Viva Zardari, Hina Khar
She gave a whole new dimension to the concept of our bilateral and multilateral ties from day one of her taking over the new assignment. The task of putting a rudderless ship of the State, on a proper direction, was formidable, especially when viewed in the backdrop of an undefined, uncertain course that had characterized our history for so long. Hinaís performance as foreign minister has been remarkable.
She was prolific in her statements, clear in perceptions, eloquent in speeches, and comments on minor to major issues. Hina Khar has been straightforward, never hesitant to defend the country even against the strongest or the mightiest. She spoke bluntly to reflect the wishes, hopes and aspirations of the people, and won acclaim. Her command over language, couple with clear perceptions about issues at stake, made her task of putting the Pakistani view across to the world far more easier than had been anticipated.
True, President Zardari had to be the principle policy maker. He charts the course, but somehow the earlier history of the government has been open to question, drew avalanche of criticism, caused shock and dismay at almost every level. More bluntly, and honestly, steps taken until a few months back in State to State relationship, seemed to move on dotted lines. Pakistanís image had suffered immeasurably because of slave mentality. Islamabad lost importance in the comity of nations. The world was least bothered about us.
We failed to play any significant role at international levels, looked to be mere camp followers, unable to project ourselves as independent, sovereign nation. We were reduced to the level of Somalia or Sudan, or perhaps even worse as far as international relations were concerned. We were, because of our inability to assert ourselves, driven into a position of a client State. That was disgraceful. The awakening coming in the mindset of the military, running the foreign office after Musharrafís exit, and the realization of national requirements by the civilian government in the wake of the November 26 attack on Salala outpost by the NATO troops, and killing of 26 of our officers and soldiers turned out as a blessing in disguise.
Militaryís problem is that it sees everything from coloured glasses. Although even today, the military remains the guardian of foreign office, but Kayani and others too have realized that the civilian authority needs to be restored to its rightful place. That is a welcome sign for the future. Explanations from NATO, the White House, State Department, or the Pentagon, or either from the NATO backed enquiry commission, were all eye-wash, and had to be rejected.
Pakistan government decision to review the foreign policy perceptions, aims and objects, and give a new dimension to ties with America, is entirely in consonance with the dictates of the time and in accordance with the universally-accepted concept of sovereignty and geographical entity of nations. For the first time in 4 years, the government made a real, genuinely good use of the parliament, asking it to take a thorough review of the international relationship and ties with America. That is what the parliament is supposed to do. That it was made to look like a useless organ of the State, was a colossal mistake.
Zardari not only resisted the US pressure on Pakistan-Iran gas pipeline, but established contacts with Russian leadership, being himself in Moscow, and sending his foreign minister for talks with Russian leadership. A high level delegation from Russia was in Pakistan only recently, and offered to rejuvenate the solitary steel mill of the country. The Russians also offered medium, short and long-term assistance in the form of projects, which need to be sincerely studied. An earlier Russian offer of raising the Steel Mill capacity, and helping it to regain its importance in building of national economy, somehow fell to carelessness. The nation had to suffer for that. Steel Mill, mother of all industries, is in total mess now, and needs immediate and serious attention from those in authority.
The new and articulated perceptions provided to the foreign policy shows the vision of the President, and must be pursued with complete sincerity and dedication. The President and the foreign minister have also given tongue to the Prime Minister who has also begun to speak now. Before this week, he was all dumb founded, as if completely ignorant of issues facing the world, the region, and the country itself. His visit to Sweden at the multilateral conference, which is an annual affair, was sheer waste. He could not contribute anything to the World Economic Forum, which is the place where he should have outlined his countryís goals and development needs to the galaxy of people present there.
However, now that the foreign minister accompanies her on the premierís foreign visits, Gilaniís weaknesses to deal with delicate issues, might be overcome. President Zardari must take the lead in forging a regional grouping and looking for a greater role in the Shanghai Cooperation Council (SC0), a very important, and active organization.
He should tour the region and look forward to increased trade from Iran, Afghanistan, India. They are all our neighbours and cannot be ignored at any cost. Some very happy developments have taken place in Indo-Pak relations with trade ministers exchanging ideas for greater cooperation through the land route, and in all fairness Pakistan must grant the Most Favoured Nations (MFN) status to India.
Criticism against it from religious parties, should not distract the government from pursuing its goal of having a truly independent foreign policy. In that alone lay our survival and our betterment.