By Sara Flounders, International Action Center, Feb. 10, 2008
Sign the petition: U.S. OUT OF PAKISTAN CAMPAIGN
The internal crisis wrenching Pakistan today cannot be separated from the impact of decades of U.S. military aid and continuing intervention to support military dictatorship there.
Washington has actively supported political repression, including martial law, suspension of civil liberties, the detention of many thousands of lawyers, trade unionists and political activists and a growing number of “disappeared.”
Billions of dollars in U.S. military aid have encouraged corruption on a vast scale at all levels of the military and political parties. It has distorted the civilian institutions, led to political fragmentation and impoverished the country. U.S. intervention has exacerbated ethnic and religious divisions and strife.
For decades Washington has made generous funds available for police and intelligence agencies while infrastructure development, education, health and other social needs have been neglected. Pakistan is more than $40 billion in debt, much of it for U.S. military equipment. A few powerful land-owning families still hold the greatest share of wealth.
Military aid underdevelops Pakistan
A few statistics from UNICEF give the picture. Thirty percent of children are chronically malnourished and lack safe water and household sanitation, especially in rural areas. Pakistan spends less than 2.5 percent of its GDP on education. Only half of the 19 million children of primary school age are enrolled in school. Two-thirds of women are illiterate.
Pakistan is the sixth most populous country in the world with one of the largest Muslim populations. It has rich reserves of oil and natural gas. It has coal and iron deposits along with deepwater ports.
It has a large and militant trade union movement and an organized peasant movement.
Austerity measures imposed by the International Monetary Fund have resulted in currency devaluations and drastic cuts in already meager social services. To pay on its $40 billion national debt, Pakistan was forced by the IMF to sell off its most profitable state-owned enterprises, including the oil and gas facilities, to foreign capital.
The billions of dollars in military aid and the growing militarization of the Pakistani state have served U.S. foreign policy objectives and corporate interests against the Soviet Union, China, India and Iran. This aid has made Pakistan a center of military and covert intelligence operations.
The Pentagon sees Pakistan as a strategic crossroads in South Asia. It borders the Middle East, Central Asia and former Soviet republics and touches on China’s western frontier.
Just since 2001, Washington has injected $10 billion in military aid, distorting the political fabric of Pakistan. The Washington Post announced the day before the assassination of Benazir Bhutto last December that the U.S. was planning to send additional Special Forces to Pakistan to operate as “trainers” on its Afghanistan border. It also was selling F-16 jets, 700 surface-to-air missiles and surveillance planes to the regime of Gen. Pervez Musharraf.
Rising anti-U.S. sentiment
U.S. military intervention is so linked to dictatorship and repression that a deep current of anti-U.S. sentiment exists in Pakistan today. Even Musharraf makes a point of not appearing to be too compliant to U.S. dictates. There is reportedly deep suspicion of U.S. motives within the ranks of the Pakistani military and the feared ISI—the intelligence organization.
Since Sept. 11, 2001, the military aid and deepening U.S. involvement in Pakistan have been justified as part of Washington´s “war on terror.” But the U.S. buildup of the Pakistani military did not begin in 2001
Pakistan has been a major client state since the days of the Cold War. It was an essential part of the SEATO and CENTO alliances that encircled the Soviet Union.
In that period elected civilian governments were short-lived. They were soon overthrown by the military, who got instant diplomatic recognition and aid from Washington.
In the 60 years since independence, Pakistan has had only 14 years of democratic government.
A pawn in the cold war
In 1977, with immediate U.S. support and encouragement, the popularly elected government of President Ali Bhutto was overthrown in a coup headed by Gen. Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq. Bhutto was executed by the military in 1979.
This was followed a year later by the launching of a covert CIA war in Afghanistan against a popular, anti-feudal government. This CIA operation was in full swing months before Soviet intervention and assistance to Afghanistan began.
Throughout the 1980s the CIA used the ISI, the Pakistani intelligence service, to organize the very forces that the U.S. now wants the Pakistani military to crush in the border areas with Afghanistan.
Washington has consistently chosen to support dictatorships in Pakistan even though the political leaders of the opposition, like the assassinated Benazir Bhutto, a multi-billionaire, are bourgeois and have ties to U.S. and British imperialism.
The constant coups and years of military rule have been aimed at repressing militant mass movements and resistance movements among oppressed national minorities, especially in the provinces of Waziristan and Balochistan.
Since Musharraf’s declaration of a state of emergency in November, the country has been in political turmoil. The regime is now discredited and internally divided. U.S. efforts to hastily cobble together a coalition of the dictatorship and the Bhutto forces ended with Bhutto’s assassination.
Washington’s solution is only more of the same. As in Iraq and Afghanistan, its latest schemes are to force Pakistan to accept U.S. forces and more military equipment.
In the long run such measures will be no more successful than the debacle Washington is facing in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Sign the petition: U.S. OUT OF PAKISTAN CAMPAIGN