pakistan:
Remember, remember, the fifth of November. As I sit here watching the victory celebrations for the election of Barack Obama, I cannot quell my envy for the democratic institution in place in the United States. As the chants of “Yes we can,” and the drum-roll of “change” resonate throughout the world, I cannot help but ponder the future of Pakistan and its leaders.
Still marred by the politics of yesterday, Pakistan presents a major challenge to the next administration of the United States. With a failing economy, depleted foreign reserves, lack of investor confidence, and a pathetic credit rating, Pakistan and its allies face the major task of averting a crisis that could impact the entire world. Put plainly, the lack of economic independence for the people of Pakistan creates further instability for the political system, which inevitably would poses a security threat to the world at large.
With Joe Biden by his side, Obama is sure to gain the wisdom of how to effectively deal with Pakistan. Biden was instrumental in the removal of Pervez Musharraf and the restoration of the Constitution following the declaration of emergency rule. Obama and Biden have both pledged non-military aid to Pakistan, but they must go beyond those promises. They must commit to building relations with the people of Pakistan, not through its government, but via its civil society, students, and lawyers. Outreach through such avenues would be instrumental in empowering the institutions that effectively aid and influence the people of Pakistan.
As a Pakistani, I am most envious of the judiciary’s independence in the United States. For many Pakistanis wishing to see sustainable progress, economic growth and accountability in the country, the judiciary movement has not lost momentum. Obama and Biden must capitalize their support in this effort to ensure the Pakistani people’s support.
As a law student, I have not been a staunch supporter of any particular judge, but I am in support of the rule of law and the independence of the judiciary. My reasons for being a supporter of the institution over an individual is based on a belief that Pakistan’s current political makeup of 45+ year olds come from the same school of thought – power hunger, corruption, and status building. Perhaps my opinion is naïve and unfounded, but history and the current “genius” leaders seem to be further testament to my assertions. Therefore, I caution the incoming U.S. administration to not further the individualistic aspirations of the current political makeup at the expense of institution building. For this reason, and this reason alone, many members of Pakistan’s youth, including myself, have left the politics of today and are focusing on the politics of tomorrow.
President-elect Obama and his partner should take heed of this view, because the youth of Pakistan, which form the majority of the country, sees a tomorrow filled with greatness, transparency, and accountability. If they truly embody the vision of “change,” Obama and Biden should avoid the short-cut policies of yesterday, and focus on the long-term and sustainable institution-building tactics of today. Strengthening the institutions of Pakistan at the grassroots level would in turn impact global security. The people of Pakistan pray that President Obama and VP Biden will provide the necessary relief and policies that adhere to the “change” their campaign invoked, because “Yes We Can” resonates with all of us, Pakistanis and Americans alike.