Pakistani-U.S. issues result in discussion

Pakistan’s military approach may change under the newly elected government.

Riham Feshir

With the Pakistan’s Peoples Party victory in the parliamentary elections earlier this month, economic and military changes are underway – and in the future, the country’s reputation could change as well.

On Saturday, the Pakistani Student Association invited political analysts to discuss the United States’ relationship with Pakistan and clear misconceptions of the country being an “American puppet” in terms of military support and the war on terror.

“The United States has a pursued policy which is based on personalities, rather than establishing links with the people in Pakistan,” political analyst and author Shuja Nawaz said.

The United States hasn’t established links with the people in Pakistan for a better understanding of what the United States is doing in the region, he said. Instead, it’s solely cooperating with President Pervez Musharraf.

“The U.S. has supplied the Pakistani army with military equipment to try to hunt out al-Qaida,” anthropology professor Bill Beeman said. “But often times in these dictatorial situations, the military equipment is used to suppress the population.”

With the new prime minster Yousaf Raza Gillani, what the new government plans to do is partially diplomatic and partially military, which differs from Musharraf’s approach of engaging in costly military endeavors, said Ali Eteraz, a Jewcy magazine columnist.

“The democratic parliament is hoping to (create) a mixed counterterrorism approach,” he said.

Political science junior and Pakistani student Kauwel Qazi said the new government is considering doing peace talks.

“They’re going for a different approach, they’re obviously unhappy with the current situation,” she said.

Since Sept. 11, the United States has promised Pakistan approximately $11 billion for military assistance, the panelists said.

But the economic assistance has been “very little and very late,” Nawaz said. He added the United States has not provided all the assistance it has promised.

Although some say the United States pressures President Musharraf to impose military policies that negatively affect the rest of the opposing population, it’s in his favor to remain allies with the United States.

“President Musharraf would not be in power if it weren’t for support from the United States,” Beeman said.

Since the elections, the first large riot occurred last week in Karachi, involving the pro-Musharraf party of Muttahida Quami Movement against the current coalition of the Peoples Party and the Muslim League- Nawaz Group, according to the Pakistan Daily Times.

“(The MQM is) always involved in some sort of violent reaction in Karachi,” Eteraz said.

The combination of political unrest with Musharraf’s militaristic rule causes for an unstable economic situation, Beeman said.

“There has been a massive increase in food and oil prices over the last couple of months,” he said.

The inflation rate in March was the highest in 13 years, Beeman added.

Others came to discuss the availability of public education funding in the country.

First-year architecture student Lauren Tehan said she’s working on a U.N Millennium Development Goals research project. One of the project’s goals is to provide universal primary education by 2015.

“Overall, we’re just interested to see how Pakistan as a nation has taken on the millennium development goals and the efforts they’re making specifically in terms of our goal,” she said.