Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Crisis in Pakistan: A Marshall Plan for Pakistan?

Part 4 of a 6 part essay on the growing threat of the Taliban in Pakistan and how to combat it

In order to begin to permanently roll back the Taliban, the Pakistani government must give the Pakistani people confidence that it can effectively provide for them and can rule fairly and efficiently.

The capitalist governments of Western Europe faced similar challenges after WWII, when Communist parties were growing in appeal among disillusioned Europeans in the wake of the war’s utter devastation. At this critical juncture in history, the United States undertook a massive aid operation known as the Marshall Plan in which it funded reconstruction programs designed by individual Western countries. In this fashion, the United States helped Britain, France, Italy, and most other European countries to rebuild their infrastructure and lay the foundations for future prosperity. In enacting such recovery plans, the Western European governments regained the confidence of their citizens and halted the spread of Communism.

President Zardari has requested on occasion for Pakistan to receive a Marshall Plan of its own.[1] But what President Zardari envisions is largely an extension of the existing aid sent to Pakistan – aid that disappears off the radar once in Pakistan. What distinguished the original Marshall Plan from subsequent aid programs – and which has also made it by far the most successful of such programs – is that it required each European government to come up with its own specific recovery plan and means of implementing such a plan.[2]

A true replica of the Marshall Plan – in which the Pakistani government would design its own specific development program and detail exactly where and when money would be spent before receiving U.S. funding – may be exactly what Pakistan needs. The responsibility of having to come up with and execute plans for reform and development could compel the Pakistani government to root out corruption and increase efficiency. Holding the Pakistani government to a specific, detailed spending program, perhaps with inspections or Congressional benchmarks, would allow the United States to ensure that its aid was being put to its intended uses.

If designed and implemented correctly, this new Marshall Plan would not only help develop and reform Pakistan but would also help alleviate the discontent among the Pakistani public that the Taliban has been able to benefit so greatly from. The sight of the Pakistani government actively developing and reforming its country would greatly improve its standing among its people, who are unaccustomed to such action from its government. If the government became less corrupt and more efficient in the process of designing and executing such development and reform programs, it would also improve its standing among Pakistanis, who have grown cynical in the wake of past and ongoing government corruption. The positive economic impact such programs would have and the influx of jobs they would likely provide would also ease the discontent of the Pakistani public and may make them have more faith in the current system and be less enthusiastic of looking for a new system, which the Taliban has been offering.

Such a plan, provided it is done right, would be in the interest of many powerful figures and institutions in Pakistan. President Zardari should be very receptive to such a plan, as it would allow him to regain credibility with the public that he has all but lost in the wake of the episode with Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry and Nawaz Sharif last March.[3] The Pakistani Army should also support such a plan, as it would increase the legitimacy and popularity of the government, which would lessen the chance of insurrection; as non-chalant as its attitude toward the government is, the last thing the Pakistani Army wants to deal with is a full-blown rebellion or civil war. Moreover, if the Taliban attacked government workers trying to work on development projects, it would greatly harm the Taliban’s reputation among the Pakistani people and would provide easy justification for further retaliation against the Taliban.

Getting powerful regional leaders, particularly Nawaz Sharif – the “Lion of Punjab”[4] and President Zardari’s chief political rival – to approve of a Marshall Plan for Pakistan would be more difficult, as President Zardari would likely want to use his own people to execute the programs he designs so as to undercut his regional rivals. When reviewing such programs, then, the United States should insist on having some regional authorities carry out such programs as a condition for providing funding.

There is no better way of undermining the Taliban in the long term than to alleviate the discontent of the Pakistani public. A true Marshall Plan for Pakistan would do just that.

[1] http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/World/Pakistan/Zardari-seeks-aid-like-Marshall-Plan-for-Pakistan/articleshow/4412121.cms
[2] http://www.america.gov/st/peacesec-english/2008/May/20080522120728WRybakcuH0.1443598.html
[3] http://www.nytimes.com/2009/04/05/magazine/05zardari-t.html?_r=1&ref=magazine
[4] http://www.nytimes.com/2009/04/05/magazine/05zardari-t.html?_r=1&ref=magazine

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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

When will we see another post? Why have you gone silent? You are the best voice out there.