Pakistan has an undeniable image problem, in part because it does not have able advocates operating internally and externally that could influence an almost entirely negative narrative. This is not a country utterly wracked by terrorism and the majority of people lead peaceful and industrious lives. There are equally undeniable parts of the country that are dangerous and best avoided and there are ongoing operations against terrorists in the mountainous north and parts of Punjab.
We have few friends internationally that are prepared to speak up for us, but one such is Robin Raphel, a former assistant secretary of state for South Asia. She was to the fore during a seminar held at the Aspen Institute in California on futures for Afghanistan. Pakistan had just been sidelined by Hamdullah Mohib, the Afghan ambassador to Washington, who urged the international community to stop supporting Pakistan, and cautioned that it was becoming a state that supported extremism and terrorism as an active element of its foreign policy. The new cadre of military officers believed in terrorism as an ideology, quoth he.
Considering that Mr Mohib speaks for his government in the US, this was a serious allegation. It was immediately countered by Ms Raphel who knew a thing or two about Pakistan and said that the country was influenced by the fact that the Trump administration had yet to iterate its own policy towards Afghanistan and Pakistan, and a lack of clarity on all sides helped nobody and resolved nothing. It is notable that our own ambassador had decided to be absent from the moot because of a distinctly poor public reception at a similar event and it was left to Ms Raphel to go bat for us. It is a parlous state of affairs indeed if we have to rely on a foreign but friendly voice to speak up for us. The complete failure of the current administration to craft a positive narrative was laid bare for all to see. Lucky we are to have Ms Raphel. We look forward to hearing a Pakistani voice doing the same in the foreseeable future.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 25th, 2017.