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APC: Behind closed doors


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Yesterday’s All Parties Conference (APC) called by the government to address national security concerns after the US accused Pakistan of aiding its opponent, terrorist groups in Afghanistan, has sought to redefine the national agenda. The unanimously adopted resolution at the end of the APC has called for giving peace a chance because military action has not delivered (Imran Khan’s key demand) and a covert reference to American strategy in Afghanistan, where a decade of war waged by the US has not produced the desired results. Surely this cannot be due wholly to certain sections of the Pakistan Army supporting anti-America forces in Afghanistan as the Americans have alleged.

The APC trashed all such allegations and gave the Pakistan Army and the ISI a clean chit. Those who could not be part of such a consensus, i.e. Baloch and Sindhi nationalists, chose to stay away from the moot.

The Sindhi nationalists were reportedly not even invited. This, however, is not to say that their absence dilutes the consensus in any big way because Balochistan and Sindh’s mainstream political parties were adequately represented at the APC. Both the nationalist factions have a history of not seeing eye-to-eye with the army, and would have brought their own grievances to the moot and embarrassed the government.

The APC also sought to steer policy prerogatives in a way that restores Pakistan and Pakistanis’ compromised self-respect. The leaders agreed to push for economic self-reliance rather than be held hostage to loans advanced by international lending institutions or foreign aid, both of which come with strings attached. Trade, not aid, was the new mantra expounded. The politicians pledged to stand behind the government and the armed forces should it come to dealing with any military threat posed to the country from any quarter.

In the final analysis, it was a win, win day for the army which under a most tense situation succeeded in rallying political consensus behind its key policy that incorporates its wish list on internal policy, and more significantly, the foreign policy which in its entirety remains the military’s prerogative. The only challenges that were thrown the army’s way came from Nawaz Sharif and Mahmud Achakzai.

Sharif reportedly asked the ISI chief that if Pakistan was not aiding the anti-US forces in Afghanistan, then why was the whole world doubting us. He went on to hammer in the point by saying that there’s got to be something there (daal mein kuch to kaala hai). The army chief reportedly responded that he would remove Sharif’s concerns, but never quite did so. Sharif went on to critique government policy, and questioned drone raids and the Abbottabad US Navy Seals raid. He reportedly asked if these were not a breach of national security.

Achakzai also reportedly confronted the ISI chief by thinking aloud and saying that if the ISI chief wanted there would be peace in Afghanistan within a month’s time. This assertion too was left unattended, but at least the media’s sources inside the in-camera session were able to reveal these dissenting opinions, as well as that expressed by the Jamaat-i-Islamic chief who tried to calm Sharif down as he grilled the spying chief.

While the APC also resolved to set up a parliamentary committee to oversee and monitor developments on a monthly basis so that the APC’s recommendations start reflecting in government policy in the months ahead, the fact remains that parliament has only served as a talking shop so far. In established democracies, it is parliament which debates and formulates all policy, but Pakistan is still far away from granting parliament that due role. That is why it needs to seek arbitrarily convened forums such as the APC to deliberate on a crisis situation like the one faced at present.

Clearly, this mechanism suits the power troika, the president, the prime minister and the army chief. The first two do not wish to annoy the last mentioned by taking foreign policy and national security debate to the open and constitutionally empowered institution that is parliament. But unless we get there, and discuss and debate at length critical issues like redefining national and foreign policies and do so from in a democratically transparent manner, we will not be taken seriously by the world no matter how many APCs we convene and how many consensuses we achieve under duress behind closed doors.

The writer is a member of the staff at Dawn Newspaper.

The views expressed by this writer and commenters below do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of the Dawn Media Group.

Comments (29) Closed

mash Sep 30, 2011 01:48pm
Musharraf had created a National Security Council just for this sort of situation, Since the Armed forces are so much involved in the country's politics, a platform such as the NSC would have been ideal.
Londoner Sep 30, 2011 03:11pm
Why not hold an APC with "open doors" & show on live TV? The Pakistani Public needs to know also. Get us on board. Same would apply to the "closed door" parilamentary seesion after Abbotabad Raid.
Amarnat Sep 30, 2011 03:46pm
This stance goes directly against the common knowledge amonsgt Pakistani people about Pak army/isi support to Haqqani network. The announcement at no point hurts the image of USA amongst Pakistani people. The lie only improves the perception of USA. All those leaders (sharif, achakzai) who questioned the army/isi have to certain extent scored some perception credit points.
Nasah Sep 30, 2011 04:12pm
May be the Pakistani leaders military or civil need APC more with the Americans and the NATO than with themselves.
M. Asghar Sep 30, 2011 04:53pm
It may good to have the APC to talk about different points, but how to deal with the real problem: The USA entangled with the different local lobbies have been doing their vicious best to destabilise the country since it became a nuclear power and in the end use it as pawn against China to encircle it. Here Afghanistan war is just the imposed geopolitical excuse for this putpose. The country cannot avoid dealing with this existential problem through new and audacious ways.
LT Junaid Sep 30, 2011 05:17pm
army always obey da laws nd remain under supervision of political leader(PRERIDENT). nd wn da situation become out ov control , army jst turn ovr da table nd come in pwr.
Tajammal Sep 30, 2011 05:22pm
Peoples Party is using APC to wash their mega scandals.
Muhammad Farooq Sep 30, 2011 06:13pm
Agreed. The issue should have been discussed in the Parliament rather than calling APC. It is lamentable that we are not yet a mature democracy due to frequent interventions by the armed forces in the political management of the country. Having said that, this in my opinion is the best that could be achieved through one day APC in the given scenario. Right the conclusion favors the army so is the saying; might is right. More important is for the people and politicians of the country to ensure that democratic process in the country continues uninterrupted; and the armed forces don't overplay their role, do not involve themselves in any new adventure and one day we are able to grow up as established democracy. Pakistan Zindabaad
BA Sep 30, 2011 06:45pm
Govt has no concern over drone attacks. It was least bothered on May 2nd, rather appraised the aggressors. I am clueless as to what is in danger now that APC is being called upon.
asad majeed Sep 30, 2011 08:30pm
Its true that APC will not go fully nonrewarding and surely relieve pakistan from intense pressure from USA. but we as before have not seems to learn any message. we need to make us internally strong by governing this country with honesty efficiently and skilfully.We need change in leadership but constitution do not provide solution for change before 5 year term. It may be too late but what to do now. Lets pray
zulfiqar khaki of da Sep 30, 2011 09:25pm
APC: behind closed doors is a best mirror for our society, Murtaza sahib deserve all the National awards for this article.
abdul baqi Sep 30, 2011 11:53pm
some newspaper reported the leaders having a lavish dinner at the APC. did they not remember that thousands of people do not have a stale bread to eat due to recent floods. they could have taken this opportunity and show atleast as a symble that they can connect with the people of pakistan. it is very easy to blame everything on america and the west . but most problems pak is facing today dome form the corrupt leaders i,e army or civilian.
Nice Man Oct 01, 2011 12:13am
Pakistan should have adopted a neutral position when USA created a big mess in Afghanistan.
shahzad ahmad Oct 01, 2011 06:31am
the stance adoped by N.S reflects an anti establishment view and voice of the nation..................... Pakistan zindabaddddddddddddd
Mohammad Syed Husain Oct 01, 2011 08:54am
Pakistan has to be fully alert now and remain so in future. There is widespread economic crises prevailing in the western world along with loss of jobs and general despair, and what better chance to divert attention than to strike against Pakistan under any pretext. You have seen something like this recently and there will be in future such rash undertakings.
Nasah Oct 01, 2011 10:40am
Well the APC united stand worked -- the US backed down from Mullen's apparently false accusation of ISI being directly involved in Haqqanis attack on US Embassy in Kabul. Nevertheless -- the danger has not dissipated -- if the Haqqanis are still getting a safe haven in NW the Americans will be breathing heavily on the neck of Pakistan army to kick them out or else. The next job for the APC is to tackle the issue of safe haven now -- if indeed the Haqqanis are slipping back into Pakistan after attacking the Americans in Afghanistan the problem for Pakistan still becomes immensely serious. The Haqqanis are Afghans -- they have no business violating the territorial integrity of Pakistan -- especially if the Pakistanis don't want the Americans to violate that of Pakistan. But if one can do it and the other can't - big problem. APC must be ready to meet again and resolve this issue.
DMS Oct 01, 2011 12:36pm
I sitting In a remote place of south India and following the events happening feel very amused that the pakistan civilian and military regime are united after a long time.Maximum should be taken out of this to come out of the war and crisis....its very good to see both regimes are trusting each other for a good reason.....this is how it should function and pakistan can help it self in near future
hameedik. Oct 01, 2011 12:46pm
There should be no more closed doors meetings - its too old to hide matter from masses - nobody will look at the outcome - of important issue is dissussed in LIVE - regtfully no LIVE given of our lady F.M.
ali shirazi Oct 01, 2011 01:45pm
This is APC is just like the previous one, we pakistani are strong beliver that this government is failed to resolved any national issue .
Agga Bagga Oct 01, 2011 01:47pm
Its the truth. Why are you afraid of the truth. Print it.
Imtiaz from Canada Oct 01, 2011 03:26pm
It should be Pakistan Army and ISI behind the civilian government rather than otherwise. This show who controls the foreign policy. The disaster is pending.
Maulana Diesel Oct 01, 2011 11:08pm
Nawaz Sharif is losing fast. He knows the only way to score is talk aloud. Poor Musharraf has become a punching bag. Mr NS it was you because of whom this country is suffering. You came with a mandate and at the end of the day had to sack the army chief with fear. Now dont repent and avoid point scoring. Better do some good business. How about a steel mill in south or north waziristan.
tms Oct 01, 2011 11:24pm
it was infact army protection conference
shafi Oct 02, 2011 01:41am
What is the 'new direction'? Why can't Pakistani politicians be transparent. Firstly APC in camera and then there is no new development except'new direction'. We are told there is consensus by all parties but not told what it is. How is peace going to be achieved and how is reconciliation with America going to be dealt with? Pakistanis are paper tigers and in a very short time they would be blown away. I wish these politician are not so corrupt to the core!
abdalian27 Oct 02, 2011 11:48am
After a long time our political leadership and military estabishment sat together to discuss national issues.Its very good omen.Now APC should sit again to formalate forgien and economic policies.
abdalian27 Oct 02, 2011 11:55am
Baloch National leaders are missing from the APC.It would have been better if some one from government should persuaded them to jion.
SLDUA Oct 02, 2011 01:12pm
Murtaza Rizvi has bloogged that the resolution adapted by APC has incorporated army's internal security concerns and Foriegn policy is army's prerogative. Rizvi has also opined that the resolution is under duress. Then, Civilian Govt. seems to be a mask only.
Aa Oct 04, 2011 02:42am
Please note. Pakistan army and civil government have to be very careful. The curse of us democracy and election to hunt a new pray. Pakistan was in the line. Now we should make all effort to divert this danger. US well prepared to break up Pakistan. Over 100K army men haven't brought to fight a few al-qada. They brought to disintegrate Pakistan. I hope who govern know what trajectory is ahead of us.
HAMID ULLAH Oct 06, 2011 05:26pm
APC was held but so far no fruitful result achieved. Every thing is in old position. No policy so far been formulated. All is in vain.