Military's grip on foreign policy easing: Khar

Published: April 26, 2012

Foreign minister says other methods should be used to take out militants in Afghanistan, Pakistan border region. PHOTO: PID/FILE

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s military, which has dominated the country for much of its turbulent history, has less sway over foreign policy, and a new power equation is emerging within America’s strategic ally, said the foreign minister.      

Pakistan has been directly ruled by generals for more than half of its 64-year history and indirectly for much of the rest. The military has largely controlled foreign and security policies, and has taken the lead in relations with Washington.

Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar said new dynamics were now taking hold in Pakistan.

“I want you to also understand that things have changed in Pakistan,” she told Reuters in an interview.

“I think this overbearance of the role of the military in the foreign policy of Pakistan is something which will recede as time passes.”

“I think all institutions in Pakistan are realising that there is a place and role for every institution,” said Khar, 35, Pakistan’s first woman foreign minister.

“And it is best to serve Pakistan’s interests that each of the institutions remains within the boundaries of the roles which are constitutionally defined. It’s a new sort of equilibrium.”

Khar, one of a number of rising women politicians in Pakistan, started her political career with a party affiliated with former military ruler General Pervez Musharraf, and eventually rose to junior finance minister.

She since switched to the ruling Pakistan People’s Party (PPP), whose ties with the military have been strained.

US-educated Khar said the current government’s staying power in a country prone to coups had given it sway and room to manoeuvre, on issues ranging from ties with the United States to trade with arch-enemy India.

“As far as the new equilibrium … you have consistent four years of democracy, it’s the longest term a democratic governments has had in Pakistan,” said Khar, who is from a political family in southern Punjab.

Khar pointed to the reaction to a NATO cross-border raid in November that killed 24 Pakistani soldiers and plunged relations with the United States to a low point as one sign that civilian leaders have a bigger say in policy.

A Pakistani parliamentary committee reviewed ties with Washington and demanded a halt to US drone aircraft strikes, which US officials see as a highly effective weapon against militants along the border with Afghanistan.

“It is not the first time that foreign policy has been discussed in parliament,” said Khar, in her modest Islamabad office. “But is it not the first time that relations with the United States and other important countries were put on hold until the parliament gave a green signal?”

Khar also said the government’s approach to India suggested Pakistan’s democracy was becoming more robust and the military’s grip on policy had loosened.

In the face of some domestic opposition, the Islamabad government last November vowed to grant India most favoured nation status, which will end restrictions that require most products to move via a third country.

The move was hailed by India and the two countries are now focused on resolving economic issues before moving on to more intractable problems such as the disputed Himalayan region of Kashmir.

“Don’t underestimate the importance of what this government did with trade with India. Since 1965 there was no political or military government that could open up trade with India. And it was considered a no-go area,” said Khar.

“And that to me shows, one the maturity of democracy, the maturity of views, and the maturity of the decision-making exercise in Pakistan.”

US not listening: ‘Drone strikes must stop’

Khar said Pakistan had spelt out in no uncertain terms that US drone aircraft strikes against militants inside its territory must stop, but Washington is not listening.

“On drones, the language is clear: a clear cessation of drone strikes,” she said.

“I maintain the position that we’d told them categorically before. But they did not listen. I hope their listening will improve,” she told Reuters in an interview late on Wednesday.

Khar’s sharp comments on the drone strikes came ahead of a two-day visit to Islamabad by the United States’ special envoy for Afghanistan and Pakistan, Marc Grossman.

Ambassador Grossman was due to hold bilateral meetings with Pakistani officials and take part in a “core group” meeting with officials from both Pakistan and Afghanistan, where the United States is hoping to revive stalled peace talks with the Taliban.

Khar said other methods should be used to take out militants in the border region between Afghanistan and Pakistan.

“We have to look at effective tools which are mutually acceptable. The cost of using tools which are not mutually acceptable is far, far too high. We’re looking at alternatives,” she said, without elaborating.

The commander of the frontline corps in Pakistan’s northwest told Reuters last week that one alternative would be for the United States to share intelligence so that its ally’s F-16 fighter jets could target militants there.

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Reader Comments (26)

  • Atif Razzaq
    Apr 26, 2012 - 12:54PM

    They are not listening because they have other motives behind it……
    If they are serious and no other motives behind the picture than they have to accept the other alternatives. This is our land and we are responsible of all things not they…..
    If they want to use the Drone Technology: Why not they give Drone technology to Pakistan and we will use it where we think need to use….But sure about it they will not do it…..

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  • maz3tt
    Apr 26, 2012 - 1:05PM

    wow wow i have no words here about the statement from the minister of the nuclear power state. Pakistan has no power to make them listen?. i wonder if they ever talk about drone attacks in their talks. there seems to be under table consensus that contrary to whatever we say on the media carry on the attacks which was also mentioned by the wiki leaks.

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  • Syed Khalil Ullah
    Apr 26, 2012 - 1:09PM

    Drone attacks should not be stopped but should be control and regularize in form a joint action as after all they have proven its efficacy against Taliban those are the actual threat to the security and integrity of Pakistan and have been killed thousands of our peoples and troops much more then the killed by India during wars.

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  • Gul Khan
    Apr 26, 2012 - 1:10PM

    New tactics to get popularity for the upcoming elections.

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  • Babar
    Apr 26, 2012 - 1:22PM

    Is this making of another Shah Mahmood Quraishi ??

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  • Nauman Ghauri
    Apr 26, 2012 - 1:23PM

    Yaar! This girl is making Myself a fan of her!

    Applause for the confidence a 35 years old, Young girl has shown, which, alas! so called experienced & seasoned generals and Presidents could not!

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  • Gilgiti-No voting right but Proud Pakistani
    Apr 26, 2012 - 1:51PM

    they know well that there is no leader in Pakistan then way they listen? Imran Khan already clear this before.

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  • Parvez
    Apr 26, 2012 - 1:57PM

    Washington only listens to what Washington wants to hear – do you bame them ?

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  • Zabandraz
    Apr 26, 2012 - 1:59PM

    Its your duty to make them listen and listen they will only if our leadership, civil and military are honest about it

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  • sars
    Apr 26, 2012 - 2:00PM

    Drones will stop once you have a viable alternate plan. What is that?

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  • Aarvey,india
    Apr 26, 2012 - 2:03PM

    Wonder why Ms. Rabbani is not reasoning! If Pakistan takes out these elements themselves why would the US want to use drones in the first place . Problem is Pakistan is unwilling and when you have these guys roaming around with all kinds of weapons and threatening the US and the world who would blame the US?

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  • Zaid Hamid
    Apr 26, 2012 - 2:36PM

    We can shoot down their American-made drones with our American made F-16s.

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  • haris
    Apr 26, 2012 - 3:00PM

    @Nauman Ghauri:
    Aren’t you guys too quick to applaud on every comment from our corrupt politicians. Take a break bro, nothing will change. I agree with other commentator “Gul Khan”, its a new tactic to gain popularity in the next election.

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  • Lala Gee
    Apr 26, 2012 - 3:14PM

    “one alternative would be for the United States to share intelligence so that its ally’s F-16 fighter jets could target militants there”

    What is the benefit in consuming our own resources and also to take the blame for any mistakes and collateral damage rather than let the USA do the job and take all the cursing.

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  • BlackJack
    Apr 26, 2012 - 3:35PM

    @Syed Khalil Ullah:
    Admirable idea but not practical because of Pakistan’s propensity to protect its assets (quite a tongue twister :) – as a result, all Afghan Taliban targets will be forewarned of any impending drone strike, making the whole exercise pointless.

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  • Syed Khalil Ullah
    Apr 26, 2012 - 3:47PM

    Dear Aarvey,india

    US is being hated by many peoples of the world regardless of religion and race due to it policies including their neighbors like Cuba, Venezuela too, but there is only one grope of peoples who first created by CIA under the name of Mujaheddin against Russia and now with the name of terrorist, who answered US very hard.

    they are the creation of US and she has to bear them not Pakistan. They are the the biggest enemy of Pakistan it self even bigger then your country.

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  • SM
    Apr 26, 2012 - 5:49PM

    Shoot the drone down but our leaders are too timid and worry about their own pockets rather than the interests of Pakistan.

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  • Palvasha von Hassell
    Apr 26, 2012 - 6:11PM

    Good girl! Takin’ all the bulls by the horns, as is your way. Remain steadfast, and you shall be crowned with success.

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  • Nasir
    Apr 26, 2012 - 6:25PM

    Pakistan is NOT ruled by the military but rather the MULLAH who has made us the laughing stock of the world while our neighbours both India and China have become economic superpowers

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  • Raj - USA
    Apr 26, 2012 - 6:27PM

    @Atif Razzaq:

    @Atif Razzaq: Pakistan has always wanted only those technologies that can be used for military and destructive purpose, such as Drone Technology and Nuclear Technology. It has never asked for Solar or Windmill Technology to provide electric power, Drip Irrigation Technology to improve agricultural productivity, etc. Pakistan thinks that the world is so dumb to understand Pakistan’s intentions. On your statement “it is our land and and we are responsible for all things not they ……” I would comment that if you use your land to harm others, then others then you have ceded all rights. Others have as much right to protect their interests in their lands by taking whatever measures are appropriate.

    @Syed Khalil Ullah:
    You say that US is hated by many in the world. All problems in Pakistan are due to US. This contradicts with comments from @Atif Razzaq:”it is our land and and we are responsible for all things not they ……”

    Have you thought about how many countries, including Islamic Countries, Pakistani’s can enter without visa or even get a visa easily as compared to US Nationals.

    According to you, Pakistan is Dudh Ke Dulhe Huye and US is Daru Piye Huye

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  • Anjaan
    Apr 26, 2012 - 6:33PM

    ALL COSMETIC AND WELL CHOREOGRAPHED ……… !

    First of all, Hina Rabbani does not act in isolation on her own. When she says something, that has support of the Govt. and the army.
    Secondly, the US-Pakistan relations go back several decades, runs deep, and there is more than meet the eyes.
    And finally, to those Pakistanis that are frustrated with the Americans, don’t worry about that, the current US-Pakistan spat is largely well choreographed, the main purpose of which is to hoodwink India. India has made clear its intentions of not negotiating its strategic autononmy and pursuing an independent foreign policy that serves India’s own interests. The Americans did not expect from its much hyped US-India strategic partnership. Therefore future American policies towards Pakistan will surely be framed with an eye on India. MARK MY WORDS, far from any conflict, the measured American economic and military aid to Pakistan will increase in the years to come, and the Americans will have no problems to justify that.Recommend

  • major-ji
    Apr 26, 2012 - 6:34PM

    My dear FM Ms Khar, By the way to whom you are fooling. Trips of uniformed generals of USA and NATO to Pakistanare much more as compared to office bearers of state department. Even if low ranking state department officials is coming he or she also ensures quite lengthy meetings with military top brass of Pakistan. Please first ensure right man for the right job, accomplish some visible results in the field and then make such tall claims.

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  • Watty
    Apr 26, 2012 - 6:42PM

    That’s incredible! Ms. Khar is suggesting that while most national institutions are coming apart at the seams the all powerful Pakistan military is yielding power meekly to the crumbling system! Does she really believe this or is she merely reading out of script handed over to her by ISI? Either way how many people really take Pakistani words seriously any more?

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  • Deepwater
    Apr 26, 2012 - 7:09PM

    @Anjaan

    Fantastic theory. So the US policy in Pakistan is to hoodwink India into submission? And Pakistan will get rewarded with economic and military aid in the coming years?

    Just fantastic.

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  • Anjaan
    Apr 26, 2012 - 7:59PM

    @ Deepwater,

    American policies for the region always had Pakistan as the center piece, this is going to remain unchanged. Pakistan is the only country which will do bidding of the anglo-american powers in exchange of dollars and weapons, that makes Pakistan special.

    The Americans have devised a unique way of playing China-Pakistan-India one against the other and extract maximum leverage on each country.

    The basic American game of using India as a counter weight to China, while making sure India remains neutralized with measured transfer of weapons to Pakistan, will not change.Recommend

  • k. Salim Jahangir
    Apr 27, 2012 - 12:01AM

    @ Ms.Khar…….If a state like Pakistan surrounded by hostile countries chalks out its foreign policy without consulting its army,then such a foreign policy could be nothing but a farce.Look at Bharat or for that matter the US,are they not consulting their armies in matters of their foreign policies,definitely…….YES.Did someone notice, while addressing a press conference in Islamabad on her last visit to Pakistan Ms. Clinton had Adm.Mullhen standing on her left side. They, even not only consult their Intelligence agencies but also act upon their advice. Ms.Khar you are not talking straight !

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