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Double standards

July 14, 2012


IN all the analysis of the opposition of right-wing parties to the reopening of Nato supply routes, one aspect of their reaction has often been overlooked. They have been criticised by more moderate quarters for their resistance to moving forward with the US-Pakistan relationship, for giving public space to violent extremists, such as in Difa-i-Pakistan Council rallies, and for being pawns of the establishment. But an ANP leader has now pointed out another feature of the anti-Americanism that is in vogue among right-wing political party leaders: hypocrisy. Where were some of these same parties and politicians when Nato supplies were travelling through Pakistan under Pervez Musharraf, when the US first attacked Afghanistan, when Pakistani troops launched their first operations in the tribal areas, and when drone attacks on Pakistani territory began? The Muttahida Majlis-i-Amal may have held protest rallies and in public made anti-Americanism a rallying cry even then. But it was also instrumental in enabling the pro-US Musharraf regime to survive despite the opposition of secular parties. Ultimately the same leaders who had made opposition to the ‘war on terror’ their election platform in 2002 also served as the saviours of a man who was America’s key ally in that war.

Sovereignty, then, is a mutable concept, useful for public posturing, and perhaps with some principles backing it, but ultimately susceptible to what is politically necessary. In the post-2008 world, religious parties have little pull in parliament and therefore less to lose. Taking up the anti-Americanism mantle as forcefully as they have can only pay political dividends, even if that means, for some of the former MMA parties, joining the dubious DPC. Already there are signs that the rhetoric has been adjusted in the face of political — and other — pressures. Perhaps that is why the violence that was threatened during the seven-month halt in Nato supplies never materialised when the routes were reopened, or the JUI-F did not walk out of parliament in protest even though the secular opposition did. The self-appointed guardians of national sovereignty are not quite as righteous as they would like to appear.