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IRI Study Tour: Pakistan

Date: 
Sunday, November 10, 2013 to Thursday, November 21, 2013

Five current and former members of the Parliament of Pakistan were hosted by the International Republican Institute (IRI) in Washington, D.C. and Los Angeles, CA, from November 10 – 21, 2013, as part of an Institute for Representative Government (IRG) study tour on “Best Practices in Economic and National Security Policy”.  The mission provided the parliamentarians an opportunity to meet with local, state and federal government agencies in the United States and to see first-hand how officials in the U.S. approach national security and economic policy.

While in Washington, the parliamentarians met with members of Congress, State Department officials and various development organizations within the city.  Throughout Los Angeles County, the mission convened with state and municipal leadership on international trade and economic development.  With IRI’s approach to tailoring the successful study tour, the delegation was afforded the chance to meet with their U.S. counterparts, allowing the parliamentarians an opportunity to compare the American bicameral system to that of their own by discerning the specific roles and responsibilities of each level of government in developing and implementing economic policy and national security administration.  Participants were thereby able to draw parallels between the two countries’ democratic administrations, consider the possibilities for change within their own country and survey areas of future collaboration.

The five party leaders invited to participate on the study tour represented four different political parties, including the Pakistan Muslim League – Nawaz (PML-N), Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), Muttahida Quami Movement (MQM) and Awami National Party (ANP).

POLITICAL CONTEXT AND CHALLENGES

May 11, 2013, parliamentary elections marked a defining chapter in Pakistan’s democratic transition.  For the first time in the country’s 67 year history, a civilian government completed a full five-year term and transferred power to another administration through an electoral process; with the majority, center-right PML-N emerging as the federal ruling party.  While consecutive elections offer hope for continued democratic consolidation, this encouraging post-election political landscape is met with economic and security-related challenges. 

As found in their election manifestos, all major political parties prioritized similar issues ahead of the recently held general elections in May 2013.  In addition to pressing social issues, all major parties emphasized challenges surrounding national security administration and economic development. 

Prioritized economic concerns include unemployment rates, poverty alleviation, agricultural development and utilities provision.  The increasing degree to which these economic issues have been affecting the country’s economy has been exhibited by the steady decline in value of the Pakistani rupee in recent years.

The state of Pakistan’s national security administration made headlines on November 1, 2013, as Hakimullah Mehsud, leader of Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan, the Islamist militant group based in the northwestern Federally Administered Tribal Areas, was killed in Waziristan during a U.S. drone strike.  Prior to this event all major parties had outlined in their election manifestos the threats posed by the local government system and status of the area along the Afghan border in which Hakimullah Mehsud terrorized the local population.

Though Pakistan has seen a smooth change of leadership at home, the situation in Afghanistan has continued to present problems.  Given this varied sociopolitical climate, attaining a stable Pakistan is central to the newly elected National Assembly.  Likewise, a new generation of local leadership could be tested as Pakistan is scheduled to hold local body elections in the coming months.  However, the elections have been met with delays as the Election Commission of Pakistan, provincial government leadership and the judicial branch have not yet agreed to parameters surrounding the ballot.

PROGRAM ACTIVITES

Individual Delegate Meetings

The U.S. Embassy in Islamabad remained supportive of the approach and timing of the multi-party exchange as it closely followed Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s visit to Washington D.C., held in late October as part of the U.S.-Pakistan Strategic Dialogue.  As such, the U.S. Ambassador to Pakistan, Richard Olsen, hosted a pre-departure reception and held one-on-one discussions with the delegation members prior to their departure on November 7, 2013.  Ambassador Olsen was eager to brief the delegates on the consultations scheduled in Washington D.C. as part of the program, and was keen to discuss the re-initiation of the Strategic Dialogue between the United States and Pakistan.    

The complete list of the participating delegates is as follows:

  •             Amir Haider Azam Khan; Member, National Assembly: ANP
  •             Muhammad Rehan Hashmi; Member, National Assembly: MQM
  •             Iqbal Zaffar Jhagra, Secretary General and former senator: PML-N
  •             Muhammad Arshad Khan Leghari; Member, National Assembly: PML-N
  •             Shafqat Mahmood; Member, National Assembly: PTI

Mission Schedule and Delegate Participation

Sunday, November 10 (Washington, D.C.):

After arriving in Washington, D.C., delegates were offered an additional overview of the planned schedule of events and consultations, and given time to recover from their trip.

Monday, November 11 (Washington, D.C.):

The delegates were welcomed to the United States by the Embassy of Pakistan.  The welcome event included a working lunch reception and briefing. 

The delegates were subsequently given additional time to settle and adjust to the time-change throughout the afternoon, and were later hosted by IRI’s Regional Director, Scott Mastic, and Deputy Regional Director, Hal Ferguson, who greeted the delegates as part of a welcome dinner.  Over the course of the evening, the delegation was particularly keen on discussing the timing of the United States’ drone strike on Hakimullah Mehsud, and how the unforeseen results of U.S. activity in Afghanistan are affecting militancy in Pakistan.

Tuesday, November 12 (Washington, D.C.):

On Tuesday morning, the delegation was hosted by professional senate staff for the Senate Foreign Relations and Senate Appropriations Committees for a bipartisan roundtable discussion.  While the discussion opened with US-Pakistan relations, the delegates were especially keen to learn more about the federal budget given the recent U.S. Government shutdown.

Tuesday evening, the delegation met with representatives from the Office of the Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan.  Following introductions, the delegates expressed their concerns over the timing of the United States’ drone strike on Hakimullah Mehsud.  It seems that while many Pakistanis are indeed supportive of foreign military assistance to combat militant extremists, the delegates were concerned that currents efforts made towards negotiating and compromising with the Taliban leadership have been insufficient. 

Closing remarks touched upon the fact that there is a widening trust deficit between the United States and Pakistan.  State Department officials noted that the U.S. would like to know with “which Pakistan” it will be working as the developing country continues to transition.  The delegates lightheartedly agreed this was a pressing issue, recognizing instances in which the two governments had felt secure in sharing intelligence to carry out special operations, and instances in which the opposite was the case.

Wednesday, November 13 (Washington, D.C.):

On the morning of November 13, the delegation was hosted by the IRG board of directors at the Capitol Hill Club for a working breakfast.  The board members opened the discussion with questions regarding recent cries in Pakistan to reject Malala Yousafzai as a rightful Nobel Prize candidate, popularized by the claim that the young woman was simply a Western puppet and not a legitimate activist.

The following discussion surrounded the issue of drone strikes violating Pakistan’s sovereignty.  To that end, the delegation relayed instances in which the U.S. and Pakistani intelligence communities shared information in an effort to jointly detain wanted individuals.  An anecdote explaining the alternative outcome to such an instance was offered as the delegation explained reasons why Osama Bin Laden’s compound went unnoticed in such close proximity to a Pakistani military academy.  Bin Laden’s unilateral discovery was labeled by the delegation as indicative of the trust deficit existing between Pakistan and the United States’ governments.

Following the working breakfast, the delegation had an afternoon of meetings on Capitol Hill.  The delegation first met with Senator Dianne Feinstein, chairwoman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence.  The meeting naturally gravitated towards instances in which the United States and Pakistan were able to share intelligence to accomplish a common goal, outlining the two countries’ long history of cooperation.  Afterwards, the delegates met with Senator James Risch, a ranking member on the Committee of Small Business and Entrepreneurship.  The delegates discussed with Senator Risch a range of topics including U.S. economic policy, to violent extremism in Pakistan.

Thursday, November 14 (Washington, D.C.):

On Thursday, IRI hosted a working lunch attended by Dan Fisk, Hal Ferguson, Matthew Carter, and Thomas Weaver of IRI; Joe Brinker of the U.S. Agency for International Development; Wilson Lee and Brian Joseph of the National Endowment for Democracy; and Inna Pletukhina, Sofia Javed, and Rachel Graciano of the United States Department of State.  The meeting opened with sentiments surrounding “trade not aid”, alluding to the economic framework Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif discussed with President Obama during his recent visit to the United States.  Next, the delegates directed the conversation inwards as they examined the large gap between elected leaders at the municipal and provincial level, concluding that some of the onus was on the parliamentarians themselves for not having already addressed this issue of ineffective or nonexistent local leadership.  Lastly, participants discussed the national budget, highlighting that parliamentary spending for public development has severely diminished.

Following the IRI working lunch, the delegation was hosted at the Middle East Institute by former Ambassador to Pakistan, Wendy Chamberlin, and the Director of the Center for Pakistan Studies, Dr. Marvin Weinbaum.  The delegates thoroughly enjoyed discussing matters with these two experts on topics ranging from Malala Yousafzai’s recent Nobel nomination, to setbacks affecting Pakistan’s electricity provision capabilities.  

Friday, November 15 (Washington D.C.):

No official meetings took place on Friday as the delegation was scheduled to depart for Los Angeles, California.

Saturday, November 16 (Los Angeles):

On the first full day in Los Angeles the delegation attended the National Defense Forum at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation and Library.  Keynote speakers included Secretary of Defense, Chuck Hagel, and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Martin Dempsey.  The forum addressed the condition of the United States’ national defense capabilities, and was held to stimulate a discussion that would promote policies to strengthen the U.S. military in the future.  The delegation was particularly interested in the mid-afternoon counterterrorism panel discussion.  Panelists discussed the new capacity of Special Forces operatives after including cultural and linguistic understanding as part of their training to combat the many evolving faces of terrorism.

Sunday, November 17 (Los Angeles):

Sunday was reserved for cultural activities.  The delegation spent the morning touring the Santa Monica pier and surrounding area.  After a brief lunch the mission decided their next stop would be the Griffith Observatory situated on the south-facing slope of Mount Hollywood.

Monday, November 18 (Los Angeles):

On Monday morning the delegation met with Los Angeles County Sherriff, Lee Baca, and senior chief of the International Police Bureau, Matt Wollman.  The participants discussed an economic solution to combat crime and terrorism, noting how tribesmen and women in remote and often-times unstable areas might be brought in to the “mainstream” if they can be economically empowered.

In that same vein, the issue of introducing the “mainstream” throughout Pakistan was addressed, especially pertaining to the tribal areas.  It was decided that the mainstream cannot be brought to tribal areas; rather, tribesmen and women must be brought to the mainstream.  These individuals could be sent to American and European universities for their education, to have them return to Pakistan.  With regard to many of the issues discussed in this meeting, the delegates repeatedly stressed the importance of local ownership in any given initiative attempting to change the face of society.

That afternoon the delegation met with Aram Benyamin, Senior Assistant General Manager for the Power System of the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power.  The delegates were very interested in Los Angeles County’s plan to remove coal from its energy portfolio by the 2020’s, citing the negative impact of Pakistan’s own reliance on fossil fuels.

Tuesday, November 19 (Los Angeles):

 

On Tuesday morning, the delegation travelled to the city of Long Beach to meet with Abel Maldonado, the former lieutenant governor of California to Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, over a working lunch.  Mr. Maldonado was very open in describing his experience serving as Schwarzenegger’s lieutenant governor.  Switching his focus from California to Washington, D.C., Mr. Maldonado relayed how congressional seats are often very “safe”, thus counteracting any motivation one might have to take a hard stance when faced with a difficult or controversial decision.

After lunch, the delegation met with the Director of Legislative Affairs for the Port of Los Angeles, Marisela Caraballo DiRuggiero, and the Deputy Chief of Police for the Port of Los Angeles, Paul J. Lipscomb.  Throughout a PowerPoint presentation and tour of the facilities, Ms. DiRuggiero outlined the port’s economic impact within the state of California, past and current operating capacity, as well as intended future plans.  Mr. Lipscomb outlined aspects of providing port security and described procedures involved in training new officers.

Wednesday, November 20 (Los Angeles):

The delegates prepared to depart the United States after a successful study tour.