Recent developments around the region would appear to indicate that the good old ‘do more’ mantra is not only alive and kicking but may well have been blessed with a fresh lease of life. The flying visit of US Secretary of State has only partially cleared the cobwebs, if that.
Any minor happening is enough to turn the much-vaunted US-Pakistan strategic equation on its head. Of course, one is working on the unlikely presumption that this ‘equation’ was ever the right side up. The more one looks at it, the more one has the queasy feeling that this equation was never intended to be anything but one-sided. We appear to have been myopic all along. All that can be said about it is that it pays to set one’s sights in a way as to be able to see beyond one’s nose.
A look over the shoulder may be in order. One recalls the epoch when well-known members of the Think Tanks from the rarefied atmosphere of Washington would pay regular ‘fact-finding visits’ to this blessed land. Their brief was apparently to gauge the level of ‘commitment’ of our movers and shakers to the ‘war on terror’ being waged on the Empire’s behalf by us lesser mortals. They exhibited signs of being totally enervated bearing the ‘white man’s burden’ through those days of strife and fearful odds. Their modest aim, they asserted with feigned humility, was to stiffen our resolve to continue to fight against what they termed the forces of ‘extremism’ and/or ‘terrorism’.
One was privileged to be present at some of the ‘round tables’ organised by our ‘research institutes’ in honour of such visitors. On being afforded an opportunity to pose a question, one naively asked if there was a denouement in the sight of the powers that be and how long would it take for a country like ours that was hooked to the ‘noble cause’ to revert to its erstwhile priority of looking after its own citizens. The gentleman in question made it clear that it was ‘their’ expectation that our commitment was open-ended and would continue ad infinitum. He looked genuinely pained to discover that there existed people in the Land of the Pure who could dare to envisage that there could be a limit to their total commitment to keep on ‘doing more’ in order that the Great White Chief and his tribe in never-never land could continue to live in peace and tranquility for all times to come. That happened years ago. Little appears to have changed since.
Given that Pakistan had little choice but to fall in line with the US plan of action as regards the war on terror; given also that as a self-committed ‘front-line state’, this blessed land had perforce to subsume certain unpleasant consequences of the operation, what irks one today is that we are still where we were, with no redemption in sight. Having offered to take the American irons out of the Afghanistan fire at the extreme risk of burning our fingers, we are constantly goaded to ‘do more’ and that too with no denouement visible on the horizon.
The Afghan regime, since it was propped onto the saddle, made no secret of its tilt towards the rivals of Pakistan in the region. In addition to going all out to run down Pakistan’s efforts in the war on terror, the regime in Kabul has done all in its power to downplay Pakistan’s efforts both in the economic and strategic fields. For all our sacrifices, nary a helpful word but also taunts of ‘not having done enough’. All in all, it appears to be a no-win situation so far as Pakistan is concerned.
On the eastern front, Pakistan was engaged in a seemingly never-ending – now on, now off – dialogue with India. It would have made ample sense if India had agreed to put its shoulder to the wheel. But this was not to be. Indian establishment, while putting Pakistan on the mat on the matter of the so-called ‘cross-border terrorism’, has been using its nexus with the Kabul regime to make things difficult for Pakistan in the sensitive regions across the border. The foreign forces in Afghanistan have opted to look the other way, while, at the same time, coming down hard on Pakistan every time they felt the heat in the region.
We as a nation, then, have been beset with what can loosely be described as a ‘condition’ that is not only self-inflicted but also, from all indications, appears to be incurable. Like a cancer it is eating into our vitals, while all that our liberal intellectuals appear to be advocating is more of the same. The time may be ripe to cut our losses and try to get out of the vicious circle as soon and as fast as we can. The moot point is: do we have the gumption and the courage to do so, rather than sink deeper and deeper into the morass? What needs to be done – and urgently – is for our blessed land to re-order its set of priorities. In other words, we need to put national interest ahead of all other considerations whatever. For well nigh a decade this country has opted to keep its national interest subservient to the demands of ‘our friends’. It may be time now for the order of priorities to be re-oriented.
Recent developments in the country have pointed to the imperative need to set our own house in order. Let it be said that nothing should be allowed to surpass the imperatives set out by national interest. History is witness that nations that have chosen to ignore this simple truth have invariably come to grief. We are faced with a fork in the road. The choice is up to us. Whatever our choice, let us not forget that history is a very harsh judge indeed!
— The writer is a former ambassador and former assistant secretary general of OIC.