Archive for May 19th, 2009

CS Monitor: Displaced Pakistanis wait for food in Peshawar

CS Monitor: Displaced Pakistanis wait for food in Peshawar

Today, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announced the U.S. will provide $100 million in emergency humanitarian assistance to the growing number of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) in Pakistan. Clinton, in the White House press briefing Tuesday, told reporters, “We face a common threat, a common challenge, and now a common task. We have seen an enormous amount of support and determination out of the Pakistani government, military, and people in the last weeks to tackle the extremist challenge.”

There has been a growing recognition in Washington that the United States needs to redefine its approach to Pakistan, “and a growing number of Pakistan and counterterrorism experts have concluded that a crucial missing ingredient in U.S. policy was closer contact with the Pakistani people,” reported the Christian Science Monitor.

Frederick Barton, co-director of the Post-Conflict Reconstruction Project at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), told the Monitor,

For the last year, the consensus in Washington has been that we needed to create a stronger link to the Pakistani people, that that was in fact the missing link in our relations with a critical part of the world. This is a terrific first step to show we do care about the Pakistani people and not just about Afghanistan or terror.

In her briefing today, Clinton announced the American people can also participate in this new humanitarian initiative. By texting “SWAT” to 20222, anyone in the United States can make a $5 donation to the UN High Commissioner’s Office for Refugees (UNHCR) for use in the Swat Valley crisis.

So please, if you are based in the U.S., text in your donations! I am also pasting Clinton’s briefing in its entirety below, which was refreshing and well worth watching:

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If you didn’t get a chance to watch Sunday’s interview with former President Pervez Musharraf on Fareez Zakaria’s GPS, here is the transcript from the show, and below, is the first third of the segment.

Musharraf, in the above clip, addressed the constant criticism of Pakistan. He ultimately defended the military and the ISI, noting,

So, the world must understand, and the world must help Pakistan repair this torn fabric of ours, national fabric, instead of criticizing — why is Pakistan like this, Pakistan is spreading Talibanization. At this moment, we are lucky — the world is lucky — that we have this army and the ISI. Now, instead of weakening them, abusing them, criticizing them, we must strengthen them. Because, if they don’t deliver, who else is going to deliver? It will all fail.

Given the constant surge of negative press on Pakistan, particularly in the Western media, I felt the aforementioned statement made a valid point. We want to bolster morale among our military and police, not dampen it further by damning every offensive before it finishes. Headlines like, “Pakistan is Rapidly Adding Nuclear Arms,” “The Nightmare Scenario,” and the most infamous, “Pakistan: The Most Dangerous,” are in a sense damaging because they entrench perceptions without even delving into the gray area of conflict.

There was one pretty classic line from this clip. When Zakaria asks Musharraf where the $10 billion in U.S. aid went during his administration, Musharraf answered, “Five billion — half of it — is reimbursement for the services provided by Pakistan. It is not your money. It is our money. So, let me say it again. Half of it, $5 billion, is our money. We provided services to you, so you are repaying us.” You tell him, Mushy.

Overall, I thought Musharraf’s interview went pretty well. While many former leaders or opposition members use these segments to voice their criticism of the government, he didn’t. Instead, Musharraf asserted, “I wish the government well, because they are facing a very, very strong challenge of rectifying the economy, first of all, fighting terrorism. And then, over and above, there are political challenges. That makes the situation in Pakistan complex.”

Following the show, I was left pondering the current perceptions of Musharraf. As Zakaria noted, while Zardari‘s current approval rating is just 19 percent, for much of Musharraf‘s presidency, his approval was in the 60 to 70 percent range. Granted, ratings plummeted during the last year of his presidency when Musharraf did everything possible wrong (from the firing of the judges to the state of emergency), but the fact that many Pakistanis approved of him for seven years is still noteworthy. On YouTube, comments related to his Zakaria interview all sang his praises, with users proclaiming, “Long Live Musharraf,” “General Musharraf, Pakistan needs you,” and even, “I love you Sir.”

Now, I am not saying that YouTube comments are necessarily reflective of the broader sentiment, but it does lead me to probe how we will perceive Musharraf’s legacy. Will he forever be tainted by his last year in power, or do the “good years” factor into your opinion? Moreover, does the current government’s policies and the increasingly negative perception of President Zardari put things in perspective? How do you remember the Musharraf years?

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