Trump’s triumph: Likely costs and benefits for Pakistan



M. Ziauddin

President (elect) Trump is an unknown entity for Pakistan despite the kind of campaign that Trump ran as a candidate. But the Republican Party has been a too- familiar entity in Pakistan to cause any sleepless nights in Rawalpindi by Trump’s victory. In fact this Party has remained very close to our establishment all through the last 70 years while the Democrats had shown a clear tilt towards India even during the cold war.
Nixon, Reagan, the senior Bush and his son were known to have been staunch supporters of our establishment while they had kept Pakistan’s democratic forces at a distance.
Of course, despite his hostility towards India, President Nixon could not stop New Delhi from forcibly dismembering Pakistan in 1971. But his administration is believed to have successfully warned India against casting an evil eye against the residual Pakistan because Nixon was beholden to President General Yahya Khan for the help he had extended to him and his Secretary of State Kissinger to mend fences with China.
Similarly, President Reagan was beholden to President General Ziaul Haq for the assistance he had extended to the US to wipe the Soviet Union completely out of the world map. And President GW Bush was a tight buddy of President General Musharraf for the help he had extended to the US in ousting Osama Bin Laden from Afghanistan and bringing to an end a fundamentalist regime of Taliban in Kabul.
The senior Bush—President HW Bush — punished Pakistan for abandoning military dictatorship and turning to democracy in 1988 by slapping it with sanctions in 1990 under the Pressler Amendment for crossing the nuclear red-line while his predecessor President Reagan had looked the other way when General Zia had actually crossed it just because of the military dictator’s help in taking care of the Soviet Union.
Of course, Bill and Hillary were in awe of Benazir Bhutto as she emerged on the world map as the first female Prime Minister of a Muslim-majority country. This was when Bill was still some years from the US Presidency.
And by the time Bill defeated the senior Bush the establishment in Pakistan was looking for a scapegoat to pass the blame for terror activities in the Middle East including Egypt as the outgoing President HW Bush was mulling over a file needing his signature. It was a notification declaring Pakistan a terrorist state. Being very close to Pakistani establishment senior Bush thought it best to leave it to the incoming Democratic President to do the needful.
Our establishment found in the then Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif a tailor-made scapegoat and ousted him blaming him first of corruption and then when this charge failed to hold in the superior court kicked him out blaming him for creating a constitutional crisis.
The establishment brought back Benazir Bhutto believing that her friendship with the Clintons would save us from the ignominy of being declared a terrorist state. They were proven correct as President Clinton filed the file in question without signing it.
But then while President Bill Clinton was busy in the elections for the second term his friend Benazir was ousted from power the second time. In fact the establishment chose Nov. 5, 1996, only three days before the US elections, to show the door to Benazir. And, by the time President Bill Clinton had taken oath for second term it was all over in Pakistan as our elections had by that time returned Nawaz Sharif for the second term as Prime Minister.
And, by the time the junior Bush had won the elections, the establishment was back in the saddle in Pakistan in the person of President General Musharraf, thanks largely to the Bill Clinton administration’s obsession for apprehending Osama bin Laden who had taken sanctuary in Afghanistan after having attacked simultaneously on August 7, 1998 two US embassies, one in Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania and the other in Nairobi, Kenya killing 200 people.
The attacks, which were linked to local members of the Egyptian Islamic Jihad, brought Osama bin Laden, Ayman al-Zawahiri, and their terrorist organization, al-Qaeda, to the attention of the American public for the first time, and resulted in the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) placing bin Laden on its 10 most-wanted fugitives list.
And, during the two terms of the Republican President GW Bush there was a clear tilt towards Pakistan’s establishment as compared to America’s official posture towards our democratic forces.
Meanwhile, Benazir Bhutto in exile after having neutralized the PML-N and the MQM, the first one by signing the Charter of Democracy with Nawaz Sharif and then arriving at an understanding with the second one by agreeing to Altaf Hussain’s monetary and political demands (finalized by Rehman Malik on behalf of PPP and Anwer Bhai on behalf of MQM) had successfully ‘corrected’ the tilt of Republican Party towards Pakistan’s democratic forces. For details of this development one only has to go through former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice’s book (No Higher Honor—A memoir of my years in Washington). However, the price that Benazir had probably promised to pay for this ‘correction’ in the tilt was perhaps not acceptable to someone in Pakistan, and therefore, the terrorists (good? or bad?) took care of her as soon as she came back from exile against the wishes of President General Musharraf.
And as expected the succeeding Democratic regime of Barack Hussain Obama spent the next 10 years in re-tilting back to India, a process which his predecessor had already begun compelled by America’s growing concern about the rising China. They kept on asking us to do more.
There are a number of joint Obama-Modi statements that have criticized Pakistan for allegedly providing sanctuary to ‘good’ terrorists and for also not punishing those that caused the Mumbai massacre. The two seem to be taking a similar position on the Uri incident.
During the Cold War India was in the USSR camp, therefore, we were wooed by the Americans and designated as the most-allied ally until we served their interests of fighting their war in Afghanistan against the Soviet Union and helping them remove this super power from the world map.
But now the scenario seems reversed. India is opposed to China, a power whose rise Washington wants to stop while Pakistan has gone completely into the camp of this rising power. And with the launch of the One Road, One Belt project which includes the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) we seem to have chosen to be on the opposing side of Washington’s policy in this region.
India appears to have already finalized a stratagem to counter the self-perceived threats to its sovereignty and integrity emanating from CPEC. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has openly declared his country’s intentions to foment trouble in Balochistan believing perhaps that once an insurgency in the province heats up, the uncertainty, that would engulf the region as a result, would make it impossible for the CPEC project to take off. It is also objecting to the Corridor passing through Gilgit-Baltistan which in its opinion is a disputed territory and it, therefore, claims that the region cannot be used for any purpose without prior permission from New Delhi. India fears that China would set up its military base in GB in collaboration with Pakistan making it doubly dangerous for India’s occupation of Held Kashmir.
India also fears that once CPEC takes a final shape it would render the Chabahar sea port redundant, its supplies of oil from Iraq, Iran and Saudi Arabia would become totally dependent on the good will of Pakistan and China and its plans to capture the Central Asian market would be nipped in the bud, as China will be able to access in the shortest possible time the CA states through CPEC while India would be left with its round-about route going through Afghanistan which is still in the grip of a wasteful war. The US agrees with India on all these aspects.
However, some politically influential quarters in India believe that with the completion of the CPEC Pakistan would be focusing its attention more on the economy which they think would create conditions conducive for those currently indulging in militancy to adjust themselves in gainful employment which in turn would vastly lessen the threat of cross-border terrorism. These quarters also believe that India too could take advantage of CPEC by linking itself with the project which in turn would neutralize the threat it believes it would face with the Chinese Navy stationed in Gwadar and its Army massing troops in GB. Perhaps Pakistan could take the initiative in this regard by offering Afghanistan and India transit trade route through Pakistan which the two countries have been longing for decades. This move would perhaps neutralize India’s plans to foment trouble in Balochistan.