Where autumn follows spring, Nothing comes to fruition

THE FATF embarrassment, utterly isolating and shameful as it is, has become the norm for Pakistan. Along with so much else that has isolated and humiliated us this too was so obviously coming and was so stupidly and irresponsibly ignored. The debt riddled ‘development’ taking place in Pakistan has been made even more fragile.

Critical commentators are often accused of being unnecessarily bitter about the state of the country. But when the state of governance is so criminal and damaging how else can one accurately depict the truth about our rulers who day in and day out unhesitatingly make a mockery and laughing stock of the country?

Putting on a polite mask while gently admonishing the perpetrators of such betrayal is itself a form of betrayal given the wretched depths to which our incorrigible rulers regularly sink.

China has gone out of its way to protect Pakistan from international criticism, humiliation, isolation and punishment despite its own grave concerns about the latitude extremists and terrorists enjoy in Pakistan, some of whom directly and indirectly pose a threat to stability in its western region. In this case China once again stood by Pakistan.

But, as a result of an egregiously misleading and triumphant tweet which was apparently against the procedures of FATF, our inept foreign minister ensured the reversal of a face-saving reprieve for Pakistan. We forfeited, at least for the moment, the confidence of two of our staunchest friends, Saudi Arabia and, most important, China itself.

Only Pakistan can isolate itself — and it has done so repeatedly.

But the rot lies deeper. India has not isolated Pakistan. The US has not isolated Pakistan. Afghanistan has not isolated Pakistan. They cannot. Only Pakistan can isolate itself — and it has done so repeatedly looking towards China to bail it out every time.

Don’t we have any consideration for the interests of China which is besieged by US and Indian policies to contain its emergence as a force for Eurasian peace, stability and development and which, moreover, has made Pakistan a cornerstone of its historic initiative in Central and South Asia?

Is there no respect for the national interest of Pakistan which is so eagerly and regularly sacrificed at the altar of institutional, class and private interests? Are our people really fodder for the vicious appetites of insatiable domestic predators?

Can a weary acceptance of such reality as inevitable be compatible with the merest loyalty to our people and country? Is there anything that needs to be said that has not been said ad nauseam without any effect?

How shamefully many of us reviled our feisty lioness for human rights, development, security and freedom, Asma Jahangir! And those of us who admired and revered her never quite lent her sufficient support for her lifelong struggle. Are we even capable of honouring her memory?

We have a mantra. Pakistan is the biggest victim of terrorism. Pakistan has sacrificed more than any country in the war against terror. Pakistan has lost thousands of precious civilian and military lives and financially lost over a hundred billion dollars in this war — which is not even our war! Millions of people in Fata have been displaced. Pakistan has taken out several terrorist organisations especially the Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan, the militant Islamic State group and Al Qaeda.

Pakistan has banned several domestic extremist organisations, detained their leaders and frozen their accounts. Pakistan cannot become the battleground for an Afghan civil war. Pakistan has an independent judiciary and cannot take actions in violation of its rulings. Pakistan is not receiving the cooperation it needs for border management and control. Neither the US nor the Afghans pick up the extremists whom Pakistan forces back into Afghanistan.

On the contrary, they are sheltered and encouraged to launch attacks on targets inside Pakistan with India’s assistance from Afghan territory. There are no safe havens, sanctuaries or shuras in Pakistan. There are still millions of Afghan refugees who pose serious security and terrorist risks for Pakistan which is being made the scapegoat for American failure in Afghanistan. Moreover an attack on Pakistan is an attack on CPEC and the Belt and Road Initiative which are opposed by the US and India. Etc.

Much of the above is true. But it is not the whole truth. It is a half-truth which in many ways is worse than a lie. It hides at least as much as it reveals. The US and India cannot by themselves convince the world to gratuitously isolate Pakistan. Doing some good does not entitle one to do wrong.

This is especially so when the ‘good’ is seen to have been extracted like a tooth by the surgical threat of sanctions and the use of force, while the ‘wrong’ is seen to stem from perverted mindsets and entrenched policies.

The bitter truth is that Pakistan’s vigorous denials are seen by most countries as blatant lies, and part of a pattern going back decades which reflects a sustained emasculation of the democratic process. While India and the US are often criticised for their domestic and international conduct, and Afghanistan is seen as a failed state, none of this translates into much international sympathy and understanding for Pakistan’s protestations about its role in Afghanistan and elsewhere.

Why? This is a question that from time to time is discussed in the public realm. But its systematic discussion is not welcomed within the corridors of power. This reflects an aversion to facing plain truths and, accordingly, a general preference to concentrate on details and responses rather than fundamental issues and strategic realities. These, of course, require longer-term perspectives to develop policy consistency and credibility.

The very considerable abilities, expertise and passionate commitment of the Foreign Office are simply not availed of by arrogant and incompetent ‘superiors’ whose commitments are devoted more to blowing their own trumpets than to serving their nation. This is the real betrayal that informs every aspect of our national policy.

All our questions and problems have practical solutions provided the right intentions prevail.

The writer is a former ambassador to the US, India and China and head of UN missions in Iraq and Sudan.



Published in Dawn, February 27th, 2018



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