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What arrogance, what delusion

Published Sep 05, 2011 08:32pm


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SO then, 53 “carefully selected” and “chosen carefully Pakistani foreign policy elite” — retired civilian and military officials, analysts, journalists and civil society practitioners — with established expertise on Afghanistan and/or with knowledge of the modalities of policymaking in the US were gathered together.

They came together at different dates and times, in big groups and small in Islamabad and Peshawar, under the joint aegis of the Jinnah Institute, Islamabad and the United States Institute for Peace, Washington D.C.

Their “perceptions” were then “captured” for the report “aimed at better comprehending Pakistan’s outlook on the situation in Afghanistan”, and which has recently been let loose upon an unsuspecting world.

The report is copious but to start:

“Pakistani foreign policy elite [I kid you not] believe that only a truly inclusive government in Kabul can usher in an era of relatively efficient and stable governance in Afghanistan. Most participants defined this as a politically negotiated configuration with adequate Pakhtun representation that is recognised by all ethnic and political stakeholders in Afghanistan.

“While far from a consensus, some opinion-makers insisted that given the current situation, a sustainable arrangement would necessarily require the main Taliban factions — particularly Mullah Omar’s ‘Quetta Shura’ Taliban, and the Haqqani network — to be part of the new political arrangement. Specifically, a decentralised system of governance is more likely to be sustainable than an overly centralised one. Such an inclusive dispensation, it is believed, will view the relationship with Islamabad favourably and be sensitive to Pakistani concerns.”

Really now? So there is, after all, a Quetta Shura of the Taliban, what? Now, which of the ‘foreign policy elites’ has opened this particular can of worms please? Well, good and well as my friend Ashraf Afridi used to say, for prior to this there were stout denials from the security establishment and its handmaidens with only some non-foreign policy elites such as yours truly saying repeatedly that there was a Quetta Shura as large as death itself in Quetta.

It is also true then that President Karzai and his former intelligence chief Amrullah Saleh, the most hated of those that matter in the Land of the Pure, were always right when they said that the top leadership of the Taliban were headquartered in Quetta, one of Pakistan’s largest, most important cantonments? As were the Americans, who repeatedly said that the Quetta Shura was alive and kicking and should be apprehended to loud and cacophonic cries of ‘Israeli/Indian/US conspiracy’ against the Citadel of Islam.

And this despite Baloch politicians such as Hasil Bizenjo saying on record that the people of Quetta (and by extension Balochistan) were at the mercy of these terrorists. Indeed, despite Defence Minister Ahmad Mukhtar saying a year ago that not only was there a Quetta Shura, it had already been degraded by the Pakistan Army. The degrading bit was nonsense of course.

So then, there is insistence on the part of “some opinion makers” that Mullah Omar’s Quetta Shura Taliban and the Haqqani network have to necessarily be part of the “new political arrangement” for this “inclusive dispensation, it is believed, will view the relationship with Islamabad favourably and be sensitive to Pakistani concerns”?

How pray will these opinion makers (and foreign policy elites, let us never forget) make sure that their friends will find place in the new arrangement? Will there be elections so that the Afghans will freely choose the new ‘arrangement’? If so, what if these people are not elected? What then? Will it then be ‘arranged’ to get them on to the ‘new political arrangement’ by force of arms, and further terrorism? Will we never learn our lessons?

As for a decentralised system of governance being more likely to be sustainable than an overly centralised one (and which will be sensitive to Pakistani concerns!), how do our elites intend to ensure this system of governance in a sovereign, foreign country, named Afghanistan? At the point of terrorists’ guns? I mean is there any sense at all in any of this?

While there are mealy-mouthed references to how the Deep State and the civilian government (dragged onto the scene for no good reason for we know just where the policy on Afghanistan is manufactured) have now given up on a return to the 1990s type of dispensation in Afghanistan (please note the utter arrogance), there is nothing new in this report: it is merely an exercise in recollecting stuff that has been said umpteen times over, making some believe that this report is nothing but an insidious attempt at subtly propagating the views and the thoughts of, with notable exceptions, the very same people who got us into this mess in the first place.

One of the most ludicrous ‘perceptions’ is the China question. I’ll let the report speak for itself: “Some from among the policy elite take seriously the notion that India’s Afghanistan presence is part of a regional strategy to counter China, and in that sense, it complements long-term US interests in the region. For this cohort, Indian presence in Afghanistan will remain a major sticking point in the Pakistan-US bilateral relationship even after 2014.” Boggles the senses, eh reader? Cohort?

And to top it all: “Responses reflected an acute awareness that the Pakistani state had been embarrassed and cornered, with the world viewing Bin Laden’s presence in Pakistan as proof that it is Pakistan, not Afghanistan that remains the centre of gravity of the problem.” And we Pakistanis do not view our country as being the centre of gravity of the problem? Osama was killed in Timbuktu? Tens of our own people are not blown to smithereens every day?

Our sahib log will never learn. We have had it.

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

Comments (24) Closed

Ek Insaan Sep 06, 2011 11:22am
Kamran Sahib, I applaud you for calling spade a spade. Ek Insaan
jaihoon Sep 06, 2011 01:22pm
What a cruel joke indeed!! The so-called Pakistani foreign policy elite being oblivious of the multifaceted crises posing existential threat to their country. Shame on them
Shamsuddoza Sep 06, 2011 01:23pm
Dear Sir I agree with your Indian concern Shamsuddoza Sajen
butseriouslyok Sep 06, 2011 01:25pm
All military schools should be taught: 1) Economics 2) How to learn to trust the civilian power (yes trust that we can produce a Steve Jobs or Bill Gates...)? 3) Increasing trade with neighbors and others leads to mightier and more "fool"-proof defense as compared to all the arms in the world --seriously
RB Sep 06, 2011 01:47pm
Why not let the afghans have a democratic election and decide what they want? The result may or may not be faourable to the "Elite" but will theyaccept it in good grace?
RD Sep 06, 2011 03:09pm
Hi, I am an Indian citizen. Pakistan has massive problems to solve and it is not for the weak hearted to tackle these. The place to start is to acknowledge the problems first instead of pointing fingers at others. This is where Kamran shines by taking a honest look and calling a spade a spade. Now I don't say this to demean Pakistan. India has its share and we only have ourselves to blame and will do well to look at ourselves. But the way forward for these two countries is to start to trade. This is not for sake of money. We, the people, first have to deal with each other directly to understand each other. If not the vacuum will be filled by those who shout the loudest. I pray and hope for peace between these two countries. I pray and hope that moderates in both countries get off their bottoms and make their voice heard and force the institutions/government to heed to reason.
M. Shahjahan Bhatti Sep 06, 2011 03:23pm
Good analysis. I wonder why they don't learn lessons past failures.
Meekal Ahmed Sep 06, 2011 03:59pm
Mickey, Excellent, as always.
Pakistani Sep 06, 2011 05:15pm
We dont require any more enemies whe we have the people like this
Victor Brady Sep 06, 2011 05:19pm
Thanks for the insightful analysis.
Mustafa Hussain Sep 06, 2011 05:33pm
Carefully selected cohort of foreign policy elite is apparently blind to the historical mistakes and appears to be unwilling to see the future in eyes. This must be the main conclusion of the so-called report. Thanks Kamran for opening eyes of the readers.
Rashid Aurakzai Sep 06, 2011 05:58pm
Brilliant KS Sb as always. Your questions are becoming Questions of the masses. Rommels have lost argument. They are victims of their own senselessness. Who would even think of invading us other than our own decorated Uniforms.
shaukat ali chughtai Sep 06, 2011 06:37pm
Kamran Sahib: Another excellent piece. We must continue hammering the elite group to comprehend futuristic global trends and must develop our policies accordingly. Looks so far we have no faith in democracy and may never want to. May be, Sir, they would like to adopt caliphate system.
Mubarik Tahir Sep 06, 2011 08:34pm
Dear Kamran sahib, thank you very much for showing the true picture of sad situation we Pakistanis find ourselves in. I hope and pray that we get sane and visionary leadership to get out of this mess.
Dr.Imran Khan Sep 06, 2011 09:00pm
Hi! I totally agree with you. lets ask just one simple question from ourselves, what did this 64 years of enmity gave us? i hope and i wish we realize that only friendship will put us on track to prosperity.
Bangash Sep 06, 2011 09:13pm
Foreign policy for Afghanistan is made solely by GHQ. These "foreign policy elite" play no role in policy making hence their paper is worthless.
Hindustani Sep 06, 2011 09:34pm
Kamran Sahib's analysis of Pak's Foreign policy strategy, as always, is perceptive. The self appointed Pak foreign policy experts are out of their depth. Afghan's neighbours should help it to become a stable democracy.The Talibans must not be allowed to have any place in Afghanistan's administration.
Imrans.masud@gmail.c Sep 06, 2011 10:22pm
Actually we have suffered a lot because of the chaotic situations in Afghanistan.So it is natural and necessary for us to discuse the situation in a manner which suites our national interests.Hence i think it is not sinful for Pakistanis to offer their comments.Secondly Afghan's are in unsettled position so as their Muslim's brothers and close neighbours should we not say something in goof faith about Afghans problems?
Shahbaz Asif Tahir Sep 07, 2011 04:45am
Kamran is a spokesman of the PPP, and finds fault with everyone, except the PPP. His favorite past time is bashing the Pakistan army, which he does as a ritual weekly.
Udayakumar Sep 07, 2011 05:15am
I wish there were many more good columnists like Mr.Kamran Shafi all over south Asia. He is a great asset for the entire region.
kalim Sep 07, 2011 05:45am
Spot on as always. It is because of these so called foreign policy "elite" that we are in such a mess. God knows when will these "elite" learn.
arun Sep 07, 2011 08:12am
Planing governments always backfire...some do so in couple of years and some take long.
Rajan Sep 07, 2011 01:06pm
While a 'dovish' Indian may want to sympathize, a 'hawk' will be happy to see these policies as they will continue to keep Pakistan’s armed forces busy within and on the western border.
J.Z. Sep 08, 2011 04:24am
Shafi is partial to PML(N), not PPP. He never writes against Nawaz Sharif and both like to bash the army.