Foreign Policy

Diagnosing Pakistan

Unfortunately, though, one high-profile visit is unlikely to
do much, because many of the country’s woes are historically rooted. Pakistanis
had no idea what suicide bombers were prior to 9/11. The U.S. supported radical
Islamists in their fight against the Soviet Union, but it’s precisely those Islamists
who are now waging jihad across the globe, including in Pakistan; many
Pakistanis regard the Taliban as an existential threat to their country.

Although Pakistan’s economy is back on track (largely due to
IMF lending), insecurity limits its ability to achieve sustained economic
growth. It shares a border with a hostile neighbor (India), with a desperately
poor country in which the Taliban is reasserting its influence (Afghanistan),
and with a nation that’s in the midst of tremendous domestic upheaval (Iran). Being
in a near-constant struggle against internal and external threats, real and
imagined, has its consequences: Pakistan spends far more on defense than
education, with the result that the country has only a 38 percent literacy
rate. As both Ambassador Said Jawad of Afghanistan and Ambassador Husain
Haqqani say, “We live in a dangerous neighborhood.”

Haqqani noted that India is perhaps the biggest elephant in
the room. Pakistan is wary of the Indo-U.S. relationship, which is robust and
multifaceted. He mentioned that India is Boeing’s largest customer, and also
that 26 members of the Obama administration are Indian-American; facts like
these naturally make Pakistan nervous.

As much as it’s concerned with India, Pakistan is also
anxious to see how its relationship with the U.S. evolves. Haqqani noted that
Pakistanis want to receive credit for their counterterrorism efforts; Pakistan
has killed or captured more al Qaeda leaders than has any other country. He
concluded by saying that the U.S. won’t truly be able to win hearts and minds
there until it adopts a more comprehensive engagement strategy — one that has a
political element and a socioeconomic element. Haqqani encouraged American
companies to invest in Pakistan, offering a Thomas Friedman-like thought that
Pakistanis need to be making boxer shorts for Wal-Mart, not boxes of bombs.

Whether or not that hope is realized will depend a lot on
how Pakistan’s military fares against the Taliban. Let’s hope that it succeeds.

Kathy Kemper is founder and CEO of the
Institute for Education, a nonprofit foundation that recognizes and promotes leadership and civility locally, nationally and in the world community.

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