LAHORE: Former foreign minister Hina Rabbani Khar said Pakistan always chose to be a client state instead of becoming strategic partner of one country or the other. With a begging bowl in both hands, Pakistan cannot command respect in the comity of nations.
Speaking in a session on the US-Pakistan relationship at ThinkFest here on Saturday, she said Pakistan always imagined itself as a complete strategic partner, which was far-fetched. Pakistan’s most important relations should be with its neighbouring countries like Afghanistan, India, Iran and China instead of the US. “The US does not deserve that much importance as is given in Pakistan because our economy is not dependent on US aid, as is widely believed.”
Referring to the incumbent rulers’ claims of copying China, she said Beijing had brought its people out of poverty, while the Islamabad rulers were doing the opposite.
United States Institute of Peace Associate Vice President Moeed Yusuf said the US-Pakistan relations were non-existent during the past 18 months. Regretting that Pakistan was looking elsewhere instead of involving itself in the region to resolve local and regional issues, he said there could be no conversation on the US-Pak ties till the Afghanistan issue was resolved. For Pakistan, he said, the idea was to consider how to work with the US and China simultaneously.
Speaking on the future of democracy in Pakistan, author Aqil Shah from Oklahoma University said democracy gave the freedom to speak up and enabled accommodating ethnic divisions peacefully. He, however, said the democracy in vogue in Pakistan was a hybrid regime where elected representatives were answerable to both the people and army generals.
He alleged that the 2018 general elections were manoeuvered to ensure that former prime minister Nawaz Sharif and his party did not come back to power and that the rule was given to the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI), calling the ruling party “Pakistan Tehreek-i-Establishment”.
He further said that the corruption narrative was a universal phenomenon and not exclusive to Pakistan.
Federal Education Minister Shafqat Mahmood claimed that democracy in Pakistan was getting stronger and robust. While the PTI government took over just a few months ago, people had high expectations from them to resolve serious issues, including the economic crisis.
He said education had faced a serious neglect in the past and was separated into different streams to create a divide among people. He said there was a small pool of audience attending the ThinkFest, but even this much crowd could not be attracted if the event took place in Dera Ghazi Khan or Sibbi.
Published in Dawn, January 13th, 2019