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Article On Indo-Pak , L.A.Times

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South Asia: The U.S. must not give Islamabad further aid without a clear
timetable for the return to civilian government.
Selig S. Harrison is a senior fellow of the Century Foundation

The Indian Airlines hijacking ordeal has vividly dramatized why the United
States should stop coddling the military regime in Pakistan and use its
economic leverage to promote an early return to civilian rule.
Islamabad's ruling junta is deeply divided between its front man, Gen.
Pervez Musharraf, and two more powerful generals with long-standing ties to
the Pakistan-based Islamic fundamentalist group responsible for the
hijacking: Lt. Gen. Mohammed Aziz, chief of the general staff, and Lt. Gen.
Mahmoud Ahmed, director of Inter-Services Intelligence, or ISI.
Despite detailed evidence presented by India, there is no smoking gun to
prove that the Pakistani government staged the hijacking. It is clear,
however, that the increasing power of fundamentalist sympathizers in the
military leadership enables Islamic extremists to operate in Pakistan with
Pakistani cleric Maulana Masood Azhar, one of the prisoners released by
India to resolve the crisis, revealed that the fugitive hijackers are now in
Kashmir, which means that they traveled there through Pakistan after their
release in Afghanistan. Azhar openly called for "death to America and
So long as the armed forces retain absolute control, Islamic extremists will
wield power out of all proportion to their real influence in Pakistani
society. This means that Pakistan will continue to oppose American interests
in South Asia, and support Taliban rule in Afghanistan as well as militant
Kashmiri insurgent factions opposed to a political accommodation with India
based on Kashmiri autonomy. The U.S. will then be increasingly tempted to
make a devil's bargain with Islamabad, offering military aid and other
inducements for Pakistani help in getting Afghanistan to turn over terrorist
leader Osama bin Laden. This would undermine the promising U.S. effort now
underway to improve relations with India, an emerging power eight times
bigger than Pakistan.
The danger that Aziz and Ahmed will elbow Musharraf aside is growing. After
the army staged its coup, Musharraf demoted Aziz to a corps command, but was
forced to back down when Aziz resisted. Musharraf is an Urdu-speaking
refugee from India with no ethnic base in Pakistan. Aziz speaks Punjabi, the
language of Pakistan's dominant Punjab province, and is a leader of the
martial Sudhan clan, which controls the Poonch district of the
Pakistani-controlled half of Kashmir.
It was Aziz, with his roots in Kashmir and a long record of military service
there, who masterminded the invasion of the Kargil area on the Indian side
of the Kashmir cease-fire line early in 1999, triggering a dangerous
confrontation with New Delhi. During and after the Afghan war, he directed
the ISI's activities in Afghanistan, setting up the training camps of the
Harkat Moujahedeen, the group responsible for the hijacking.
When Musharraf, Aziz and Ahmed first took over, the United States had high
hopes that the new regime would take bold action to rescue the collapsing
Pakistani economy. For this reason, Washington has made no effort to pin
them down on a timetable for the restoration of civilian rule. In December,
the United States agreed to reschedule $950 million in Pakistani debts to
the U.S., a step that eases the way for the International Monetary Fund to
release a pending $250-million installment of its $1.32-billion rescue
package for Pakistan.
It is now increasingly clear that U.S. hopes for effective economic
leadership were unfounded. On controversial fiscal measures such as
tightened tax collections and the imposition of a sales tax, the junta has
proved to be vacillating and indecisive. Meanwhile, the economic situation
continues to deteriorate, and the regime is using its unchecked power to
silence critics.
Given Islamabad's desperate need for IMF aid, the U.S. has enormous
leverage. Washington should insist on a clear timetable for a return to
constitutional, civilian and democratic government as the precondition for
U.S. support of further aid from international financial institutions. On
his projected trip to South Asia, President Clinton should not visit
Pakistan unless a timetable is announced. The president should not authorize
further military sales to Pakistan that would undercut relations with India.
Islamabad has received $293 million in U.S. military sales during the past
three years.
History has shown that military regimes in Islamabad have not only been just
as corrupt as civilian governments but have invariably relied on tensions
with India to fortify their domestic control. The few limited breakthroughs
that have been made in Indo-Pakistan relations have come during periods of
civilian rule. Similarly, it is military governments that have been
primarily responsible for Pakistani support of Afghan fundamentalist
Islamic extremists never have done well in Pakistan at the polls, but they
are likely to grow progressively stronger in the streets as disenchantment
with the military regime deepens. In a polarized confrontation between the
generals and a disorganized opposition, fundamentalist strength will be
artificially inflated. Moving to a new elected leadership offers the last,
best hope to consolidate secular resistance to a fundamentalist takeover and
to defuse regional tensions. Indefinite military rule is the road to
internal chaos and another Indo-Pakistan war.

Type of Material: Opinion Piece

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