Thursday, May 29, 2008

Gilani Wants "Democracy Dividend" For Pakistan

Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani of Pakistan wants to "deliver democracy dividend" to the people. To understand the term "democracy dividend" you'd have to think of the 1990s in the United States. When the cold war ended, there was a "peace dividend" that went to the people of the United States. It came in the form of defense budget cuts that freed funds to stimulate the US economy and wipe out the budget deficits during the Clinton administration. It seems like a very distant memory now as the US debts are piling up again and the war in Iraq continues to be a serious drain on the US economy.

So what does Mr. Gillani have in mind about "democracy dividend" in Pakistan? Talking with Zahid Husain of the Wall Street Journal, Mr. Gilani said further U.S. assistance "will help deliver a democracy dividend to the people" after Pakistan held landmark elections for a new parliament in February. He also said further aid is needed to help provide political and economic stability as the nation seeks to fight terrorism. Pakistan has received more than $11 billion from the U.S., most of which has gone to the military, since it joined the U.S.-led fight against terrorism following the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. Mr. Gilani didn't specify how much further assistance Pakistan is seeking. He made his case for further aid during a recent meeting in the Middle East with President Bush.

So what does Mr. Gillani offer the US in return for further assistance? The prime minister said Pakistani forces would remain deployed along the border. And he emphasized the need to increase the strength of Afghan troops on the Afghan side of the border, saying there is an inadequate force to protect against border crossings.

Mr. Gilani said he would maintain a working relationship with Mr. Musharraf for now. "I have no problem working with him, but will go by the party's decision," the prime minister said.

Based on the contents of the Wall Street Journal interview, it seems Mr. Gillani is willing to work with President Musharraf and continue to fight the war on terror alongside the US. However, convincing the US of Pakistan's seriousness would be difficult. As widely reported, there are efforts to undermine President Musharraf's powers in a new package presented by the PPP. The other irritant will be Pakistan's decision to make deals with the militants in the tribal and settled areas in defiance of the US wishes.

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