Stand up and be counted

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Zaheer Bhatti
IT is not only Pakistan’s external enemies and detractors who need to be monitored and pre-empted but also a regiment of its own flock among the media who ascribe to themselves the right to opinionate with finality in their quest to earn certification for their self-assumed realism at the expense of the State and promoting discord rather than unison in the face of adversity, besides the Parliamentarians falling dismally short of attaining credibility due to their own conduct, and successive Governments failing to effectively respond to external ingresses. Pakistan indeed also needs to put its own house in order, if that is what the Foreign Minister means by his reiteration.
One had thought that diversification and expansion in the Pakistan’s electronic Media would provide the nation with a platform to objectively disseminate its narrative among the global fraternity on various international issues and opinionate the masses over a national ethos, but unfortunately instead it is seen engaged in self-eulogy and confrontation or projecting brawls and stand-offs among political opponents unmindful of emerging threats to the nation from its surroundings and beyond.
Mercifully, both Houses of Parliament in Pakistan finally came on their own, to express rare solidarity; thanks to Trump’s Policy speech for South Asia, as they firmly rejected spurious American accusations against Pakistan of harbouring terrorists operating against US interests in Afghanistan despite its false assertion of billions of dollars funding to Pakistan. Countrywide condemnation of Trump’s statement was followed by a resounding Resolution on the floor of Parliament as well as by the Senate after fiery and down to earth speeches. The Parliamentarians vowed to take up the issue worldwide through diplomatic channels besides the United Nations, making clear its intention not to confront but to engage the US in a pragmatic dialogue in order to put things in the right perspective.
As the National Security Committee put its heads together, the Pakistani law-makers repudiating the American rhetoric presented a balance sheet of what Pakistan had earned and lost in the bargain in playing ball to America, and made it abundantly clear to Donald Trump that the road to peace and stability in Afghanistan passed through Pakistan sharing with it historical bonds of Muslim brotherhood besides a long border, and not India with no proximity nor cause except that it was providing Pakistani renegades with sanctuaries, training and funding to destabilize Pakistan. India happens to be the real spoiler being subconsciously or purposely reared in the Washington closet, and the sooner the US realized the reality on the ground, the better it would be for its durable future equation with Pakistan.
While it was a day to be reckoned with and remembered with display of national solidarity, some in the Pakistani media continued overtly asserting that the country could not afford to offend the US as the latter could apply economic and military sanctions against it. They instead ought to have decried US withholding release of already delayed 225 Million Dollar tranche of ESAF Support Fund subject to certification of Pakistan’s performance; a continuing insult to unparalleled Pakistani sacrifices and a misnomer since the said amount was re-imbursement of Pakistani expenses against war on terror and not aid as the US pretends.
But amid this fresh war of words and attrition between the US and Pakistan, the media becomes more potent in de-escalating or conversely creating a fatal confrontation. There is no denying the fact that the US being a superpower one should not lock horns with it unnecessarily. But it would be a gross miscalculation for the US to treat Pakistan as a push-over and expect it to serve its unending and unrealistic demands, and continued blaming for its own failures. Pakistan has no quarrel with growing US relations with India but it would be patently unfair for it to have chosen India to reap the benefits of Pakistani sacrifices.
Trump’s apparently unguided rhetoric has not only been strongly condemned by China, Russia and Iran; principal powers neighbouring Afghanistan in favour of Pakistani stance, but has also been the subject of rebuke by his own media back home. Pakistan’s Army Chief Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa on Defence Day of Pakistan served an apt rejoinder to Trump’s Afghan policy that Pakistan expected no aid but acknowledgement of its sacrifices in imposed war on terror, and that now it was American turn to do more.
In this backdrop one must cautiously analyse Ahmed Quraishi’s optimism over a news channel dilating upon what he considers the positive substance of Trump’s Afghan Policy Speech in which while gunning for Pakistan and egging on India for a bigger role, he has also called upon India to spend more on Afghanistan’s development out of its earnings from exports to the US, while also cautioning Afghanistan that American lavish assistance was not to be taken for granted unless it also delivered better.
In the first place knowing the Indian ‘baniya’ mindset, it is doubtful that it would readily oblige the US unless it means investing more in the destabilization process of the region for which India is already on course. As for American expectations from a pathetically divided puppet Afghan leadership with no writ in half the country, desertions in its American built Armed Force, rampant corruption to the point of addiction to the enormous US aid besides the American Forces themselves enjoying the dividends of the purposely allowed poppy cultivation also used for funding terrorists, Trump’s caution would end up being a pipe dream.
It is time for a cautious yet determined multi-pronged diplomatic offensive for which utilising services of noted former diplomats still around, would not be out of place. Pakistani Prime Minister’s speech at the UN General Assembly will show if Pakistan was now ready to stand up and be counted.
—The writer is a media professional, member of Pioneering team of PTV and a veteran ex Director Programmes.
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