It is still unclear what exactly transpired during a recent deadly NATO attack on two military border posts in Pakistan that killed 24 Pakistani soldiers, but it is clear that the Pakistani government, at least in public, will no longer continue cooperating with the U.S. to the extent that they have been since 9/11. The cooperation of Pakistan has been extremely important for the U.S. in their attempt to take out the terrorists that have now crossed the border into Pakistan, ironically due to U.S. actions in Afghanistan.
The dilemma the U.S. has is that they declared war in Afghanistan, but they could not declare war in Pakistan, a nuclear-armed democratic nation. The U.S. then decided to hand out billions of dollars to the Pakistani government in exchange for their cooperation and their permission for the U.S. military to strike targets across the border into Pakistan. The Pakistani government had basically agreed to sell out its sovereignty to the United States.
But now this agreement is in jeopardy due to the increasingly higher-profile U.S. actions in Pakistan, including the May raid that killed Osama bin Laden. Pakistan has had their sovereignty violated by the U.S. many times before, but high profile actions like the bin Laden raid and the NATO attack are forcing Pakistan to publicly fight to save their image.
It is clear now that the approach both the U.S. and Pakistan took was completely shortsighted. The only solution to this problem lies in the hands of the Pakistani people. It is clear that the Pakistani government and the powerful Pakistan Army are corrupt and have been obsessed with gaining regional and international power, and not solving domestic issues like the electricity and sanitized water shortages.
Only when they have a people-supported government will Pakistan be able to control the lawless border area without violating their sovereignty, and only then will the anti-Americanism that fuels so much of the terrorist activities in the area begin to die down.
What must happen in Pakistan is something similar to the Progressive movement in the U.S. that took place from the 1890s to the 1920s. The Progressive movement was a response to the immense corruption in the political system and an attempt by the people to reclaim the government. The movement led to the creation of the initiative, referendum and recall processes, giving more power to the people to bypass corrupt politicians. The movement also fought to take away the influences of the political insiders by passing a constitutional amendment requiring that the people, and not the state legislatures, elect senators.
For Pakistan to modernize, they must have their own Progressive movement that encourages social activism and taking control of their democracy. If they can rise up and institute reforms that encourage direct citizen involvement in their country, like having direct presidential elections instead of the current indirect system in which politicians from Parliament and provincial assemblies do the voting, then the people of Pakistan will modernize their country and make it safe for themselves and also more safe for the West.
If there is a citizen-serving and citizen-supported government in Pakistan, then the unchecked power of the military will also be reduced. When there is a government that is supported by the people, the military will not be able to supplant it as easily as it has in the numerous military coups that have occurred in Pakistan’s history. This will all bring much-needed stability to a country that the U.S. cannot afford to see become unstable.
A Pakistani Progressive movement will certainly not solve every problem. It will likely even create a few problems, especially if the people of Pakistan abuse their power to directly create laws. Initiatives and referendums have not always led to positive results in the U.S., and it can certainly happen in Pakistan. But the crucial thing is establishing a new system where the politicians work for the people and, most importantly, the people are aware of it.
If the people of Pakistan know that it is not corrupt politicians or foreign countries that control the destiny of their country, but it is the people themselves, then Pakistan will emerge from the ashes of the Third World. When Pakistan becomes this country, then the U.S. will not have to buy their sovereignty to fight terrorism because cleaning up Pakistan and safeguarding prosperity and security will become their own No. 1 priority.