The ‘do more’ mantra!

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Friendly Fire

Khalid Saleem

WITH the advent of winter, the affliction that – for want of a more apt appellation – may be referred to as ‘do-more-itis’ appears to be rearing its ugly head once more; this time apparently with a vengeance! Not that we did not already have a load full of problems of our own. What with the heating up of the political tangle, the on/off dharnas’ imbroglio and the ‘leaders’ of all ilks firing salvos left, right and centre, this blessed land’s basket of woes is on the verge of overflowing as it is. And now like a bolt from the blue comes this renewed onslaught from our ‘strategic partner’! A quick look over the shoulder may be in order. During his visit, US Defence Secretary Jim Mattis did his bit to rake up the embers once again, his somewhat cautious public statements notwithstanding. It became evident at the time that, having burnt its fingers badly in its Afghanistan adventure, our strategic ally was out looking for a ‘fall guy’. What with other members of the US administration adding their bit to pour oil on the embers, no prizes for guessing who the finger points at. Suffice it to state that the Trump administration is making no secret of its intention to take a ‘tougher stance’ against Pakistan.
As if the aforementioned were not enough, came the salvo of President Trump himself! Always known for his shoot-from-the-hip style, in his tweet, the big man appears to have outdone himself! Using language that would hardly qualify as ‘diplomatic’, Trump holds Pakistan responsible for all the woes of the US forces in Afghanistan. He rues the fact that US had (in his own words) “foolishly given…more than 33billion dollars in aid over the last fifteen years”. He went on a binge to gild the lily by adding that “they (Pakistan that is) have given us nothing but lies and deceit”. Testy language that emanating, as it did, personally from a Head of State!
The new administration in Washington appears to be taking up from where various luminaries of NATO left off in the past years. The call asking Pakistan ‘to do more to eliminate the safe havens of terrorists’ is not unexpected nor is it new. What is surprising, though, is the intensity of this chorus among the higher echelons of Washington. One must also look askance at this deplorable tendency to issue unwarranted tweets and that too at the highest level. Matters that could and should be discussed and settled confidentially at diplomatic level are hardly fit subjects for inane tweets.
One does not wish to take issue with the right of luminaries of the Trump administration to hold a particular point of view or indeed to give it expression. Difference of opinion is the right of an individual as, indeed, of an administration. What nettles though are two things: a) the transparent attempt by the US to put the entire blame for its failures in the field on this country, and b) its continued and inexplicable assertion of extra-territoriality in its dealings with a declared ‘ally’ of sorts. What need must be recalled and recognized is that Pakistan’s then leadership had executed a disastrous U-turn at its ally’s behest – one that amounted to an undertaking to take the latter’s irons out of the Afghanistan fire at the imminent risk of burning its own fingers. As a consequence, this country has had to suffer – and continues to suffer – the blowback of a ‘war’ that is not of its own making, but one that had been thrust on this region by the powers that be for motives that do not necessarily coincide with our national interest. As a corollary, Pakistan’s order of priorities has gone awry; with the concept of sovereignty and territorial integrity turned on its head. To add insult to the injury, this country is being constantly reminded that its commitment is not only open-ended but also indefinite.
A look over the shoulder at recent (and not so recent) facts of life may be in order. History is witness that the Afghan people have never lived at peace with an occupying power whatever the rationale for its intervention. The Generals and diplomats (and now leaders!) of the West, who appear to have made a habit of asking Pakistan to ‘do more’, should study the history of this region and, if possible, eschew attempts at over-simplification. It should also be evident by now that the Afghans have never looked kindly at crude attempts by aliens to shore up an unpopular regime.
As for our very own armchair “liberals”, all one needs to remind them of is the truism that the allied forces are going to have to leave Afghanistan sooner or later. It is we who will be left to face the music. Prudence demands that we dread that day! One other matter calls for some clarification at this point. This hapless country is being constantly called upon to be the frontline state in the so called ‘war on terror’ – all in a transparent attempt to bail out those powers that ignited the fuse in the first place. Let it not be forgotten that Pakistan, as a consequence, is being obliged to confront the onslaught of ‘terrorists’ on more fronts than one. The least our ‘friend and ally’ can do is not to add to our basket of woes that is already on the verge of overflowing. Or is that asking for too much?
— The writer is a former ambassador and former assistant secretary general of OIC.

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