No exit from Pakistan | By Imtiaz Rafi Butt


No exit from Pakistan

THERE is a significant shift in the relations between Pakistan and the US. The cogs of bilateral relations are turning.

Once again, the objectives of Islamabad seem to be realigning. But the circumstances at hand are unlike any other before.

Pakistan has learned from its mistakes. The question in international relations used to be whether Pakistan is a reliable ally?

But now, the question is, Is Washington a worthy ally or otherwise? These questions are changing the perspective of the world.

In recent times, the Biden Administration decided to part ways with Islamabad. This was reinforced especially as an aftermath of the Afghanistan pull-out disaster.

Pakistan was slammed as an escape goat but the investigations that followed revealed that it was an American made disaster, not Pakistan made.

And now, the US Government is in the process of deliberating the next phase of engagement with Pakistan.

Pakistan has passed through many phases with the US. It has been a relationship of direct needs and transactional ties.

In the 60s, Pakistan was a forward state of the Cold War. Pakistan played its due part only to be ignored once the Cold War slowed down.

Further, down, it was the Afghan invasion of the 70s that brought the country closer once again.

Pakistan once again took active part in the objectives of the US and played its due role leading to the ouster of Soviet forces from Afghanistan and later on dissolution of the Soviet Union itself.

The bilateral ties remained strained after the nuclear bomb tests and Pakistan was slammed with sanctions.

But as fate would have it, the War on Terror brought US and Pakistan with aligned interests once again.

Pakistan became a frontline nation in a war with the Taliban. In 20 years of war, there were mixed times.

Islamabad was blamed for playing both sides and not doing enough against the Taliban even though Pakistan suffered over 80 thousand casualties in the war on terror.

Finally, the US was defeated and a humiliating exit from Afghanistan led the Taliban back in power.

The US saw this as betrayal and blamed Pakistan for assisting Taliban. After that, there was a long pause in relations. One that has been kindled again.

While the US has forsaken Pakistan and has continuously pushed it for doing more, it can be argued that it is the US which has always backed out of its commitments.

After the dissolution of the Soviet Union, all assistance to Pakistan for economic development was seized.

And after the fall of Kabul, the US exerted undue accusations and blame on Pakistan. The drone attacks caused damage and deaths in Pakistan that were never acknowledged nor compensated.

On the other hand, the US continued to bolster ties with India. In 2005, the US declared India as a strategic partner and since then, the US has strengthened its economic and bilateral ties with Delhi preparing it as a forward state against China.

The relations between the US and Pakistan has been hypocritical at best from the side of the Americans.

The Taliban were at a time, the greatest allies of the US. They were the bulwark against the Soviet Warm Water operation to reach the sea.

The Taliban were supplied with stinger missiles, armament and the slogan of holy war was propagated by the Americans to gather Muslims all over the world to reach Afghanistan and fight against the Soviet invasion.

Afterwards, in a matter of few years, the Americans, instead of engaging with the Taliban for improving their war-torn country, branded them as terrorists.

The freedom fighters, allies and friends of yesterday became the terror of the new world. The 9/11 attacks sealed their fate and so began the onslaught of the American war machine on Muslim countries.

The Americans invaded Afghanistan and installed a government of their choice which could not deliver and establish its rule and in 2020, on the eve of exit of American troops, the Taliban in a matter of months, took full control of Afghanistan.

Instead of engaging with the reality of Taliban, the American decided to cut off Pakistan and apply sanctions on Afghanistan.

Currently, the present government is in the process of instigating engagement with the new Taliban Government.

Bilawal Bhutto has done a decent job at fighting the case of Afghanistan where a humanitarian crisis is unfolding.

The international community has responded to the call and there are signs of improvement in multi-lateral diplomatic relations between Afghanistan and other nations of the West.

As of 2022, there is an active debate in the American Congress that the US policy on Pakistan is at fault.

Pakistan is a strategic country with massive capabilities. It has one of the youngest nations of the world and the youthful trend of the country will continue for many decades.

And just like in the case of Indi and China, this youth of the country will lead to higher productivity.

In the recent past, the US has backed out of its relations with Pakistan, and this has led to deteriorating of ties leading Pakistan to move closer towards China.

Pakistan is a major nation in Asia and a key player in South East Asia. Combined strength of its population, its geo-strategic location, its economic potential and its military strength make it a nation that must be kept in close liaison.

Overall, the US is back in business towards Pakistan. Envoys are being dispatched and the Ambassador has opened multiple avenues to revive relations between Islamabad and Washington.

One of the books that highlights that the US needs Pakistan in more than one area is titled, “No Exit from Pakistan” by Daniel Markey who has taken inspiration from the existentialist philosopher Jean Paul Sartre from his phrase “no exit from other people”.

Similarly, the US needs Pakistan to maintain its supremacy in the region. Daniel goes at length to explain that Pakistan has helped the US reach its strategic objectives for seven decades and giving up its ties with Pakistan that led the US into multiple failures.

This time, the US will have to “do more” to achieve a successful relationship with Pakistan as China is now a leading nation that is aiming to put US supremacy in the shadow and Pakistan is a key nation to the expansion of new superpower nation of the world.

As the US prepares India as a forward nation against China, China too will prepare Pakistan as a geo-strategic partner.

This time Pakistan must make prudent decisions and formulate bilateral relations based on mutual gain, respect keeping in view the long-term vital interests of the nation.

Pakistan and US relations possess immense potential and neither country can thrive without the other but there is a Golden Mean at play here, one that must be found from both sides. Both parties should learn from their mistakes and carve out a path of mutual progress.

—The writer is Chairman, Jinnah Rafi Foundation, based in Lahore.


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