Nothing describes the roller coaster ride better than the term captioned above. Though Pakistan has remained a strategic ally of USA for over 60 years, the peaks and valleys this relationship encountered continues to mandate a searchable, rather contentious and sometimes mutually or singularly destructive strategic relationship. In lump sum having sometimes fermented cooperation through overt and covert agreements and at others voluntarily hurt each other with mutual suspicion, the two are reminiscent of an estranged couple not willing to divorce. Pakistan-US relationship is a high energy samba, where the couple have taken mutual or one sided breaks to get yet again into the wild frenzy like frogs, snakes and spiders in copulation but yet at each other’s throat. Hence continues the negotiations on a strategic dialogue despite a very long strategic relationship.

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif took his eagerly awaited and much trumpeted trip to the Promised Land after having been ignored two months earlier. His work was built on a faulty premise and assumption that civil control over military would reap rewards during his negotiations with Americans. Little did he realise that despite a diplomatic snub, his over zealousness was not only putting him but also his country in a cobweb from which extrication will be difficult. He and his half cooked team worked in splendid isolation with no discourse within the parliament on a grandiose pilgrimage to the land of promise.

In the backdrop, India agreed to negotiate disputes with China. There were direct and implied implications of terrorism exported from Pakistan as an international concern. China succeeded in getting three terrorist organisations with links in Pakistan on the banned list while India heated the line of control to forestall any infiltrations. Russia with a smile on its face after Syria sent an olive leaf to which Pakistan has yet to respond notwithstanding a new defence arrangement with India. 

The themes of the visit to USA were tediously planned by the Joseph Goebbels and fly by night reformers of the government. Pakistan was to bravely accept the responsibility of clearing its internal instability to address international concerns. Policies of the past were the ‘explanation of the cause’ and ‘civil supremacy over the military’ the solution. Hence the entourage that accompanied the Prime Minister had no high profile defence or intelligence dignitary and no foreign or defence minister. The time chosen by the big brother synchronised with the transitory nature of the chain of commands in the armed forces.

To talk of promoting a strategic dialogue built around a security relationship in the absence of experts was a preposition doomed to nowhere. Civil and military establishment were ignored. It reflected the inherent propensity on part of the prime minister to clash with institutions. In the run up to the Obama meeting, statements were carefully placed to meet the ends-means relationship as also assure the people back home that the prime minister was preparing for tough talks. Despite the mantra of energy, drones, Afia and Afridi, the one point agenda of the visit seemed the readiness by civilians to put a submission hold over the military led establishment. Though negotiations for peace remain a sellable slogan for domestic consumption; the real intentions appear to launch the next crescendo of military operations according to a given plan with no corollary economic policies. Wars and four, not single dimensional.

Perhaps the message from the White House is wrapped in incompetence and misunderstood zeal. US Press statement by the Americans were carefully crafted as were the leaks. President Obama was articulate in his choice of words. Yet the nature and drift of talks were compromised by the Pakistani Prime Minister during his press conference reading from notes. His position as a minion in the high profile meeting had more to do with his personality disorders than the nature of tough talks. This negative demeanour reinforced the perception that rather than a meaningful dialogue in assisting Pakistan in its most difficult challenges, President Obama had handed over a long list of dos and don’ts to a country that cannot take its daily meals without the big brother’s approval. This is a foreign policy capitulation that Pakistan will endure for a long time.

It appears that historic predispositions, faulty advice and confrontationist attitude have lured the present government into a wider fault-line and instability. Eradication of terrorism with a lesser priority for socio-economic development means that Pakistan validates US accusations against Pakistan. In schoolboy parlance, there is no leave or goodies till the homework is done and checked.

Despite international isolation, domestic waves and frequency of militancy continue to grow amid a chant of negotiating peace with an invisible and perpetually morphing threat. Analysts and opinion makers harbingered on an opportunity are widening the cracks to pot holes. An environment is being shaped for a final entrenchment.

For the past six years, through sponsored seminars and workshops backed by a vitriolic and tabloid media, there is an attempt at dubbing Civil-Military Relations in Pakistan as the mother of all evils. Though I agree that the higher direction of state management must always come from the Prime Minister who represents the Parliament, it is also incumbent on civilians to leave no blank spaces for instruments of statecraft to exploit. Pakistan's prime issue is not Civil-Military Relations but the dysfunctionalism right at the top. When a country cannot enunciate its National Interests on a time continuum directly related to National Power; with well-defined and articulated roles for each instrument of statecraft, what else could you expect other than adhocism during the Prime Minister’s visit to USA. The eagerness of the Prime Minster to undo the wrongs done in the past is a dangerous assertion. Confrontation with the defence establishment will add a new element to Pakistan’s instability. 

At the same time, Pakistanis need to comprehend and realise that the economic down turn is manipulated and not endemic. The national power of Pakistan in its aggregate is way beyond a rapidly devaluing currency, dwindling exchequer and diminishing energy resources. Pakistan’s worth is much more than the few billions it receives in tranches with strings. Pakistanis also need to beware that any further instability will lead to more bloodshed and disunity.

It is now the duty of the Pakistani intelligentsia and media to steer the debate in the right direction. Dysfunctionalism within the state and opportunist constitutionalism should be the top priorities for awareness that Pakistan lacks a narrative of higher direction and elucidation of its national interests. Once this is put right, the longevity of civil-military relations will automatically fall in its slot.

The writer is a retired officer of Pakistan Army and a political economist.