Monday, September 18, 2006


Mansoor Ijaz, The Wall Street Journal:
Gen. Pervez Musharraf will speak tomorrow at the Clinton Global Initiative's plenary session on "Urgent Issues and Innovative Solutions" -- an apt title for a talk by the Pakistani ruler given the urgency and array of problems he faces at home. Pakistan needs not just innovative solutions for its difficulties, but a leader with ideas to frame them and the guts to implement them. Increasingly, Gen. Musharraf does not appear to be that man.

His Pakistan has become a sad story of contradictions. Islamabad is propped up by U.S. taxpayer dollars to be the frontline ally in America's war against extremists, yet Gen. Musharraf has repeatedly appeased radicals for political gain while al Qaeda leaders actively use his soil to plan attacks around the world. The British transatlantic jumbo-jet terror plot last month was a case in point -- Pakistan's arrests of militants in Karachi, Lahore and along the Afghan border may have helped expose the plan, but British nationals of Pakistani origin visited the country to meet al Qaeda co-conspirators and allegedly issued the "Go" instruction from Pakistani soil. READ MORE

Another example emerged in late August, when the Musharraf regime signed a peace treaty with restless tribal chieftains in the northern frontiers along the border with Afghanistan that effectively ended the hunt for Osama bin Laden, America's most wanted man. The northern tribal areas are now left unattended to become a state within the state that offers haven to the civilized world's worst enemies. The irony could not be more complete -- America's staunchest ally presides over the breeding grounds of the very people who seek to kill as many Americans as they can, while U.S. taxpayers foot the bill.

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There are other disturbing hypocrisies. Gen. Musharraf's regime manages to pour billions into plutonium processing plants and, soon, into Chinese nuclear reactors, but cannot find enough money to feed or educate Pakistan's children -- many of whom are growing up to be tomorrow's extremists. Rogue elements inside Islamabad's nuclear program are permitted to arm dangerously unstable governments with nuclear technology and know-how in pursuit of ill-gotten gains -- and some misguided notion of an Islamist panacea. But science and math are off the curriculum at the nation's radicalized, Saudi-funded madrassahs. And Pakistan's economic potential remains locked in a feudal past, where land and labor are the bane of corrupt barons who pander to an army that no longer acts as guardian of the state, but as if it is the state.

Neighborly relations are equally dismal despite recent attempts to shore them up. Gen. Musharraf continues to court Tehran's mullahs, raising Washington's ire, in hopes of building an Iran-Pakistan-India gas pipeline that could fund a revival of the Kashmiris' militant insurgency against India, and keep his restive Inter-Services Intelligence minders happy. His peace overtures to New Delhi, including his recent commitment to restart stalled peace talks at a meeting with Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on the sidelines of the Non-Aligned Movement meeting in Cuba, ring hollow after evidence seems to prove time and again that Pakistani soil -- and resources made available from Pakistan -- are being used to back terrorist attacks against India.

Gen. Musharraf's recent trip to Kabul, made under heavy pressure from Washington, was little more than an exercise in damage control. A resurgent Taliban has successfully used its northern Pakistani sanctuary to launch attacks on Hamid Karzai's government while bringing down U.S. helicopters with shoulder-fired missiles. Anywhere else, such actions would be sufficient to disqualify a head of state from remaining in government.

Pakistan has lost its identity. It is a client state for sale to the highest bidder for the purpose that suits the moment: to the U.S. after 9/11 as the staging grounds for hunting down terrorists; to Saudi Arabia since the Iranian revolution so that Wahhabist Islam could flourish next door to Shiite Iran; and to China as a strategic counterbalance to India's growing power. While this short-sighted strategy may help ward off complete state failure, it does not provide fertile ground for imaginative plans to realize the country's potential. Gen. Musharraf must stop being all things to all people, and gather the resolve to tackle what is wrong with Pakistan -- or step down from power. He, or his successor, needs to do the following, and fast:

End the hypocritical alliance with jihadist parties and Islamist activists. Pakistan in the 1970s tolerated student-protest movements, trade unions and serf cooperatives. Political thinking thrived. But Gen. Musharraf's power grab in October 1999 resulted in the death of Pakistan's political class and the institutions that sustain democratic rule. Political necessity and the realities of a post-9/11 world forced him to make a devil's bargain with religious zealots that destroyed what was left of Pakistan's polity. Islamists, however, want the "one man, one vote, one time" version of democracy, not constitutionally assured electoral continuity.

Pakistan's next leader needs to rebuild the foundations of self-rule by bringing back debate, permitting protest and reviving analytical thinking as the cornerstones of a functioning polity. Democratic institutions and protections are rights and privileges no single man has the authority to deprive a nation of.

Change the direction of the nuclear program. Pakistan's next leader needs to radically rethink its nuclear policy. The army has enough bombs in storage to blow up the world, so why build expensive plutonium plants that only churn out less detectable, easily transportable bomb-making material that will force the world to spend excessive resources in policing an indeterminate threat? Why not make the nuclear program transparent -- and remote from fanatics -- by inviting international teams to man its nuclear facilities? That way, Pakistan could soon serve as a global processing center to handle nuclear materials for a wide array of countries under a new non-proliferation regime. That is the path India is likely to choose when its reactors are refurbished under the new U.S.-India nuclear pact. Safe, civilian nuclear energy available to Pakistan's citizenry and one day, to the rest of the world, is the best use of Pakistan's nuclear talents.

Build a real economy that integrates Pakistan into the world. Pakistanis are a most industrious and intelligent workforce; expatriate income is a cornerstone of Pakistan's economy. Just witness Dubai's construction-boom riches flowing into the country unabated. Yet Pakistan's feudal class has stifled domestic growth and crippled the economy at home by manipulating industrial output, failing to reinvest in business and indulging corruption on the grandest of scales.

The next leader needs to formulate an imaginative proposal to wean the country off the dependencies that define feudal politics, and give the landowning class a stake in a modern, industrial economy. Land barons can profit from letting land to large, agrarian multinational businesses with modern technology that improves productivity, as opposed to taxing their serfs into oblivion.

Construct real peace, not mirages that mask tension. Pakistan's neighbors no longer have cause to want to destabilize it, and, in fact, would prefer a strong and stable country on their borders. India is busy building a world-class economy; making peace with Pakistan over disputed Kashmir is an important priority in that effort. Meetings and dialogue between the leaders of both countries are important, but it's time to end the talk and walk the walk. Jihadists are not the solution for Kashmir, a fact that Pakistan's next leader must recognize from the outset. Wresting Kashmir from India by force is not possible, and militarily not prudent. Furthermore, a Pakistan at peace with India would no longer require "strategic depth" by controlling or manipulating affairs in Afghanistan.

The leader of Pakistan will speak tomorrow about innovative solutions for urgent issues. Indeed, Pakistan needs imaginative leaders to formulate creative solutions for its many problems. The world needs a strong Pakistan that puts its brilliant minds to good use for the betterment of its people so the country can fulfill its promise. It's time for Pervez Musharraf to either deliver on that promise -- or step aside, and let those who can take on the job.

Mr. Ijaz is a New York financier of Pakistani ancestry.