Their master’s voice

Published: September 30, 2011
APC is a trophy presented to the military on a platter, a kind of affirmation of its supremacy — and that is precisely what one saw on their television screens on September 29.

APC is a trophy presented to the military on a platter, a kind of affirmation of its supremacy — and that is precisely what one saw on their television screens on September 29.

The All Parties Conference (APC) of 60-odd political parties in Islamabad on September 29 has issued a statement that stands by the Pakistan military and challenges the United States on Afghanistan and its war against terrorism. It makes clear, rather unfortunately, that control of Pakistan’s foreign and security policies remains firmly with the military, and that the civilian political leadership, barring perhaps Nawaz Sharif, is a subservient spectator. The resolution recommended talks with “our own people in the tribal areas” (read terrorists), defence of national sovereignty and “national interest”, recommended “trade not aid”, and insisted on implementing earlier parliamentary resolutions mandating policy changes on terrorism. It rejected allegations that Pakistan kills American troops through proxies and offered unqualified support to the military “in defeating any threat to national security”. Ironically, the Taliban and al Qaeda did not even feature in the text.

An APC is not a discussion forum. It is a gathering of the like-minded with pre-determined views. The hidden intent of each participant may vary but the overall truth of APCs cannot be ignored, that they are an instrument of the weak: the defiance of the weak against the strong is finally self-damaging. (Prime Minister Junejo’s APC against General Zia climaxed in his own dismissal.) The intent of many parties was to put the PPP on the defensive and prepare the ground for its downfall. The intent of the PPP was to share the damage of the debris falling from a split between the Pakistan Army and America. In a way, the APC is a trophy presented to the military on a platter, a kind of affirmation of its supremacy — and that is precisely what one saw on their television screens on September 29.

The APC is not really aimed at America telling it how the nation is united. Instead, it is a confession on the part of the stakeholders of democracy about their limitations and their internecine relationships that prevent them from uniting against an undemocratic but powerful element in the state. The media is in the midst of another hour which is not its finest because instead of ringing the war drums, it should be ask questions such as what would yet another peace deal with the militants achieve. For now, the media is only playing to, or perhaps fuelling, the rampant anti-Americanism in the country. This is a fever that will only serve to debilitate and undermine the patient.

As for the PML-N, its Nawaz Sharif quite rightly asked that since the whole world was accusing the Pakistani military of helping militants and providing them sanctuaries, there must be some, as he put it, ‘daal mein kala’. The other unspoken signal has come from President Asif Ali Zardari who has remained silent, allowing instead Prime Minister Gilani to articulate the dubious ‘national consensus’ behind the APC. It is now left to ‘small-party’ leaders to say that peace in Afghanistan could be achieved “in a month if the ISI wanted it”. What will be the result of the APC? Its mandated action will not unfold the way that has been visualised, just like the past parliamentary resolutions against drone attacks and talks with terrorists. In the coming days, the Americans will use the drones and none of the corrective action or introspection that is so badly needed for the nation will materialise. Talks with the militants would make sense only if they accepted the system in place in Pakistan and agreed to lay down their arms, but that is not the case because they seek to establish a theocracy, like the Taliban tried to in Afghanistan in the 1990s. We have to ask ourselves whether that is what we want for ourselves? Of course, some of the APC’s participants would say ‘yes’ to this, but what would be the reaction of the mainstream parties?

And then there is also Pakistan’s fragile economy. The APC may arouse ‘ghairat’ as did the joint resolutions of the past but will not be able to do much for the economy. This will not happen because the message of the APC is intensely isolationist and will end up scaring the world. One hopes that an opening sought with India on free trade will not be scuttled by references to Kashmir and that relations with Iran will disarm Tehran about what Pakistan will do next in Afghanistan.

Published in The Express Tribune, October 1st,  2011.

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Reader Comments (13)

  • and
    Sep 30, 2011 - 11:26PM

    “APC is intensely isolationist and will end up scaring the world”
    nothing isolationist about being friends with China,Russia,Iran which what the APC said. India is not the world, and a very hostile nation to pakistan. stop pretending the solution to all of pakistans problems are indiaRecommend

  • Hamza
    Sep 30, 2011 - 11:29PM

    Again the US is not the entire world. No smoke with out fire doent apply to CIA rumour mongering just as Iraq.”small party” , ET ignored Imran Khan for years yet promoted others


  • Sep 30, 2011 - 11:39PM

    So basically, the writer chooses to believe that instead of standing behind our armed forces, WITH or WITHOUT them doing anything, we should actually start pointing fingers at them, eventually showing the world how weak we are?

    I do believe any layman with zero political experience would know well enough to stand united infront of the world even though theyre doubtful of a certain element. I think the APC and the government for once actually chose a right stance.

    I think the writer should stop blaming everyone, be a little less cynical and accept the fact that for the FIRST time in our country’s history, We’re actually standing united against a foreign element. Do you think the CIA or the American Army are completely transparent and clean institutes? Do they (in the first world) NOT stand behind their armed forces and intelligence organisations no matter what?

    Its articles like these that will end up breaking this nation apart. Be positive and Be united, for once.


  • Cynical
    Oct 1, 2011 - 2:09AM

    People who live by the sword also die by it.
    The apologists for the army should remember that.


  • john2397
    Oct 1, 2011 - 3:21AM

    Pakistan thinks we are ready to attack, are we? Even though our government has now declared that we are not going to put boots on Pakistani soil, no one in Pakistan believe it. Obama and Hillary has not only broken our trust in our friends minds but has destroyed our decades old partnership in talking and acting loose and without any sense. It was Obama and Bush who have made Pakistan our life line in our Afghan war. Without Pakistan, we cannot even continue our war for a day. Even after fighting for 10 years, we have not even closer to win this war. Obama has decided to wash his hands in few months and leave Afghanistan without making it safe for America or even Afghanistan. Pakistan was behind the Taliban and still it is and will stay in future too. Because Pakistan cannot remain safe in that part of the world without the help of such terrorist goons, who in the first place are created by us, trained by us and used by us for our other nefarious purposes. And, now, we cannot get rid of them easily.We will have to get used to live with Pakistan, the way it is on their terms or be ready to start another unwanted war with the nuclear power Islamic nation for another decade.Recommend

  • Aamir
    Oct 1, 2011 - 3:25AM

    APC was just following military’s lead, same story since 1958.


  • vasan
    Oct 1, 2011 - 6:34AM

    I think Nawaz raised a question and Kayani said he will answer that or get to that. Does any body know what is the answer?


  • Feroz
    Oct 1, 2011 - 12:22PM

    HMV – His Masters Voice used to be a famous record label once upon a time. Title was very appropriate because the chorus and orchestra was well rehearsed, in key and melodious to the ears of listeners. The 13 point resolution adopted says a lot too, hope numerology did not play a part as to why not 12 or 14. Americans prefer not to have a 13th floor in their buildings, Pakistani’s it seems do not believe in superstitions.
    Great !


  • N
    Oct 1, 2011 - 3:13PM

    Our Ghairat math:

    Taliban / LET / Haqqanis:
    ++ Mayhem + Instability + Retrogressive religious outlook = our friends and strategic assets.

    USA / Europeans / Afghanistan:
    ++ Billions in cash + Billions in arms + soldiers to rescue our people (floods/earthquakes) + visas for our children to study and emigrate to their countries + prospects of peace with us = Our enemies!


  • Critic
    Oct 1, 2011 - 4:11PM

    Dont be naive Mr Editor..
    Lemme make it clear to you and all that the Foreign Policy is directed on military and strategic grounds all across the globe.. Diplomacy is what comes later, provides a pretty face to it and ties the knot beautifully.. The fact remains at the back that its the military, strategic and security preferences which devise the policy.
    What WE do wrong is, that we cant tie a beautiful knot, that due to our in house disputes and the quarrels between state and government — as both remain separate entities.
    These are immense technical matters and an unenlightened picture, like the one you portray, can leave a harmful impression.


  • Cautious
    Oct 1, 2011 - 9:21PM

    If Pakistan was interested in a spirited debate on foreign policy or strategic goals it had it’s chance after the OBL debacle — we saw how that went – all anti American venting and no questioning of the wisdom of hiding OBL or the use of “strategic assets”.


  • Cynical
    Oct 2, 2011 - 3:40AM

    @ N
    Perfect equation.
    You have learnt your maths well.Great post.


  • Abdullah
    Oct 4, 2011 - 1:55PM

    The Express Tribune with the International Herald Tribune forgot to mention the occupation of Afghanistan by United States which resulted in thousands killed and many many kidnapped.

    ET is pushing United States viewpoint and why not? it is allied with the establishment news paper called NewYork times.



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