A METHODOLOGY used to measure `Life Satisfaction`, known as the Easterlin Paradox, ranked Pakistanis in 2003 among the most satisfied — just behind Denmark, US, UK, Japan, Brazil and Mexico. Today, beset by multiple internal and external challenges, and pervaded by national gloom, Pakistan`s ranking must have declined dramatically.
The present domestic crisis not only coincides with the latest crisis in relations with the United States, it is inextricably linked to it. Since its initially reluctant participation in America`s `war on terror`, Pakistan has incurred serious strategic, political and economic costs flowing from this transactional `alliance`.
Among these costs: the replacement of a `friendly`, if internationally isolated, Pakhtun (Taliban) government in Kabul by a hostile Tajik-dominated regime; the alienation of several Pakistani Pakhtun tribes; emergence of the anti-Pakistan TTP militancy; 30,000 civilians killed by terrorist violence; over 3,000 casualties among Pakistan`s security forces fighting militants on the western borders; weakened deterrence against India, with the deployment of 150,000 troops in the west; and economic loss estimated at well over $30bn, apart from lost investment, exports and growth.
The costs also include: neutralisation of the Kashmiri freedom struggle as Pakistan was pressed by Washington to give up support to the Kashmiris; formalisation of the India-US `strategic partnership` and nuclear and technological discrimination by the US against Pakistan; India`s growing influence in Afghanistan, now institutionalised in a `strategic partnership`; India`s use of Afghan territory for subversion in Balochistan; and the progressive shift of the US-Nato war against the Taliban from Afghanistan to Pakistan.
These `costs` of our alliance with the US escalated sharply this year with: hugely expanded drone attacks on Pakistan`s territory; the Davis affair; the US raid into Pakistan to kill Osama bin Laden; non-payment of $800m due in reimbursements to Pakistan; a virtual freeze in economic and defence assistance; unsubstantiated charges by the US chief of staff against the Pakistan Army and the ISI of complicity with and support to the Haqqani group; and, finally, the aerial attack against our border posts killing 24 Pakistani soldiers.
What is painful for any self-respecting Pakistani is the passive, almost supine, manner in which these sequential penalties have been accepted by our governments and leaders. The reason is no secret. Indeed, some of our leaders have been quite open in expressing the belief that their political (and economic) fortunes are tied to American benediction and support. It is right to decry `a state within a state`; what is worse is the frequent reality of `a state without a state`.
Whatever the denouement to the domestic drama we are witnessing, it is essential that the internal differences not be allowed to prevent an assertion of Pakistan`s national interests and objectives in the context of its relations with the US.The results of the US-Nato `investigations` into the border attack are, as expected, largely a cover-up. No apology has been offered, only an expression of `regret`. And, no commitment has been given to punish those responsible for what, according to Pakistani sources, was a deliberate aerial shooting spree that lasted for two hours, despite entreaties by Pakistani commanders, and killed or injured every one of the 31 soldiers who were at the two border posts.
The Pakistan government, or at least the army, should publish the results of its own investigation, including the first-hand accounts of the seven surviving soldiers. Pakistan should institute such additional measures as it deems fit to ensure future respect for the country`s sovereignty and territorial integrity and align its policies with its own interests.
Most importantly, Pakistan needs to reassess its strategic objectives and options in Afghanistan. In this context, a central priority for Pakistan now should be the early, complete and, if possible, orderly withdrawal of US and Nato forces from Afghanistan.
As long as foreign forces are in Afghanistan, the Afghan insurgency will not end. Neither a negotiated peace, nor a military victory for either side appears to be achievable. If the conflict is prolonged, Pakistan is likely to be dragged further into this quagmire. It will be unable to focus on defeating the TTP, the primary threat to Pakistan`s security. The next border incident with US-Nato forces could escalate into general hostilities. Finally, if US-Nato forces were ever again to launch another Abbottabad-like operation into Pakistan, it could lead to catastrophic consequences were Pakistan to believe that its nuclear or strategic capabilities were under threat.
Struggling to be re-elected, and vulnerable to Republican charges of weakness, President Obama seems unable to change the ridiculous strategy, fused from the discordant views in Washington, of `fight, talk and build` in Afghanistan. Last week, the US commander in Afghanistan directly contradicted his president`s pledge to withdraw completely from Afghanistan after 2014. American generals appear to believe they can suppress the Afghan insurgency by 2014 and, if not, continue to fight it with a US-trained Afghan army. Those who ignore history are condemned to repeat it.
The US is presently unwilling, and in future may be unable, to find a realistic way to withdraw, with dignity, from Afghanistan. America needs help to find its way to the exit. This help can be extended by a quartet of regional countries — Pakistan, Iran, Russia and China. All of them would be happy to see the departure of US-Nato forces from Afghanistan. Together, through incentives and disincentives, these four countries can promote a durable truce if not genuine reconciliation among Afghanistan`s warring ethnicities and regional warlords.
Once foreign forces depart from Afghanistan, peace returns to Pakistan`s western borders, terrorist violence is ended, and Pakistan`s leaders focus on promoting the country`s national interests, Pakistan perhaps can hope to regain its high ranking on the scale of `Life Satisfaction`. But it will be a difficult climb up the slope.
The writer is a former Pakistan ambassador to the UN.