9 August 2010

Changing the Game in Pakistan - letter in today's Evening Standard

This is my letter on latest developments in Pakistan/Afghanistan published in today's Evening Standard:

The fuss over David Cameron's comments on Pakistan exporting terror and his subsequent attempts to repair bridges has been hugely overblown. Given the recent historical context the prospect of relations between Britain and Pakistan being damaged was remote, and Friday's agreement between Zardari and Cameron only reaffirmed the close long-standing military-intelligence co-operation between the countries.

What would have been welcome, but we didn't get, was any consideration following Cameron's comments of whether the relationship between Britain and Pakistan has been counterproductive. Because we are intent on a military solution in Afghanistan, we have become dependent on Pakistan; but the correlation between the troop surge in Afghanistan and the 90 per cent increase in insurgent violence - with executions of aid workers and other civilians becoming increasingly common - shows how the military approach has failed. Militant groups sustained by the situation in Pakistan are the fallback to supply communities with medical aid, infrastructure and education, increasing the Taliban's grip on the country.

If we change our approach by redirecting military spending into development spending in Afghanistan and Pakistan, the situation would change radically. To get things moving in Pakistan,
should we not re-consider our policy of unconditional military aid to Islamabad - or even consider sanctions? It would be a radical departure from current policy, but we should at least have the debate about it.

Dr Nafeez Ahmed
author, A User's Guide to the Crisis of Civilization (Pluto 2010)

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