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The Financial Times - September 2, 2008 by Robert Templer Not much good news has come out of Pakistan recently. But amid the reports of the coalition splintering and daily bombings, it is worth bearing in mind that the country has a legitimate government for the first time in years and no crowds have taken to the streets. Pakistan has endured worse in the past and will survive worse to come. What is needed now is recognition that there is no quick fix, no one essential figure to lead the process and no underhand deal to be brokered by shadowy emissaries from London or Washington. Backing the military or choosing sides among the political parties will not stabilise the country, as shown by the shaky economic and political legacies of eight years of rule by General Pervez Musharraf. Scolding the political parties for their lack of vision, corruption or their fickle alliances will not help either. Instead, what is needed are policies that put the Pakistani people ahead of personalities and institutions ahead of facile answers. For the west, a critical issue has to be the Federally Administered Tribal Areas, the mountainous region that borders Afghanistan and is home to the Taliban and probably Osama bin Laden. Much of the insurgency in Afghanistan emanates from this region. On both sides of the border, civilians are caught between brutal extremists and a military response that is often indiscriminately violent. The people of the tribal areas mostly regret what little contact they have with the state; it is either neglectful or predatory. They are second-class citizens governed by colonial laws that deny them justice or representation. That must change. Scrapping these laws and bringing the tribal areas into the state is the first step towards delivering services to people who have been denied even the paltry government benefits received elsewhere in Pakistan. It will not be easy to provide education and healthcare in these regions but programmes can be started small and expanded alongside improved security. Plenty of aid money is available for such an effort, although it will be squandered unless there is political reform. The government has taken an unequivocal stand against the Pakistani Taliban, banning the organisation. It is time for the military to do the same or face a reduction in foreign assistance. For Pakistanis, the critical issue is the economy. Inflation is above 25 per cent. Families are struggling to buy food and power cuts are undermining industry. A US Senate plan to provide $15bn (€10bn, £8bn) in civilian aid over a decade is a start, as is some emergency food support, but all donors need to move rapidly to help stabilise the economy. An international plan to im­prove infrastructure, healthcare, education and justice should be the next step. At the heart of justice and security is policing. Washington has handed over billions of dollars to an unaccountable military that has spent it maintaining its privileges and buying new high-technology weapons, few of which can be used to fight insurgents. Pakistani soldiers are no more capable today of beating the Taliban than before the attacks on the US of September 11 2001 and the military’s intelligence agencies still view jihadis as a foreign policy tool. What is needed is a focus on the police and civilian intelligence agencies, which for decades have been the neglected stepchild of the security sector. Alongside significant changes in policing, there must be support for judicial and prison reform. Only when all three go together can a state build a system that provides rather than undermines legitimacy and security. The best policy for the west would be an end to the view that outsiders can shape Pakistani politics. Blind support for Mr Musharraf’s dictatorship has left the US with few friends in Islamabad. The military has been a grudging ally and will never serve anything other than its own narrow interests. Trying to pick winners will undermine democracy and create greater instability. Instead, the US and others need to broaden their relationships with the country, expanding trade, opening markets and providing more education assistance. Mr Musharraf has gone and the world’s view of Pakistan must change. Anxieties about state failure and loose nukes are overstated and hypocritical when the steps most needed to prevent them – addressing the economic and social concerns of the population – are ignored. Dictatorship has been ap­plauded while an elected government is viewed with snide suspicion. But that government provides the first opening in years to confront extremism and tackle Pakistan’s real problems. The writer is Asia Program director of the International Crisis Group

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[ Asia ] [ Diritti Umani, Civili  & Politici ] [ Islam e democrazia ] [ Pakistan ] [ Subcontinente indiano ]

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[ Asia ] [ Diritti Umani, Civili  & Politici ] [ Islam e democrazia ] [ Pakistan ] [ Subcontinente indiano ]

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