What does it mean to have bad relations with neighbours? If all the neighbours are fighting among each other, it becomes difficult to resolve the issue because of so many culprits spoiling the broth. But if there is an odd one out, it is relatively more straightforward to find the wrong and correct the situation. In regional politics, it is difficult to change the neighbours. But it is not difficult to change strategies and make the hay while all are doing the same. Pakistan has been the prisoner of its geopolitical status. True the country is stationed at a crossroad where its access is important to reach out to Afghanistan, the landlocked country, and to move into the Central Asian states. But, if it remains the odd one out, then the chances are that it would remain on the periphery of the world nations, in spite of, being the so-called nuclear power.

Initially, as Pakistan began shaping up after its inception, it had, as the first country achieved in the name of religion, the religious trademark that made it the darling of the old hawks in the Middle East. One after the other the hawks fell to the evil designs of the imperialistic regime. The last to go was Qaddafi. The way he was taken out showed the angst against his breed of leaders who had wanted the world to awe Islam’s empire. Everything else in the meantime changed except Pakistan’s perception about itself. Pakistan remained mired in the thinking that it was indispensable to Afghanistan’s peace and economic success and that the nuclear arsenal would make it an intimidating force to India. Some truth could be traced to this perceptual metaphor, but the way we cashed on to both these assets made us a state with no serious national agenda to pursue. Most of its life, Pakistan remained dependent on foreign aids, to continue its economic goals, whether it was a military or a civilian government. Not to forget, the big question mark on how this aid has been used.

One primary question that the Pakistan establishment, whatever that may mean, needs to ask today is what has been gained in Afghanistan. We wanted to have a government in Afghanistan of our liking—-laden with Pashtuns. Then we tried to minimize Indian presence in Afghanistan to keep the western border secure entirely. We created, what had been called all these years, the strategic assets and formed a foreign policy for Afghanistan that suited the mind-set of the people there, but it backfired. Whether we hold sway on the Haqqani network, especially of the kind that the US thinks we have, that would nudge them to the negotiating table is getting muddier. Non-state actors are a widespread phenomenon today. It is not state versus state today. It is state versus non-state actors and Afghanistan shall remain their mainstay for times to come. The CIA is expanding its mission in Afghanistan, and now onward small teams of professional officers along with the Afghan forces would hunt down the Taliban. Will it be Taliban only who would be targeted? This question becomes even more relevant when seen through the eye of the International Court of Crimes.

According to Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda, a preliminary examination found “a reasonable basis to believe that war crimes and crimes against humanity” were committed in Afghanistan after U.S.-led troops attacked Afghanistan following the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. “Thousands and thousands of Afghans have suffered horrendous human rights abuses and war crimes over the years, and there has been no accountability,” Richard Dicker of the group’s international justice program told The Associated Press. With the US presence reinforced in Afghanistan, after Trump’s new policy on South Asia, and now with Chabahar Port operational, creating direct economic connection between India and Afghanistan, there is writing on the wall for Pakistan, that it must not only read but get it into its system, for a reasonably decent survival in the comity of nations, lest we find the CIA imprints in Pakistan.

The writing is that if Pakistan fails to readjust its strategic vision about its neighbours it would become irrelevant. The writing is that Pakistan need to understand the nation state concept and let Afghanistan become a country where Pakistan could have influence without fearing India. The writing on the wall is that Pakistan should stop looking outward and begin an inward introspection. The current wave of trolling the corrupt leadership is just not enough and makes little sense when done in a manner that shows partisan approach. It is imperative that we overhaul our mechanism of governance. And for that, we need to mend the governing framework of our institutions. Will a new accountability framework that will replace the National Accountably Bureau work? It will not, unless there is a will to implement the law in letter and spirit. There is a dire need that the leadership from every institution become selfless, and see beyond their power, their interests and the interest of their institutions.

Before Pakistan’s geo-strategic becomes irrelevant in the newly defined geopolitical reality, we need to strengthen ourselves economically, lest Pakistan become another colony, and with Chinese manner of soft power, it would be difficult to wriggle out this time around. Everyone in the neighbourhood is struggling to live together. Each neighbour has historical animosity to the other. Our relationship with Iran, Afghanistan, and India should be borne out of our efforts and not because of some Saudi, Taliban or Chinese influence. CEPC is a Chinese initiative, and it will continue unhampered. What Pakistan needs to worry about is its own worth.