The primary conclusion of this report is that strengthening democratic institutions in Pakistan will strengthen security — for the Pakistani state, for Pakistanis, and for the United States. In crafting a new partnership, the United States’ guiding principle should be its support for broader reform forces throughout Pakistani society that are demanding political development as well as economic uplift.
Over Pakistan’s 61 years as an independent state, eight elected presidents, ten parliaments, and more than a dozen prime ministers have been removed from power. The parliament that was replaced after elections in February 2008 was the first to serve a full five-year term. Pakistan’s politicians have been vilified as ineffectual, but they have never fully participated in a political process that forces them to rely on the consent of those they govern, because their tenure has always been cut short by the military. It is little wonder that the regional, ideological, and sectarian components of Pakistani society have been spun into disparate and rival forces, rather than been woven together in a pluralistic society. To bolster their authority in an unstable system, governments, especially military governments, have resorted to the ideological appeal of political Islam; to the muscle of an expanding security apparatus; and to the threat of foreign invasion.
The U.S. government should make very clear that it wants an alliance with Pakistan — not just with the Pakistani military or a single politician or political party. Any sustainable partnership between the United States and Pakistan must deliver the social and economic benefits across Pakistani society that are necessary if political development is to be sustained. Pakistani voters will increasingly hold their government to account on bread-and-butter issues; and delivering benefits there will help secure the state’s contract with its people. Additionally, the military’s consent to a subordinate role in a democratic state will be more easily sustained if it is assured that a growing economic pie will allow it to meet its budgetary needs.
Former foreign minister Kasuri told Network 20/20 that Pakistan should be at the top of the next U.S. president’s foreign policy agenda. “I wish the new U.S. president would take up the issue in his first year,” he said. With the passage of the Enhanced Partnership with Pakistan Act, Kasuri could get his wish. But the legislation must be promptly and effectively implemented and it must be followed by large scale and sustained support from the Friends of Pakistan group of countries. Economic, social, and political development should not be sidelined as security priorities assert themselves in Washington. Neither country has much margin for error.