Michelle Bernard

Washington has long worked with various governments in Islamabad. Since September 11th, the U.S. has provided the Musharraf regime with some $10 billion. For that money, America has won at times reluctant cooperation in the fight against both the Taliban and al-Qaeda. Unfortunately, all of Pakistan has not been fully in the fight.

Many residents of the provinces bordering Afghanistan have welcomed America's enemies as guests. The Pakistani military has been unable--or unwilling--to clear out these safe havens. Even many secular Pakistanis are hostile to America, which they blame for supporting military dictatorships at home. Thus, we should consider a new strategy in Pakistan.

It is critical to win the allegiance of the Pakistani people. The U.S. government must be more careful to ensure that the Pakistani people understand that it supports them, and not any particular government or politician. America cannot dictate the form of Pakistan's government or the speed with which it returns to democracy, but Washington should unequivocally support the right of the Pakistani people to choose their own leaders.

We also must ensure that our aid actually goes to help people in need. Military assistance will remain vital so long as the Taliban and al-Qaeda remain threats, but the U.S.-Pakistan relationship must not focus on security alone. Non-governmental organizations, including those which promote the full economic, political, and social advancement of Pakistani women, should take on a greater role, bypassing the Pakistani government and establishing a direct relationship with community and tribal leaders. As some Middle Eastern suffragettes have remarked, half a democracy is not a democracy. Finally, Washington must demonstrate that it has learned humility and is willing to listen to the Pakistani people even as it encourages them to remain on a democratic path.

Benazir Bhutto won renown as one of the world's most noted female politicians. But, more important, she earned respect as one of her nation's most important leaders, irrespective of sex. The best way to honor her legacy and advance our interests in this War on Terror is for the American people to become true partners of the Pakistani people in order to encourage both democracy and prosperity in their nation. This approach will make us more secure. This commitment also represents America at its generous and democratic best.

Michelle Bernard

Michelle D. Bernard, a lawyer by training, is the president and CEO of the Independent Women’s Forum and author of Women’s Progress, How Women are Wealthier, Healthier, and More Independent Than Ever Before.
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