ISLAMABAD - Pakistan’s foreign policy has been put into question amid hard times as the country fights the coronavirus, struggles to placate annoyed Saudi Arabia and expects nothing but aggression on the Line of Control with India.

Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi and his team seem to have been active but senior cabinet member Dr Shireen Mazari and the entire opposition are convinced the results are trifling.

While the Kashmir is, as always, an unresolved hot topic, misunderstandings with Saudi Arabia have only compounded the problems.

Human Rights Minister Dr Shireen Mazari, who was a strong candidate for the Foreign Minister’s slot when the Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf came into power, said the Foreign Office had let Kashmiris and Prime Minister Imran Khan down in their struggle for the Kashmir cause.

Mazari asserted it was through Prime Minister Imran Khan’s single-handed efforts that the narrative surrounding Kashmir changed across the world.

“Had the Foreign Office carried forward the prime minister’s narrative, the situation would have been vastly different today. Pakistani diplomats chose leisurely hotel stays, dressing in three-piece suits and heavily starched clothes and speaking over the telephone,” Mazari added.

She questioned how a country like Burkina Faso has more diplomatic clout than Pakistan, as it managed to get a resolution passed by the United Nations Human Rights Council against police brutality in the United States in the wake of protests against George Floyd’s murder.

The sitting minister’s remarks, at a time when Pakistan is trying to placate Saudi Arabia after FM Qureshi’s controversial statement regarding the OIC role on Kashmir, raised many eyebrows.

Former Pakistan ambassador to US Senator Sherry Rehman claimed Dr Mazari’s critique posed a strong question mark on the PTI-led government’s ability to forge any policy.

“Now the disunity is pointing to the policy failures that the opposition has been voicingas the government’s own ministers are saying it,” the lawmaker who is also the Vice President of the Pakistan People’s Party, said.

Clearly, she said, there was policy confusion in the frontline ranks at the Foreign Office and cabinet. “For a ranking minister to publicly question policy is not the norm, and the rifts in PTI ranks have now become fault lines that are having an impact on the clarity and strategy of our policy,” she maintained.

Senator Rehman questioned how a government with no cohesion in its own cabinet could instill confidence in Pakistan’s policies abroad.

Criticising the Foreign Minister’s recent statement on Saudi Arabia where he had threatened Riyadh that if the Saudi-led OIC failed to summon a meeting, “Pakistan would be ready to go for a session outside OIC,” Sherry Rehman asked: “Has there been a willful shift in Pakistan’s foreign policy that the country or Parliament is unaware of? Is the PTI government issuing statements with any thought or are they usual blunders.”

Commenting on the deep ties between Saudi Arabia and Pakistan, the Senator said Pakistan had always maintained a cordial and strong relationship with Saudi Arabia and frequently sought economic help from the Kingdom, which was a significant employer of expatriate Pakistani labour while it also remained a major source of remittances. Rash statements like these will only jeopardize relationships,” she added. 

She reminded that Pakistan had repaid a Saudi loan of $1 billion which was part of the $6.2 billion package announced by Saudi Arabia in November 2018. “Did they ask for it or did the PTI government pay it back on its own? It is alarming that the PTI government is so busy in jockeying that it does not realise the implications of the blunders it is committing,” she added. International Relations expert Dr Khurram Iqbal said it was a fact the global institutions had not fulfilled their obligations for the resolution of Kashmir dispute.

“It has been a year since India’s unilateral and illegal actions in Indian Occupied Kashmir. It has become a humanitarian crisis. The West and global institutions have done nothing so far. There have been a few reports on Kashmir, but no practical steps have been taken so far for the resolution of the issue,” he said.

The Western countries, he said, wanted to use India as a frontline ally against China. “Resultantly, India takes undue leverage and advantage to carry out its atrocities. We need to highlight the Kashmir issue forcefully,” he remarked.

Jehangir Ashraf Qazi, a prominent analyst, said Pakistan needed unity at this time so the differences between ministers or politicians should be ignored. “Shireen Mazari may differ with the FM but we have to take up the Kashmir issue together. The problem is we have never worked on a strong foreign policy,” he contended.

Minister for Kashmir Affairs and Gilgit-Baltistan, Ali Amin Khan Gandapur, said Prime Minister Imran Khan had effectively highlighted the Kashmir issue at the international level and expressed the hope that the dispute would be resolved under his dynamic leadership.

“The Prime Minister is playing a role as Kashmir's ambassador and exposing Indian atrocities and massive human rights violations in Occupied Jammu and Kashmir,” he said.