Permanence is not an option

October 23, 2011


WHO was it who said, many moons ago, when asked where he thought Pakistan was going that it would trundle on — and on — worsening with the years, and that was its greatest tragedy?

How right he was. Reality has never been acknowledged. What is it with the Pakistani psyche that fails to see the motes in its own eyes and has forever blamed the outside world for the ills from which it suffers?

September end’s beating of the war drums is a case in point. The US was well within its rights to lose patience and as Pakistan in the past has not come clean with friends and benefactors why should the US or anyone else imagine that things have changed?

This was not the first time the US read us the riot act. Minds should be cast back, to cite a couple of reminders, to the Pressler affair of the early 1990s and to president Bill Clinton’s one-day March 2000 visit, during the early Musharraf era, and the mortification inflicted — justifiably in US eyes.

Do policymakers in Pakistan remember that it was in 1947 that the US was first approached for aid and succour? Do they remember how and what the relationship was as the new country built up its army and itself?

The American embrace is nothing new and has been subject to changes in stricture — loosening and tightening according to US national interest. And it must be forever remembered that from the time of it founding the US has adopted the policy that as far as foreign affairs are concerned there are no permanent friends and no permanent enemies.

And when on the subject of foreign relations, in the present context, the maxim of the 19th-century British prime minister, Lord Palmerston, is apt: “We have no eternal allies and we have no perpetual enemies. Our interests are eternal and perpetual and those interests it is our duty to follow.”

When and if it has been in the national interest of the US, the Americans have wholeheartedly espoused Pakistan’s cause. When not, we have been shed within the flick of an eyelid which is how it must be in the field of international relations.

The many complexed citizens whose lifestyles and mindsets are so imbued with American culture and yet who rant and rail against the Americans, which in many cases has given them an education, live uneasily with themselves and with Pakistan’s true standing in the ranks of the world’s nations.

Confusion reigns. Since the onset of the involvement in the war waged against terrorism factions in Pakistan have on the one hand lambasted the US for deserting us in our time of need, following the Soviet exit from Afghanistan, and in the next breath advocated that Pakistan break permanently out of the US embrace and make an attempt to go it alone.

Well, not exactly alone. Great reliance, which may be misplaced, is put upon one friend to whom Pakistan is a geopolitical asset and on another to whom Pakistan is fertile ground for its particular religious ideology.

As for Afghanistan and India — they are now very much tied up together. Pakistan from the start has chosen to view India as the traditional enemy, waiting to swallow us up whenever possible, whereas the truth is that India has enough woes of its own and would be loath to burden itself with an ungovernable land.

In 1948, Jawarhalal Nehru said: ‘If today, by any chance, I were offered the reunion of India and Pakistan, I would decline it for obvious reasons. I do not want to carry the burden of Pakistan’s great problems. I have enough of my own.”

Afghan relations have been rocky from the start — remember the United Nations and 1947. The sole ‘friendly’ government was that of the Taliban — Pakistan’s ‘children’ as they were termed by Benazir Bhutto’s second government.

The ‘friendly,’ ‘brotherly’ hugs between Zardari and his minions and Karzai are stage-managed by producer and director the US, hand in hand with the military that views Afghanistan as territory over which it must hold sway.

The drumbeat of September has abated somewhat though ghairat still stalks the streets and media. The head of state was the sole luminary not to utter at the time, apart from an op-ed in the Washington Post under his name geared to American rather than home readers. It said what had to be said in the light of his particular relationship with the US.

It also stated: “We will not allow religion to become the trigger for terrorism and persecution,” having earlier made mention of the Salman Taseer and Shahbaz Bhatti murders. Quite forgotten was the disgraceful government reaction to the murders and the matter of the blasphemy laws and its shameful silence.

We have no option but to live with Asif Zardari and his lamentable team, such is the intent of the US which has little to bother it from the civilian side, all grouses being directed to the true source of power.

Pamela Constable, in her book Playing With Fire writes of the counterproductive cycle of political or military intervention that has plagued our politics. To break this Zardari must live out his term — “So it came down to this: ensuring that an unpopular, corrupt, and indifferent leader stayed in office for his full term was likely to be the single greatest political achievement in Pakistan’s entire … existence.”