Maverick PPP leader and former Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto introduced populist politics during the 60s and 70s. Being a man of many talents and abilities, he was also an avid reader of choicest books and his library at 70-Clifton in Karachi was declared as one of the best in Asia. Bhutto dexterously used bookish knowledge, vast experience of international relations and deep understanding of the western mind for pursuing intricate foreign policy options. One of his foreign policy achievements was to involve the People’s Republic of China in the subcontinent as an ‘extra area actor’ to counter the hegemonic India vis-à-vis Pakistan.
Despite all this God gifted talents and abilities, Bhutto had failed to grasp the gravity of looming American odium over indigenously designed nuclear program and the US delivered a final warning to him in 1976 through the then Secretary of State Dr Henry Kissinger, who threatened to make him a horrible example. The US also ‘orchestrated’ the 1983’s MRD Movement by giving a message to Makhdoom Muhammad Zaman Talib-ul-Maula, during his visit to the State Department in Washington that America still supports democracy and is quite neutral in internal affairs of Pakistan. Likewise, General Parvez Musharraf was ousted for double-crossing the US in Afghanistan through a fierce lawyers’ movement.
Today, another popular Prime Minister Imran Khan is facing joint American, Indian and Afghan pressure over multi-billion-dollar CPEC project, all alone. Pakistan has little options over this game-changer project, except to expedite the pace of work for reaping the economic gains in time. Different experts believe that a ripe CPEC project would, more and more, involve China into the internal economy of Pakistan because of its heavy investment and strategic interests herewith. It is expected that CPEC would transfigure Pakistan and this new prime position of strength will help counter India, Afghanistan and other inimical forces.
Pakistan needs to motivate the Chinese government and companies to heavily invest through the CPEC platform. The growing Chinese presence will counter any enhanced Indian role in Afghanistan after a possible US withdrawal from the war-torn country. Meanwhile, Chinese dependency on Pakistan will provide the necessary shield to Pakistan to equipoise Indo-US designs from a position of strength. To achieve this option, Pakistan needs to take policy decisions including establishment of federal and provincial CPEC departments so that it may not face any bureaucratic snafu and things could be processed on a fast-track basis.
The US and other developed countries have designed specialized institutions in shape of think tanks to conduct research and help formulate policies. It is estimated that there are more than seven thousand think tanks in 169 countries and the US is home to 1984 think tanks with approximately 400 located in Washington, D.C., alone. Think tanks are, in fact, the intellectual entrepreneurs which play vital role in policy studies and research.
Pakistan must also promote paraphernalia of state-sponsored think tank institutions as well as universities’ area study centres for providing timely analysis to the government. These institutions should be tasked to conduct research for undertaking new policies and reforms. ZA Bhutto government got started area study centres in different universities for studying the geo-strategy of neighbouring countries but such centres have played a, rather, quiescent role and there is a need to reinvent their responsibilities. Due to insufficient research opportunities, lack of direction and unavailability of best researchers, the universities’ area study centres have failed to guide about policies’ formulation. Pakistan Study Centre and Centre for South Asian Studies at the University of the Punjab, Lahore are intellectually dud with no role in nation’s policy studies and research. It would be better if the dormant area study centres are handed over to the National Defence University, Islamabad and Command and Staff College, Quetta for espousing geo-strategic research related to Pakistan’s vital strategic issues.
The Punjab government should also task the universities to conduct research about usefulness or otherwise of its development programs and policies. The universities should be linked with different departments through Planning and Development department of government of the Punjab for conducting research and innovation. It is very essential as Punjab Information Technology Board has failed in introducing manifest information technology (IT) revolution while India is leading the world in this field.
After Bhutto, Pakistan could not find a good international leader to espouse the national interest-based diplomacy. It is understandable that nuclear-powered Muslim state, with 7th largest army in the world, can never be the darling of the West because memories of crusade are still alive in their minds. This hatred is deeply rooted in international politics in the shape of the US investment and support to Israel and India. Pakistan has no friends in the world except China and its 72-year history is ridden with daunting challenges of stability, security and survival while the duo of India and Afghanistan is united in their anti-Pakistan tirade.
A senior analyst Mumtaz Malik said that Pakistan should go ahead with the CPEC, irrespective of the US concerns. The US will not let us take any big step towards development. Its stand on CPEC is similar to that of India, a known Pak enemy. Having faced failures to date, we, in future, have to depute the best diplomats to succeed on foreign front. Neither the US nor any other country has any right to interfere in our internal matters. The US is worried about China’s expansion; so, we should engage America proactively, rather, having reactionary approach. Pakistan should also construct big dams through CPEC platform to gain tangible and meaningful results in agriculture sector. In this hostile situation, the best advice by ancient Chinese military strategist, writer and philosopher Sun Tzu for Pakistan is: ‘To know your enemy, you must become your enemy.’
(The writer is Lahore based public policy analyst)