Where are we heading to?

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By Wajid Shamsul Hasan
In my column titled ‘Foreign Policy Goof up’ last week I had lamented that no doubt we had a Foreign Minister after a long time, our foreign policy remained a guessing game. All my previous apprehensions of a bottomless foreign policy obviously did not carry that much of weight to sink in the hard nuts that style themselves as experts. After having received a set back at FAFT where Pakistan has been put on grey list until June when FAFT experts would checklist Islamabad’s performance to do more regarding efficacy of its measures to counter terrorism as per the criterion provided by the United States. Independent analysts fear that Islamabad would fail to satisfy FAFT with enough of compliance and as such black listing is foregone conclusion.
Washington is sticking to its guns to put high voltage pressure on Islamabad to totally knock down Hafiz Saeed’s and Haqqani Network allegedly operating from within Pakistan and often accused of involvement in acts of subversion, bombing and mayhems. One American diplomat when asked to comment responded candidly that President Trump means business–‘he has no room or patience to give more space to hoodwink Americans with the age-old policy of General Pervez Musharraf of running with the hare and hunting with the hounds.’
Pakistan Foreign Office embroiled in deep inertia remains both directionless and clueless as to the currents and cross currents on the broader global canvas to the extent it did not have enough appropriate words to react on Afghan government’s major initiative announced by President Ashraf Ghani recently at the Peace Conference in Kabul. He offered to recognise Taliban as legitimate party for the settlement, offered unconditionally to end war, proposed ceasefire and release of prisoners as part of a process that he said could lead to talks to end more than 16 years of war. He aimed at creating a platform for peace discussions. According to diplomatic sources this is the latest signal from the western-backed government and the Taliban of greater willingness to consider dialogue as a way forward.
Taliban who once claimed that their opponents had the clock but they had the time, showed no keenness, neither haste to react. Rather, they insist for direct talks with the Americans. One would agree with the columnist Yasmeen Ali of Pakistan Today that Islamabad should leave it at that and let Americans, Afghan government and Taliban decide how they want to bring 16-year old war to an end. “If US and Afghanistan really want peace in Afghanistan US will be open to having talks with Taliban on one to one basis Why the pretence of awarding an independent role to present Afghan government that it does not have? The United Nations too backs this peace process nicked Kabul Process. So very sweet!

External Debt in Pakistan increased to 88891 USD Million in the fourth quarter of 2017 from 85052 USD Million in the third quarter of 2017. External Debt in Pakistan averaged 53029.34 USD Million from 2002 until 2017, reaching an all time high of 88891 USD Million in the fourth quarter of 2017 and a record low of 33172 USD Million in the third quarter of 2004.

Have the 16 years of Afghanistan war taught the US nothing? Lip service to peace talks will not pay. Role of third party will fail (referring Pakistan) due to Pakistan itself being at war with them on her soil. No other country has the interest (reference Pak-Afghan mutual border) to broker a successful deal. The one untried path is a direct brokering of peace in Afghanistan by US with Taliban. Why not? The creator and the creation finally meeting for a drawdown. What divine poetic justice!”
Due to grossly incompetent leadership, its total failure to stand on own its own feet and face challenges in the best national interests, it was taken for granted by our Saudi friends when the Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman set up 41- country Sunni Muslim Nato army and announced as a fait acccompli Pakistan’s membership without consulting or taking approval of Islamabad. Those were the days when Parliament was rather assertive and it put its foot down against use of Pakistani troops for Saudi war in Yemen. Regretfully hosting of ousted Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif (Oct 1999) with pelf and power and royal comforts in the Saroor Palace obligations for spending more than five years and funding to him thereafter when he became Prime Minister a third time-has cost the nation immensely. Without seeking Parliament’s approval as in the past, Islamabad has agreed to send substantive troops to Royal Kingdom.
The Saudi Crown Prince is a dynamic young man unfolding a gigantic vision for Saudi Foreign policy underwritten by American President Trump. And like his mentor in Washington known as an oversize bull in a China shop, RSK too has lately announced its expansive ambitions by directly attacking Pakistan’s most trusted alley Turkey as part of a “triangle of evil” along with Iran and hard line Islamist groups. The powerful Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has also accused Turkey of trying to reinstate the Islamic Caliphate, abolished nearly a century ago by founder of modern Turkey Kemal Ata Turk when the Ottoman Empire collapsed.
His comments reported in the media reflect Saudi Arabia’s deep suspicion of President Tayyip Erdogan, whose ruling AK Party has its roots in Islamist politics and who has allied his country with Qatar in its dispute with Saudi Arabia and some other Gulf states. And incidentally, if today Pakistan is not included in FATF’s blacklist, it was due to timely intervention of single country Turkey against American bloc including the Royal Kingdom. It is strange to know that Turkey that has been working with Iran to try to reduce fighting in northern Syria in recent months has been accused by Prince Mohammed as “the contemporary triangle of evil comprises Iran, Turkey and extremist religious groups”. Not only that, Pakistan’s relations with Qatar are likely to be undermined by it being in the Sunni Nato force.
While no one knows where the rudderless foreign policy would ultimately land us, no doubt domestic political front is rapidly heating up as if notwithstanding apprehensions otherwise, elections would be held on time. It seems from now up to elections we shall not have a dull moment. Latest silver lining has been the successful holding of Senate elections as yet another step forward towards consolidating democracy when many political pundits have been predicting end to the system. Now the stage is being set for the election of the Chairman Senate. Outgoing Chairman Mian Raza Rabbani has done the nation proud by upholding supremacy of the parliament and never hesitating a moment in standing up to invisible forces itching to derail the system due to lack of importance shown to the Parliament by the ruling party. One wishes a second term for him but then that could only be possible if wishes were horses.

It is question of a magical coin in possession of the former prime minister and the so-called prime minister in waiting. Howsoever high the spin, whichever side it falls – the result is same. According to a self-confession by the Kaptan, at least 17 of his MPs sold themselves out perhaps for Rs 4 crore each. The number of sell outs could be higher – if and when – Kaptan’s tearful pleadings to the highest judiciary that declared him ‘Sadiq and Amin’ of such a corrupt lot – holds a successful inquiry.
Much similar is the accusation made by PMLN demanding PTI chief to disclose how ‘good Mohamed Sarwar’ as PTI’s candidate short of 14, got 44 votes when his party did not have the winning number. The ‘super honest leaders’ like MNS and IK have exposed themselves by trading horse-trading charges against their own members, the PPP established a record in credibility by electing members of the minority Hindu community including yet another first – a Hindu woman worker from backward Thar – with wealth as no virtue for them. Chairman Bilawal Bhutto and the PPP opted for political commitment of the have-nots in the founding principles of the party and duly rewarded them. These Hindu members had nothing to boost about in gold and glitter but their sheer commitment and loyalty to the party.
And most importantly, credit also goes to PPP MPs and their unwavering loyalty. They did not sell themselves out to the highest bidder as did the PMLN and PTI MPs according to the candid confessions of their party leaders. Obviously making it easier for the voters in the forthcoming general elections as to which party would mean real ‘tabdeli’ instead of crocodile tears.
Around 90 days to elections – country is already embroiled in hectic campaigning. How the results could end the period of ‘darkness’ and usher in ‘season of light and hope’ – depends – if nothing untoward happens from now and to the polls – if there are no extra constitutional interventions or judicial intrusions amidst Zia like pledges that players obviously overly prominent in the machinations, swearing of no political agenda or ambitions – live up to their words. Nation shall have to go beyond those masquerading as new born democrats with three decade long catalogue of high corruption, crimes, follies and betrayals in absolute pelf and power sustained by the establishment or those who claim they suffered and struggled for the unshackling the people while repeatedly seeking personal conjugal rights – not once but thrice-on record not accounting for the unofficial scorecard.
London’s prominent TV anchor Tamoor Iqbal known for his wit and biting quotes – says in a Whatsapp group ‘MNS’s case is that of a ‘certified liar by the highest court of the country’ who he wishes, should have been given Oscar for best screenplay for Qatari ‘beauty’ (i.e. prince’s letter). Indeed, a case of psychopathic mindset of an self-styled ‘ideologue’ who white washes himself every day of his sins. He forgets what how criminally he treated Pakistan’s twice elected prime minister and only leader of international stature. How she was made to stand hours in scorching heat outside Karachi Central Jail with her three under teen children. Public memory is itched with ugly scar on Pakistan’s judiciary when Accountability Court’s Justice Malik Qayum convicted Benazir Bhutto and AAZ on the orders of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif delivered by his Tara Masih Senator Saifur Rehman.
Democracy is not an end in itself. It is a means to establishing an egalitarian society in which state is responsible for the well-being of its citizens – irrespective of caste, creed, colour and gender with total freedom to practice one’s religion as a private affair having nothing to do with the business of the state. Elections are means to achieving that end. Now polls are around the corner. In next few days all the major political parties and the media should get down to framing important issues and pragmatic manifestos covering vital issues such as water famine, population explosion, unemployment, lack of medi-care, inaccessible potable water, lack of sanitation, increasing environmental hazards, lawlessness, child and female abuse, infantile deaths, least priority to quality education.
(The writer is the former High Commissioner of Pakistan to UK and a veteran journalist.)