Our leaders must really think that the people are utter fools! Or is it their proclivity to conceal unpleasant truths? What else would explain Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani’s recent claim that “we are trying to convince the world” to help bring an end to drone attacks? Or perhaps it is merely a classic case of obfuscation, for he knows, as does the world, what the truth is.
Admittedly, the drone attacks began with the approval of the previous regime, but we cannot continue to blame General Musharraf for our continuing failures and shortcomings. This government has been in power for three years; surely enough time for it to have discussed this issue with the US. Or is the prime minister telling the nation that he did try to persuade Washington to abandon its policy which is “ruining our strategy” to combat militancy and fanning anti-American sentiments as well?
If so, does Mr Gilani appreciate the import of his statement? Is he telling the nation that the US is conducting drone attacks despite our pleas and protests? What can be more demoralising than to be told that we are so helpless, notwithstanding the half-a-million strong armed forces, that we require the intervention of friendly powers to dissuade the US from this dangerous course? After all, both the prime minister and the president have visited Washington on numerous occasions and each time they have echoed American leaders in praises of the strength and vitality of what both sides now claim are ‘strategic ties’. Surely, the nation would want to know when this issue was taken up, because available evidence indicates otherwise. In fact, leaked American documents report our redoubtable premier having assured the US ambassador that her country could merrily continue with the drone attacks, while he would assuage sentiments in parliament by going through the motions of condemning it. And our venerable president reportedly went further, telling his counterpart not to lose his sleep over the collateral damage from the drone attacks, since he himself was least bothered about it. Such conduct is bizarre, even dangerous, as by this cheap grandstanding at home and pusillanimity abroad, they lose not only their own self-respect but that of the country as well.
This government, though elected, remains totally subservient to the interests of those that facilitated its ascent to power. Not only has it continued with the previous regime’s policies at home, but it has also opposed reviews of commitments made abroad. Meanwhile, the people of Pakistan remain utterly confused and increasingly frustrated at the government’s seeming inability to provide either good governance at home or even to fathom the intricacies of foreign relations. With Afghanistan entering its ‘endgame’, India asserting its interests as a globally influential power; our strategic relationship with the US appears to have gone into a tailspin. This is evident from the many inspired stories in the American media to the effect that the US remains sceptical of our commitment to the war on terror and therefore convinced of the efficacy of the drone attacks, even after the strong plea for an end to them, reportedly made by the ISI chief in Washington.
The Raymond Davis episode upset many Pakistanis, but instead of merely moaning about it, the government should have grasped the issue to call for a comprehensive review of our bilateral ties with the US. But such a review has to be based on objective considerations, not on flights of fancy. For a country widely viewed as the centre of global terror, while remaining dependent on foreign assistance, the options are few and limited. But even within these constrains, a lot can be achieved. The government has to begin by coming clean on the entire gamut of our foreign commitments, take the stakeholders into confidence and, thereafter, frame a foreign policy that is in tune with the peoples’ interests and not those of a few individuals.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 21st, 2011.