The Magazine

Our Pakistan Challenge

Something good can come out of the emergency.

Nov 19, 2007, Vol. 13, No. 10 • By DANIEL TWINING
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The Pakistani army also needs such a deal to salvage its prestige after the latest crisis. "Pervez Musharraf has done what none of Islamabad's worst adversaries, including India, could imagine, let alone promote: robbing the army of its political legitimacy," notes the Indian Express. To win the long war on terrorism, we need the Pakistani military to be a partner respected for its professionalism, not reviled for its usurpation of political power.

Strong public expressions of American support, rather than mixed messages from our civilian and military leaders, would strengthen the hand of Pakistani democrats in the face of unchecked military power. If we publicly support civilian leaders, they will be able to play the "America card" in negotiations with the generals. It will also signal Pakistan's moderate majority that we stand with them. With our strong encouragement, America's many friends in the Pakistani officer corps might also press Musharraf for a democratic outcome that preserves our military partnership. America could also mediate military aid through democratic channels following new elections, giving Pakistan's civilian leaders oversight of U.S. assistance programs and making the officer corps stakeholders in the success of civilian government.

Pakistan's army is an important ally in the war on terror. But America needs a policy towards Pakistan, not just its army. We cannot win this war without the support of the country's moderate majority. "If you want to take the country away from Talibanization, these are the people who can do it, the secular middle class," as one Pakistani lawyer told the New York Times. American support for military rule in Pakistan is alienating our natural allies in the country--the lawyers who brave police truncheons on behalf of constitutional rule, the reporters who refuse to be censored by men in uniform, and the professionals and workers who just want to live in a society under law, where economic prosperity holds out a better future than the otherworldly promises of religious fanatics. In Pakistan, our true interest lies in working with civilian and military leaders for a democratic outcome to the current crisis that gives the moderate majority a stake and a voice in our common struggle against the terrorists.

Daniel Twining is the Fulbright/Oxford Scholar at Oxford
University and a transatlantic fellow of the German Marshall Fund of the United States.