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E-Letter To Rep. Hilliard, Rep. Lee, Rep. McKinney, Rep. Meeks, Rep. Payne, and Rep. Watson Re: Your Meeting With President Pervez Musharraf


I am writing to you because I have learned that Pakistani officials have expressed their desire through Rep. Major Owens (D-NY) for a private meeting between Pakistan's President Pervez Musharraf and the members of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC). Unfortunately, from the latest that I have learned, due to tensions and concern for protocol among CBC members; as well as a deferential attitude held by CBC members toward other members of the United States Congress, the potential private meeting between Mr. Musharraf and the CBC has not been finalized. Apparently, because Rep. Owens is not a member of the House International Relations Committee and the plans for a meeting were not arranged directly through the Black Caucus' members who sit on the International Relations Committee, nor through the office of Black Caucus Chairwoman Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson( D-Tx.) CBC members are hesitant to accept the opportunity to meet with President Musharraf. The result is that CBC members who want to meet with President Musharraf as a group will have to be satisfied with only a previously arranged bipartisan, bicameral meeting between President Musharraf and members of the United States Congress, early this morning. Those within the CBC who are still holding out hope for a President Musharraf-CBC meeting, have tentatively scheduled the get together immediately after the Pakistani leader addresses the top leadership of both the House of Representatives and Senate. But even that tentative meeting, between CBC members and Mr. Musharraf, we have learned, may include the entire House International Relations Committee, which of course, includes non-CBC members.

The reason that I see the dimming prospects of such an exclusive meeting, between you and Mr. Musharraf as unfortunate, is due to the great role that I believe the CBC can play in improving U.S. foreign policy, as it affects every corner of the world. The members of the Black Caucus, such as yourself, share a unique history and sensitivity which forms a worldview, that frankly, the other members of the United Congress do not have. And if the Black Caucus were to ever seriously unite with the Hispanic Caucus and focus on impacting U.S. foreign policy abroad, I am convinced that the influence of such would result in poverty and terrorism being reduced dramatically. Just the background of you six distinguished members of the House of Representatives International Relations Committee is staggering. I am confident that if the world's political leaders, particularly in Africa, the Middle East and the Islamic World would regularly access your wise counsel and insight, and if President Bush would do the same, on a regular basis, we would be well on our way to beating our swords into plowshares and our spears into pruning hooks, as it is written in the book of Isaiah.

In the hopes that you may be able to salvage a private meeting with President Musharraff, I am asking that you would consider discussing a few subjects with the General, who I believe is performing the political balancing act of a lifetime. I have believed, since last year and still do believe, that General Musharraf may not survive, politically, or otherwise, due to the combination of internal problems that pre-date the events of September 11th, 2001 as well as the geopolitical and economic problems that are the direct result of President Bush's "war on terrorism", since October. And if President Bush has already decided to widen the war on terrorism into places like Iraq, Indonesia, the Philippines and even Iran, then President Musharaff's days in power, I believe, are increasingly numbered.

There are a few subjects that deserve the internal discussion of the CBC, and immediate attention of President Musharaff and the Bush administration, if the Pakistani leader is to survive politically. I believe that your influence on General Musharraf and President Bush, as a united front, can make the difference in a Pakistan-United States relationship that is currently guided more by the urgent "war on terrorism" than it is by the important principles that would guide a mutually beneficial relationship - freedom, justice and equality.

The F-16 Fighter Jet issue. For nearly 4 years, I have worked to publicize the fact that the United States government, primarily under the administration of President Bill Clinton denied the Pakistan government, for nearly a decade, tens of F-16 fighter jets that it paid for. Not only were the fighter jets kept, but so were hundreds of millions of dollars that were sent to the United States to pay for the planes. And to add insult to financial injury, the United States even charged Pakistan fees for warehousing the jets on U.S. soil. If that were not enough, the United States government, conducted some nifty bookkeeping work that resulted in food aid that is normally sent to Pakistan, suddenly being accounted for - by the numbers-crunchers in Washington D.C. - as a credit to the U.S. F-16 account. To this day, Pakistani political leaders deny that they approved such a credit. The issue has become quite a controversy in Pakistan and has been used against General Musharraf by hardliners at home who believe that he is a puppet of the United States government. Knowing all of this and the compromised position of the Pakistani leader, the Bush administration, late last year, flatly rejected President Musharraf's efforts to secure the release of the planes that were paid for nearly 10 years ago. The issue and the Bush administration's treatment of Mr. Musharraf, juxtaposed to it remains an embarrassment and political vulnerability for the embattled general, who has yet to hold elections since taking power in a coup in 1999.

The IMF Conditionality issue. The agreement reached between Pakistan and the IMF is the typical cookie-cutter approach taken by the multilateral institution whenever it dishes out advice to economically developing countries. The CBC should be clear that the IMF is calling the shots on reform in the Pakistani economy, not Pakistani leaders or voters. The cookie-cutter austerity program, on the monetary policy end, includes the standard treatment:

-a floor on net foreign assets
-a ceiling on net domestic assets
-an inflation target

It may sound good on paper but as is currently the case in South Africa, the ineffectiveness of an "inflation-targetting" monetary policy is well-known. Unfortunately, Pakistan does not utilize the proper monetary policy instruments necessary to significantly reduce inflation. And since foreign assets aren't coming in and domestic assets can't be raised above a ceiling, Pakistan's currency is headed for even bigger trouble than it rests in, right now. In an effort to meet the IMF's foreign reserve requirements, Pakistan raised short-term interest rates to close to 13%. This approach to creating an artificial demand for a domestic currency never works and will only result in a decrease in available liquidity to the struggling poor and middle-class in Pakistan. It also ensures, over time, stratospheric mortgage rates. In addition, the IMF program mandates a list of privatization, liberalization, and political reforms to implement if the aid is to continue. This is simply bad political economy. Because these policies, conditions and reforms are being imposed on Pakistan from an external force, there is no guarantee of their domestic support, which means that the continuation of any good aspects to the IMF-program can't be ensured. It also cannot be determined, because Pakistan does not have an elastic political process, if these reforms are even desired by the citizenry. As has been the case in Nigeria and most recently Indonesia, the only way to be sure if the people disapprove of the IMF conditions, once implemented, is by reading the level of dissatisfaction expressed as social unrest i.e. riots and work stoppages. Pakistan can ill afford either indicator. Although Pakistan needs the short-term financial assistance from the IMF, it is paying a heavy price for such, in the long term. And finally, because Pakistan is in so much external debt, over $30 billion worth, any IMF assistance or financial aid from the U.S. is really only balance of payment support or financing for weapons purchases by Pakistani generals. In either case, the money has a better chance of ending up in Paris, London or New York City, than it does in Islamabad.

The Trade and Textile issue. Pakistan, in the midst of a horrific economic downturn, partly due to the impact of the war on terrorism, has been pleading with the United States to lower tariffs on goods entering the United States from Pakistan. Unfortunately, some of the most vocal in opposition to lowering tarrifs against Pakistan have been members of the U.S. Congress and even some who argue that because Africa and the Caribbean have just begun to experience lower tariff rates, Pakistan should not enjoy duty and quota-free treatment for its textile exports. Others like Congressman Robert Aderholt argue that helping Pakistan's farmers and manufacturers makes no sense when, "when so many rural American towns that depend on clothing factories are in trouble." This argument sounds plausible on the surface but diminishes and even evaporates when one projects the impact on the U.S. and global economy that a destabilized Pakistan would produce. Furthermore, stopping trade concessions with Pakistan only furthers the arguments of those who want to deny Africa and the Caribbean the same. The faster countries around the world receive the trade concessions that Africa and the Caribbean desire, and which the United States has granted to nations like Germany, Japan and Korea, decades ago, the easier it becomes for those policies to spread to the nations that need them the most. While I understand the tendency among many to view international economics as a zero-sum game, it is important that the members of the Congressional Black Caucus not fall under the influence of such arguments.

The Daniel Pearl issue. The kidnapping of Daniel Pearl has caused much tension in Pakistan's political circles, as the current government, cognizant of the implications of the Bush doctrine, does not want its country to be viewed as welcome territory for terrorists. On the other hand, some of the leading political opposition groups in Pakistan embrace or are sympathetic to some of the arguments of groups in Pakistan that have been labeled as terrorists by the U.S. State Department. And just, yesterday, while with President Bush, President Musharraf expressed his suspicion that Mr. Pearl was kidnapped as a result of Mr. Musharraf's recent crackdown on Islamic militants. The sooner Daniel Pearl is released, the better for U.S.-Pakistan relations and the better for President Musharraf. Here, citizen diplomacy may well work where governmental diplomatic efforts and the threat of force have failed, thus far. In this area, Black leaders have shown particular excellence, most notably the Rev. Jesse Jackson, who has successfully secured the release of several American citizens, who have been held against their will abroad. Recently, Minister Louis Farrakhan, (who aided and accompanied Rev. Jackson, in 1984, in the successful effort to win the release of a Black military officer, in Syria) called for the release of Mr. Pearl on the grounds that the Wall St. Journal reporter is a non-combatant and that the kidnapping paints Islam in a negative light, around the world. Members of the Congressional Black Caucus, more than any of other group within the American political establishment, know and interact with Minister Farrakhan. Perhaps, in your internal discussions and in a private meeting with President Musharraf, you might discuss the possibility of the Pakistani leader extending an invitation to Minister Farrakhan and members of this country's African-American, and Pakistani-American Muslim communities, in an effort to win the release of Daniel Pearl. I also think that if the Minister and a group of Imams, from the Black and immigrant communities were able to dialogue with their Brothers and Sisters in Pakistan, it would help promote a deeper understanding of the United States, among Muslims living abroad. You have the power to facilitate and support that type of dialogue through official channels.

I would much rather have Mr. Musharaf speaking to the CBC than a bicameral, bipartisan gathering that largely wants to engage in flattery, light or condescending conversation and a photo-op, with the Pakistani leader. What the General needs, in my estimation, is a sympathetic ear, to whom he can express his most frank and honest opinions of Pakistani - U.S. relations, without fear of retribution. President Musharraf, also needs to hear a voice of reason and even dissent, coming from America, in this "war on terrorism"; an undertaking where all international political, economic and cultural factors must subordinate themselves to the Bush doctrine; and an effort where American cash is freely offered in exchange for short-term political favors that may cause long-term damage. It is my most sincere hope that a closed-door meeting between President Musharraf and the Congressional Black Caucus can take place before the Pakistani President leaves American soil. If a meeting with all of the CBC members is not possible, I would be satisfied if you six distinguished members of the International Relations Committee would privately meet with this important leader. I certainly would prefer President Musharraf's meeting with the Black Caucus members who serve on the House International Relations Committee - Rep. Earl Hilliard, Rep. Barbara Lee, Rep. Gregory Meeks, Rep. Cynthia McKinney, Rep. Donald Payne and Rep. Diane Watson - more than his meeting with International Relations' members, Rep. Benjamin Gilman, Rep. Henry Hyde, Rep. Peter King and Rep. Tom Lantos. Now, more than ever, is the time for a fresh new initiative. Your meeting with President Musharraf, if it were to take place, would represent the type of bold leadership that I think this country and the Black electorate expect and deserve from the Congressional Black Caucus.


Cedric Muhammad

Thursday, February 14, 2002

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