SARTAZ Aziz’s disclosure that Foreign Office has agreed to supply details of Dr Asim Hussain’s case to a US Senator, has come as rude shock to countrymen. Was it not outrageous or did not tantamount to compromising on national sovereignty? Adviser on foreign affairs owes an explanation to the people of Pakistan. He must clarify his position without further loss of time.
First and foremost the question arises as to whether the policy of the Foreign and Information ministries’ to rely on a select number of people, primarily from electronic media, for briefing on sensitive issues, is a correct policy? Sooner it is changed, the better it would be for national cohesion. Information ministry, which bears the brunt for arranging such gatherings, must review its policy.
The ministry has an articular minister in Senator Pervez Rashid, and indeed a gracious secretary in Imran Gardezi, a thoroughbred professional, humble and courteous. The two must sit together, and work out a system under which TV anchors, coloumnists, analysts et; from all over the country must be invited without discrimination.
Such a methodology will be good for the government too. It will have a far greater spectrum than it is using now to convey its messages to the people, who have inherent right to know about government policies and details of its execution. The media, being the obvious bridge must be utilized to the fullest possible benefit of those at he helm and those keen to know as to how their government is doing.
The countrymen were stunned to learn from Adviser on Foreign Affairs that a US Senator has demanded details of cases against Dr Asim Hussain. What business does he have to make such a demand? His area of jurisdiction is confined to America. How could he ask for something from Pakistan. Doing that will naturally be, and ought to be considered as interference in internal affairs of a soverign country. And responding to that will tantamount to accepting dictation from a foreigner, which is bound to raise eyebrows.
Will the US Senator allow Islamabad to seek details from House of Representatives or the Senate, or from any government office in America about a matter which does not directly concern Pakistan? There will be furor in America. Pakistan would be lambasted. The government of Pakistan, must surely be aware of that, and must send a clear message to the American that it is answerable to its people, and not to those living outside the geographical boundaries of the country.
Does the surprising demand from the US legislator has anything to do with the visit to America of the PPP chairman Asif Ali Zarrdari?. Is there a link between the two? Zardari reportedly met McCain in Los Angeles and fed a story to the media wing of the party here that he had pleaded his country’s case for the sale of F-16, about which there has been lot of controversies already.
It was none other than Sartaj Aziz himself who had announced in the Parliament that the chapter for the sale to Pakistan of the high precision combat aircraft, had been closed, and that Pakistan had turned to other options.
Why did McCain and others not raised voices in favour of Pakistan for the sale of F-16, if they were so concerned about Pakistan? PAF had utilized these aircraft with remarkable proficiency to flush out terrorists from their hide-outs in the mountainous North. The US senators had kept mum over the issue, and now one of them, who never showed any interest in Pakistan previously, has dared write a letter to Foreign ministry, asking for details as to what was happening with Zardari’s friend, Dr Asim Hussain. The latter has been charged with embezzling Rs 462 billion, and occupying lands for his hospital and TV channel. Stories about his misdoings have flooded the market.
Sorry to say that Sartaj Aziz, instead of sending a rebuff to the Senator, has preferred to address a letter to NAB, and even brazen-facedly announce to the full view of the media that he will forward those details to the US Senator. He should have conveyed to the Senator that Asim’s was purely an internal matter for Pakistan and Pakistanis, and that the matter is subjudice for being before a court of law.
That he chose to opt for another course, is regrettable. It would be treated as sordid affair, and would make Pakistanis hang their hands in shame. The Adviser on foreign affairs or the prime minister, holding the foreign minister’s portfolio, should send a simple two-line message to the self-styled custodian of Dr Asim Hussain’s interest—“sorry, Senator, this is not your domain”.
The question beginning to be asked now as to whether Zardari really told the truth about his American yatra. Was he there to plead Pakistan’s case, or was he there to save his friend? He too owes an explanation to people at home. If Zardari has tried to, which we hope and feel confident that he has not, then in words plain and simple, he transcended the boundaries of well-defined terminology of patriotism. Can he deny, that he had sought support from a former American ambassador Anne Patterson to help him regain power.
In return he would submit to her country’s demands from Pakistan. That is not all. Even Benazir telephoned former President, senior Bush to seek help against action taken against her by late President Ghulam Ishaq Khan. Is this patriotism? The government, and the Zardaris need to answer that.