President Trump’s New Year “greetings” to Pakistan aside, reports suggest that the US is fast losing patience with Pakistan’s strategies with respect to India and Afghanistan.  Reports also suggest that the Indian and Afghan policy makers are showing frustration about likelihood of any course correction on the part of Pakistan on issue of safe heavens enjoyed by anti-India and anti-Afghan militants within its territory. That has been coupled with an extremely negative public opinion about Pakistan in both neighbours – and vice versa – which is growing in its severity with every passing day. Internally, the peace activists are being bullied and chased, as the fingers are being pointed out, by the elements belonging to the deep state. Disappearance of one such activist Raza Khan, which remains almost completely blacked out from mainstream media, has sent shock waves among the already very terrified peace loving activists’ community in Pakistan. General public is being fed with dangerous rhetoric that Pakistan, for the first time in its history, is standing up against the USA and India, who seems to absorb that with great enthusiasm. Government has already been brought to its knees by employing machinations that no longer enjoy any element of surprise or confusion about their origin; and that has made the situation pretty dangerous. There is hardly any doubt that this is the trouble of our own making, but that is what it is and we have very little to do about it.

With democracy having been callously uprooted and the control of the state having been completely slipped into the quarters where it should never have been is what has created a complete disconnect between the people and the state policy. Only interface that has been left operational between the people and the unseen policy makers is that of brutal propaganda which is gradually landing the public perception into a big mirage, completely devoid of any trace of reality. Resultantly, common man has started having stars in his eyes. We are in a complete mess.

This is not something that is new or unique; our history is, in fact, replete with many such instances when unrepresentative, unseen and unanswerable individuals have made a complete mess out of very smooth running systems and the nation has not always been lucky to get out of the mess sans a tragedy. Unlike the public perception or the myopic view of the real policy makers, on almost all such unfortunate occasions – after Allah – it has been America that saved us from tragedies, for its own strategic reasons though; except the East Pakistan debacle where the mess had been made so intense that nothing could have been done to avert it.

Coming back to the issue in hand, what the US is demanding from us? Dismantle the militant infrastructure that, although may be the debris from the past joint US-Pak strategic policies (as we prefer to call them), is hurting the USA’s interests in the changed circumstances.  What is India demanding from us? Dismantle the militant infrastructure that is posing a constant threat to the peace efforts between the two neighbours and that, in the past, has led both nations to the brink of war (that may result into a nuclear holocaust) on several occasions in the past.  What is Afghanistan demanding from us? Dismantle the militant infrastructure that is disrupting hard-won but still precarious stability in war-torn country which remains the goal of international community backed by an international consensus. What are the peace activists demanding? Dismantle the militant infrastructure that, after the cold war, has mauled our national fibre so bad without any quantifiable gains on any front, national or international. What was Nawaz Government that had the mandate of the people of Pakistan demanding? Dismantle the militant infrastructure, remove this irritant from Pak-US relations and improve relations with neighbours. One wonders, which of the above demands is unreasonable? Are those demands, if met, not capable of ushering in a new peaceful and prosperous era where we would be able to focus all our energies on the economic wellbeing of devastatingly poor people of our country and of the region, undisturbed and undeterred by an environment of constant hostility and fear of nuclear annihilation?

In marked contrast to what is being followed as a zero sum policy, this changed environment of the world politics should have been and still can be used as an opportunity to get rid of the evil shadows of the past policies that have cost us tens of thousands in human lives and trillions of dollars in terms of economic losses. Current policy of animosity with everyone and over-dependence on China based on false expectations is not sustainable. This is high time that the elected government and parliament, with a lead assistance role of Foreign Office, took control of the foreign and security policies in their own hands and started an era of rational and pluralistic foreign policy framework. The USA, on the other hand, had better – unlike its past follies – strengthen civilian rule in Pakistan and wait for the new government to take charge, before making any big decision the biggest victim of which may be the millions of helpless Pakistanis who have no role or say in the disastrous policies that Pakistan has hitherto followed since its inception, including those which were backed by the US in the past.

 

The writer is a former diplomat and currently practices law at Islamabad.