On the eve of the day that marks the arrival of spring, the sovereign righteous parliament of the Islamic Republic (consisting of what percentage of legitimate members?) was huffing and puffing over what have been described as ‘key recommendations’ — or rather, in the local lingo ‘demands’, all 16 of them — to be implemented so that Pakistan and the US could resume their beautiful friendship. That same day, the US ambassador was holding forth in Peshawar, and the White House in Washington was echoing statements that had come forth from the State Department.
One must suppose that in 64 years of any friendship, beautiful, or otherwise, there have to be ups and downs, as has indeed been the case with the US and its somewhat leech-like pal, Pakistan. What must be remembered is that it was in 1947, soon after the birth of the country, that founder-maker Mohammad Ali Jinnah, leader of a nation with few assets to its name, approached the US and sought its help to boost its finances. Thus began the relationship — one of dependence. After Jinnah’s death, Liaquat Ali Khan furthered requests for financial and material assistance and thus the pattern was set.
US Ambassador Cameron Munter, expanding to the press, was pretty clear on the fact that “none of the things you mention are gonna be easy”, and that the US had waited patiently for four months for Pakistan to carry out its ‘review’. He explained that no assistance programme could ‘fix’ Pakistan as “Pakistan had to fix Pakistan”. And, pointedly, he said that can only be done through “honest and competent leadership”.
Well, that put paid to that for the time being. So now where does one go from here? Honestly, the present leadership? No way. Its corruption record has outstripped its predecessors’ and that is truly saying something. There is no such thing as honesty — at least it is nowhere visible — in any strata of the leadership of Pakistan. Rumours abound about the money raked in from the national exchequer by not only the top layer, but by their relatives and hangers-on, rumours which cannot be put down to flights of fancy.
As for competence — well, the fact that it is universally admitted that this country has no governance, that large areas are bereft of the writ of the government and are virtually no go tracts of land, makes it abundantly evident that competence is a word unknown to the present leadership, of whatever hue.
The White House took a different tack, laying stress on the “critical national security priorities that we continue to pursue . . . areas where we believe we have common goals with Pakistan”. A solid reason for the US’ interest in Pakistan is “the role that Pakistan plays in our efforts to achieve our objectives in Afghanistan”. The US is “very clear about what our objectives are in terms of American national security interests”.
Well, US interests are paramount and let it never be forgotten that it has from its inception been clear on its foreign policy — no permanent friends, no permanent enemies. Supreme rules the national interest. So gung-ho Pakistanis would do well to reflect upon this fact when making ‘demands’. This country is not exactly in a good shape, in any way; politically, economically or stability-wise.
It may have geography on its side but that also, at times, becomes irrelevant, as it did when the USSR pulled out of Afghanistan. Pakistan has since then moaned and groaned to the US about how it was cruelly abandoned and left to its own devices. The US needs Pakistan now, as it admits, during the run-up to its withdrawal from Afghanistan. What happens after it is all over?
There is no level playing field.
Published in The Express Tribune, March 24th, 2012.