While the unravelling state of affairs within our country is rather disconcerting for Pakistanis, both here and abroad, the situation seems even more disturbing to those who do not know our country well, or owe it any loyalty.
The growing ambivalence of the international community towards Pakistan became evident in the lukewarm response to the devastating floods in the country, when even ordinary citizens around the world showed hesitation in helping a country which they think is a hub for exporting insecurity. Diverse voices keep asking for stricter policies against Pakistan, while remaining largely oblivious to the pain the international war on terror is causing the ordinary citizens of the country.
The fact that a serving governor of the largest province in Pakistan has been assassinated will undoubtedly unleash another wave of uncertainty, controversy and condemnation. Coupled with the current political instability, and pending problems such as failure to curb inflation, this latest incident has further added to the long list of troubles afflicting our nation.
While some senior western diplomats have been quick to express their concern and sympathy, other international opinion-makers are being less understanding. Prominent international papers have already begun citing the Taseer assassination as evidence of the extremists' tightening grip on the country. Moreover, western officials have also recently threatened Islamabad that any terrorist strike in the West which is traced back to the Pakistani tribal belt could lead to serious repercussions.
Given this context, it is vital that our own media and intelligentsia try to highlight the fact that much of the troubles currently brewing in Pakistan are a direct consequence of a broader geostrategic context. Obviously, this must be done with some deliberation so as not to make matters worse. Primary emphasis should be placed on securing debt write-offs and on stressing the need to reconsider the heavy-handed security policies of the US and other regional players.
There is little evidence of this happening, however, given the further hardening attitudes of the international community towards our nation. Both the US government and the IMF have indicated their dissatisfaction with the Pakistani government for reversing its position on the controversial fuel hike and for not reducing its budget deficit sufficiently. This is not to say that ongoing government expenditures are primarily due to overt generosity towards the rural poor or because of major development expenditures. In fact, the burden of our economic woes is largely passed on to the masses while those in power continue to protect their own interests.
The Pakistani government has reiterated its unhappiness with the passivity of western countries, including the United States, in meeting its immediate economic and security needs. But unless our own leaders show more resolve to get beyond their own myopic interests and back a consensus agenda for major international stakeholders to support Pakistan more effectively, the existing domestic situation may become worse.
Published in The Express Tribune, January 9th, 2011.
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