Kerry-Lugar Bill and Zardari’s Countdown?

The bill of financial assistance for Pakistan presented in the US congress by Senators John Kerry and Richard Lugar has fueled a heated debate in Pakistani media, parliament and political parties. Newspaper columnists, television anchor persons and opposition political leaders are blasting the bill for, what they call it “the controversial conditions that embarrasses Pakistan’s sovereignty and security”.

Pakistan Army in its public statement after a Corps Commanders meeting announced strong concerns over the bill and “its impacts on the national security of Pakistan”. The military statement said “army has strong concerns over this bill and the parliament representing the people of Pakistan can decide on this issue and help the Government to prepare a national reaction to the bill”. The Chief of Pakistan Army, General Ashfaq Kiyani in a meeting with General Stanley McChrystal, the top US commander in Afghanistan has expressed his concerns over the conditions of the bill.

On the other hand, the Government of Pakistan People’s Party—that has a history of rift with military rulers—under President Asif Zardari has been defending the bill in media and parliament. The Information Minister after the military reaction said “all those opposing the bill should read it”.

The military statement on the US aid legalization was public rather than sending message to the Government through a proper channel. It shows that the army high commands are intensely unhappy with the bill.

The conditions of Kerry-Lugar Bill—The Enhancement Partnership with Pakistan Act of 2009—that has raised the temperature of anti-Americanism in Pakistani media and opposition political circles are;

There is no condition on the development aid to Pakistan through this bill, but for military the Bill asks the Secretary of State to certify to the Congress that;

Pakistan is continuing its cooperation with the US and its efforts to dismantle supplier networks relating to the acquisition of nuclear weapons-related materials, such as proving relevant information from or direct access to Pakistani nationals associated with such networks.

Pakistan is trying to eliminate the extremists and control on the elements within the Pakistan military or its intelligence agencies, which are suspected of rendering support to Al Qaeda, the Taliban and such groups as the Lashkar-i-Taiba and Jaish-i-Mohammed.

Pakistan is destroying the terrorists’ centers in its cities of Quetta and Muridke near Lahore which are serving as bases for terrorist operations.

Pakistan army is not trying to interfere in the political and judicial process of the country.

Other than these, the bill also asks Secretary of State to report about how much control is exercised by the government over all military matters, including its budget, chain of command, promotion process and involvement in civilian affairs.

Abovementioned are the conditions most criticized by media and opposition political circles in Pakistan. There are speculations about the countdown of President Zardari’s government following the strong opposition of army to the Kerry-Lugar bill. In the 60 years of Pakistan’s history, in which military has ruled for more than 25 years, whenever there has been any serious rift between the military decision makers and civilian government, the latter’s departure countdown has been started from that day. A similar fear is being expressed for the near future of President Zardari’s government.

The opposition from political parties is more political than rational. But the military opposition for the Kerry-Lugar bill is mostly due to the assessment and control on army promotion, its budget and as the bill says, “Elements within the Pakistan military or its intelligence agencies, which are suspected of rendering support to Al Qaeda, the Taliban and such groups as the Lashkar-i-Taiba and Jaish-i-Mohammed.” They consider it against the national security and sovereignty of Pakistan. It’s obvious that military which has ruled Pakistan more than about half its history would react to such words like “involvement in civilian affairs, or promotion and budget”.

Opposition political parties including Nawaz Sharif’s Pakistan Muslim League-N, the right wing extreme religious parties like Jamat e Islami and Tehrik e Insaaf—the non-beard extremists—are all aimed at midterm elections. Kerry-Lugar bill is the most suitable weapon for them against the government of President Zardari. The two other major political parties of Pakistan, allied with PPP in coalition are Mutahida Qawmi Movement and Awami National Party, who have kept mum on Kerry-Lugar so far. According to the joint Accord of Democracy between PPP and PML-N, both the parties had promised the people of Pakistan to avoid military involvement in the political affairs of the country, but now that the army in a public statement is asking the Government about army’s concerns, the political parties have kept mum.  Mr. Nawaz Sharif, chief of PML-N is out of the country, while his brother, the Governor of Punjab province  Shehbaz Sharif, and PML-N leader in Parliament Nisar Ali Khan have met army Chief General Ashfaq Pervez Kiyani secretly. Such meetings make the Zardari-countdown more speculated

After these concerns, an “explanotry” document has been attached to the Bill, now signed by President Obama. Apparently, the issue seems to be settled down. But the rift between military decision makers and civilian government is not ended. It takes Pakistan into a deeper political chaos, when security is already worst across the country.

The bill of financial assistance for Pakistan presented in the US congress by Senators John Kerry and Richard Lugar has fueled a heated debate in Pakistani media, parliament and political parties. Newspaper columnists, television anchor persons and opposition political leaders are blasting the bill for, what they call it “the controversial conditions that embarrasses Pakistan’s sovereignty and security”.

Pakistan Army in its public statement last week after a Corps Commanders meeting announced strong concerns over the bill and “its impacts on the national security of Pakistan”. The military statement said “army has strong concerns over this bill and the parliament representing the people of Pakistan can decide on this issue and help the Government to prepare a national reaction to the bill”. According to source, the Chief of Pakistan Army, General Ashfaq Kiyani in a meeting with General Stanley McChrystal, the top US commander in Afghanistan has expressed his concerns over the conditions of the bill.

On the other hand, the Government of Pakistan People’s Party—that has a history of rift with military rulers—under President Asif Zardari has been defending the bill in media and parliament. The Information Minister after the military reaction said “all those opposing the bill should read it”.

The military statement on the US aid legalization was public rather than sending message to the Government through a proper channel. It shows that the army high command are intensely unhappy with the bill and in an already-tempered public atmosphere such a public statement can be seen rarely in the past history of military-civilian government clash.

The conditions of Kerry-Lugar Bill—The Enhancement Partnership with Pakistan Act of 2009—that has raised the temperature of anti-Americanism in Pakistani media and opposition political circles are;

There is no condition on the development aid to Pakistan through this bill, but for military the Bill asks the Secretary of State to certify to the Congress that;

Pakistan is continuing its cooperation with the US and its efforts to dismantle supplier networks relating to the acquisition of nuclear weapons-related materials, such as proving relevant information from or direct access to Pakistani nationals associated with such networks.

Pakistan is trying to eliminate the extremists and control on the elements within the Pakistan military or its intelligence agencies, which are suspected of rendering support to Al Qaeda, the Taliban and such groups as the Lashkar-i-Taiba and Jaish-i-Mohammed.

Pakistan is destroying the terrorists’ centers in its cities of Quetta and Muridke near Lahore which are serving as bases for terrorist operations.

Pakistan army is not trying to interfere in the political and judicial process of the country.

Other than this, the bill also asks Secretary of State to report about how much control is exercised by the government over all military matters, including its budget, chain of command, promotion process and involvement in civilian affairs.

Abovementioned are the conditions most criticized by media and opposition political circles in Pakistan. There are speculations about the countdown of President Zardari’s government following the strong opposition of army high command to the Kerry-Lugar bill. The Pakistani Ambassador to Washington, Hussain Haqqani, who was a fierce supporter of the bill, is already said to be soon replaced with Ambassador Maliha Lodhi. In the 60 years of Pakistan’s history, in which military has ruled for more than 25 years, whenever there has been any serious rift between the military decision makers and civilian government, the latter’s departure countdown has been started from that day. A similar fear is being expressed for the near future of President Zardari’s government.

The opposition from political parties is more political than rational. But the military opposition for the Kerry-Lugar bill is mostly due to the assessment and control on army promotion, its budget and as the bill says, “Elements within the Pakistan military or its intelligence agencies, which are suspected of rendering support to Al Qaeda, the Taliban and such groups as the Lashkar-i-Taiba and Jaish-i-Mohammed.” They consider it against the national security and sovereignty of Pakistan. It’s obvious that military which has ruled Pakistan more about half its history would react to such words of invovlment in civilian affairs, or promotion and budget. But the Pakistani Ambassador to Washington, who might be replaced very soon, has said that why there should be opposition to terms like action against Jaish-e-Muhammad and Lashkar-e-Taiba, when Pakistan is against such groups?

Opposition political parties including Nawaz Sharif’s Pakistan Muslim League-N, the right wing extreme religious parties like Jamat e Islami and Tehrik e Insaaf—the non-beard extremists—are all aimed at midterm elections. Kerry-Lugar bill is the most suitable weapon for them against the government of President Zardari. The two other major political parties of Pakistan, allied with PPP in coalition are Mutahida Qawmi Movement and Awami National Party have kept mum on Kerry-Lugar so far. According to the joint Accord of Democracy between PPP and PML-N, both the parties had promised the people of Pakistan to avoid military involvement in the political affairs of the country, but now that the army in a public statement is asking the Government about army’s concerns, the political parties have kept mum.  Mr. Nawaz Sharif, chief of PML-N is out of the country, while his brother, the Governor of Punjab province  Shehbaz Sharif, and PML-N leader in Parliament Nisar Ali Khan have called on with army Chief General Ashfaq Pervez Kiyani. Such meetings make the Zardari-countdown clearer.

In such a situation the Government of President Zardari will have options to whether reject the US aid bill through parliament, or to ask the US for amendments, which seems very difficult after it has been already passed from both the houses in the States. If it approves the bill through parliament, which is possible due to the majority that the coalition parties have, the countdown of President Zardari would get faster.

In case the bill is rejected and there is no amendment, the US-Pak relationship, vital for the war on terror in Afghanistan, would get the efforts to a less affective sway. It will badly affect the very own efforts of Pakistan army in tribal areas against Pakistani Taliban, who are now capable of attacking the very heart of military—Generals Headquarters. The military operation in South Waziristan has been started right a day after the audacious Taliban attack on the Headquarters of Pak Army.  It’s obvious that Pakistan cannot bear the heavy expenses of the war against extremists and terrorists.

Such a huge multibillion dollar aid legislation has been passed unanimously from the US congress, was not expected to spark such controversies. The bill would give Pakistan $1.5 billion annually over the next five years for economic and social development programs. It will triple the US civilian aid for Pakistan. The Government of Pakistan and US administration needs to bring about a midway on this controversial bill and resolve the issue under a common agreement. It’s in the best interest of Pakistan and the US war on terror.

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