Of course, you are an adult and you will have to make your own decisions from now on. But let me share something with you that I consider important: We are a community-oriented people and our faith is our culture. Drinking is against our values. I hope you will not do something that is considered inappropriate in our society.”
The above quote was my father’s advice at the time of my departure for studies abroad. My late father was a student in England from 1933 to 1936. He said that his father (my grandfather) said precisely the same words to him when he was leaving home to go overseas.
My personal belief is that the majority of Pakistanis and Muslims all over the world, for generations, have remained steadfast in observing the cultural norms of their societal values. The point is that culture is a sacred trust. It is an identity of a people, a society, a nation, and cultural violations or assaults on a community’s sacrosanct values, be that from within or externally organised, lead to societal conflicts on a micro level, and at a macro level, and cause antagonism and strife amongst nations. Externally planned cultural interventions, as are being organised on a massive scale all over the world by the US-led Western establishments, are a major cause of present-day global conflicts.
In fact, in the historical context, colonialism was not only a physical occupation; it was an attempt at cultural oppression of the occupied people and societies. Only a decade ago, Pakistan was once again (in the aftermath of colonialism) a victim of precisely planned foreign cultural aggression - indeed, explicitly organised by a close collaboration between external and internal political actors - and this continues today.
Dog-loving, Havana cigar-puffing and Johnny Walker whiskey-sipping General (retd) Pervez Musharraf, in his conceptually flawed, completely ignorant, absolutely arrogant, self-centred and blatantly disrespectful attitude and mindset toward his native societal norms and values, romanticised an American-sponsored cultural assault against his own people and nation. Musharraf’s “enlightened moderation” doctrine was a meticulously prepared Bush-Blair cultural invasion of Pakistan. It was this notion that coined the term “Islamic extremism” and gave birth to the war on terrorism. Musharraf’s doctrine of “enlightened moderation” was an unleashing of psychological warfare against the Pakistani people to make them “hate” themselves, their traditional norms and values, and reject their cultural imperatives as contradictory to contemporary concepts of “modernisation” and as a basic cause of their backwardness.
Musharraf, with his ego-centric and personal cultural animosity towards common societal values, claimed that he was promoting a “modernisation” agenda for his beleaguered and backward nation. But the point is that “modernisation” and “westernisation” are absolutely two different concepts. Modernisation is a process of comprehending the dynamics of a contemporary technological civilisation and using the knowledge in the service of human advancement and socio-cultural-economic enhancement. Rejection of a society’s cultural norms is not required for “modernisation” to take place. On the other hand, “westernisation” compels a rejection of one’s native values and a transformation of native culture by heavily influenced Western views and attitudes toward daily existence and socio-cultural-political-economic perspectives on life.
Little did Musharraf and his US-West geopolitical and cultural patrons know (or even appreciate today) that they can bomb a country into the Stone Age, destroy its infrastructure, kill its people in millions, and yet a nation’s cultural subjugation, its cultural enslavement and its cultural subordination is not possible. It is precisely for this reason that the US-Nato is on the verge of a military-political defeat in Afghanistan, as the US-West was defeated in Vietnam. The US has been politically frustrated in its own backyard in South and Latin America and elsewhere all over the world - and the US-West’s grand designs will continue to be thwarted everywhere.
When Musharraf staged the military coup, I wrote several letters and warned him that the US would seek his help to destabilise and invade Afghanistan. It was pointed out that this course would be destructive for Pakistan’s future and it has been proven to be so. At the time, my view was that Pakistan had a golden opportunity to exert a transformational influence on the geopolitical system and steer it towards giving political resolutions to political issues, rather than to the US-West’s military adventurisms. But Musharraf had flawed judgment - and the rest is history being witnessed in today’s Pakistan.
Now, years later, Pakistan has a similar opportunity knocking at its door. With Obama’s re-election in sight, Nato supplies blocked, Taliban forces being militarily and politically undefeated in Afghanistan, the US-Nato on the verge of a military-political defeat, and massive Pakistani public opinion against US-Nato’s presence in Afghanistan and American intervention in Pakistan’s affairs, there is a golden opening and space to readjust Pakistan’s traditional alliance with the West, most specifically with the US.
The ball is in Pakistan’s court now in shaping and transforming the present geopolitical system largely dominated by the US and the West. In the process of a major foreign policy paradigm shift in Pakistan, it will have to distance itself from past alliances and take up new policy directives based on the convergence of shared common cultural heritage with neighbouring nations. For a lasting national and regional peace, Pakistan will have to nurture and initiate an innovative and inventive foreign policy. Pakistan will have to go beyond the scope of its traditional and present foreign policy parameters, and conceive a visionary and imaginative doctrine for its role in global political affairs.
In this context, it needs to take prompt steps to call for a “political confederation” between Pakistan-Afghanistan-Iran and set up a regional organisation to coordinate a three-nation defence and foreign policy strategy, foreign trade agreements, and domestic development programmes. This could be later expected to extend to Central Asian Islamic nations. Indeed, cultural imperatives and alliance amongst people of common heritage are bound to have mass support and liberate these nations from antagonism of foreign cultural and political domination.
In terms of immediate foreign policy readjustments and realignments, Pakistan needs to espouse a fresh foreign policy doctrine for a lasting peace in the region. It should cease being a partner in the US-Nato so-called war on terror. Pakistan should not open Nato routes for the supply of lethal military equipment to Afghanistan. Drone attacks will have to be stopped completely and immediately. The US-Nato will have to pay appropriate compensation for the damages to the country’s infrastructure and pay taxes for the transportation of essential non-military supplies to its forces. Pakistan will have to be a participant in all peace negotiations with the Afghan Taliban and other political actors in the conflict.
In return, Pakistan will have to ensure the safe exit of the US-Nato forces from Afghanistan. It will have to provide logistic, strategic and political help in the final settlement of the Afghan conflict and assist in accelerating the peace process. Pakistan will have to organise confidence-building measures amongst all conflicting parties and help in the making of global coalition partners in the rebuilding of Afghanistan.
This is a revolutionary foreign policy agenda. The question is: Will Pakistan fail once again in its quest for a national lasting peace?
Developing a culturally-based foreign policy strategy is the only way to go forward now!

n    The writer is UAE-based academic policy analyst, conflict resolution expert and the author of several books on Pakistan and foreign policy issues. He holds a doctorate and a masters degree from
    Columbia University in New York.
    Email:hl_mehdi@hotmail.com