An isolated Pakistan

Published: June 3, 2012
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Pakistan is now realising that there is a limit to how much it can go on playing the “frontline state” card. PHOTO: REUTERS

Pakistan is now realising that there is a limit to how much it can go on playing the “frontline state” card. PHOTO: REUTERS

Speaking in Karachi on May 31, President Asif Ali Zardari said that “disengagement with the world was not a democratic option”. In the next breath, however, he asked “the international community to also take Pakistan’s domestic compulsions and national interest into account when taking stock of the country’s role in efforts against extremism and terrorism”. He then explained why Pakistan painted itself into a corner at the Chicago Summit: the government had to change the policy decision of opening the Nato supply route “because the Salala incident had necessitated a review”.

Pakistan first played up the Salala incident and demanded an apology, but when it got close to getting one, the ‘honour’ hype overwhelmed the country. Parliament took its time deciding what to do, while the politicians fulminated against the US and encouraged the media dogs to unleash themselves. Where did the “democratic option” go then? Thereafter, other unanticipated factors intervened: US President Barack Obama got sensitised over the apology in the midst of his re-election campaign; and the Pentagon’s disagreement over his Pakistan policy became intense. The Pakistan Army, seeing the aggressive approach of the US to the renegotiated rates of the supply route, has now allowed the American trainers — it had kicked out in a moment of dudgeon — to return.

Isolation is something that a state has to think about as a cornerstone of its approach to the world. This, in turn, depends on an objective assessment of the state’s importance in the international community. Any ‘outward’ approach will also depend on these ‘inward’ factors: the state of the national economy and the state of law and order. When considering these factors, a country is forced to change its stance and embrace realism. Pakistan is not like Iran and cannot afford to roar like a lion when, unlike Iran, it is sunk in a colossal energy deficit. After the national paroxysm against ‘unfair’ treatment, Pakistan is now realising that there is a limit to how much it can go on playing the “frontline state” card and telling the world it cannot move an inch on Afghanistan unless Pakistan’s spoiler’s role is recognised and it is accordingly appeased.

Whether we like it or not, Pakistan has prospered when it avoided isolation or was placed in a non-isolationist situation by happenstance during the Cold War. By going jihadi and nuclear at the same time it now puts a lot of store by ‘honour through isolation’. Just look back and see the pattern of past behaviour: after the Cold War ended, Pakistan was most at risk of clutching at isolationism for emotional satisfaction. The success of General (retd) Pervez Musharraf during his ‘high growth’ tenure occurred in sectors where Pakistan was linked to the outside world. In 1998, the country fell into a trough of global isolation after conducting the nuclear test. Despite promises of assistance from friends in the Middle East, Pakistan was soon faced with default and prospects of what was then termed a ‘failed state’. Breaking out of a period of isolation, which included turning off the tap of jihad and normalising relations with India, Pakistan embarked on a foreign policy that helped its economy to rise from its dangerously low growth rate to reach its highest growth rates by 2005. All that, of course, is now reinterpreted as a ‘phase of Pakistan’s slavery’.

Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar tried to break out of this latest phase of lethal isolation by saying that Pakistan was faced with alienating, not only the US, but also scores of other nations taking part in the Nato operation in Afghanistan and that Pakistan could not afford to offend them all. But then, the PPP got scared of offending the ‘nation’ on the eve of another election, which it hopes to win despite its abysmal governance. It has plumped for a warlike gesture of national honour. President Zardari should know that elections cannot be won through false bravado and by ignoring the economic plight of the people. No one is going to vote for the incumbent government just because it stood up on its hind legs and snarled at the rest of the world.

Published in The Express Tribune, June 3rd, 2012.

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Reader Comments (41)

  • _soota
    Jun 3, 2012 - 12:46AM

    So now supremacy of Parliament not sacred? Democracy and the elected representatives do not represent the will of the people? The same people who are droned while labelling them as “Alleged Terrorist”. Do you guys know that the terrorist Breivek is receiving a fair trial, when there is concrete evidence and witnesses against him. Do you guys know that? International Isolation. Well I guess, its because of NOT telling the world WHAT we want.
    We pass a resolution according to will of the people and at the same time assure them “K sir sab thek hai let the time pass”.
    THAT is the problem. Be united. Nation and the government are not on the same page. We have to move forward according to what people of Pakistan want. Not what other want.
    Rubbish to say International isolation because of Salala. This isolation dates back to 11 Sept 2001.

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  • Wtf
    Jun 3, 2012 - 1:52AM

    Democracy , the voice of the people have made it perfectly simple – no NATO supply routes.

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  • Wtf
    Jun 3, 2012 - 1:55AM

    Pakistan is not isolated. There is China, Russia, Iran, Saudi Arabia, and much of the Middle East recognizing its right to diverge from a war that the population is against. What international isolation?

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  • Wtf
    Jun 3, 2012 - 1:59AM

    With supply routes closed, there has been a decrease in violence in Pakistan.
    It is against Pakistan interests to open supply lines. NATO member have the option to withdraw from Afghanistan as France has done. The drone attacks likewise can be labeled as NATO action- that violates Pakistan sovereignty.

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  • sundar
    Jun 3, 2012 - 2:55AM

    Pakistanis have to realize that they are minor players, as of today atleast, who possess nuclear weapons. Those days have gone when you guys hoodwinked the civilized world about your jihadi thugs and using terrorism as a state policy. You have a lot of work to do to gain the respect and to get out of the isolation. How about starting to teach the citizens to be tolerant, sending the army to baracks, civilian govt to take real control over national affairs, re-prioritize policies to people’s needs?

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  • a_writer
    Jun 3, 2012 - 3:37AM

    Could someone please provide a reliable source or website which has information on how ‘The US was almost ready to apologize for the Salala incident’? I have looked in a number of news websites and other than those belonging to Pakistan newspapers, I have never seen this ‘news’ in any other website. Thanks

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  • Adnan
    Jun 3, 2012 - 6:41AM

    @sundar:
    How about you stay in India and comment on Indian newspapers. India is not exactly Denmark!
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z35_NQZpt-I

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  • vasan
    Jun 3, 2012 - 6:49AM

    “the international community to also take Pakistan’s domestic compulsions and national interest into account when taking stock of the country’s role in efforts against extremism and terrorism”.
    Could the Pak govt explain this in detail What are their domestic compulsions and national interests. If it is going be Kashmir, India threatening war, jihadists policy, nuclear proliferation etc, I can assure that the world had enough of it and decided to move on leaving Pakistan on Afghan issues.

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  • realist
    Jun 3, 2012 - 7:13AM

    @a_writer:

    These are similar to other “Made in Pakistan” news.

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  • Pollack
    Jun 3, 2012 - 9:54AM

    @a_writer:
    “Could someone please provide a reliable source or website which has information on how ‘The US was almost ready to apologize for the Salala incident’? “

    Unnamed sources from unnamed government offices.

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  • Jun 3, 2012 - 10:54AM

    NATO is important and Pakistan should make reasonable accommodation to maintain good relations with its member states, particularly the United States. However, NATO is not the only game in town as demonstrated by the back-to-back senior Chinese and Russian officials’ visits to Pakistan.

    NATO, and in particular Washington, should pay close to heed to this reality. Failure to do so would likely doom NATO’s efforts in the region.

    http://www.riazhaq.com/2011/12/us-military-supply-logistics-in.html

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  • huda
    Jun 3, 2012 - 12:13PM

    How can Pakistan be isolated by standing against one of the most unpopular war in history? Even the majority of the US population is against this war and wants its troops to come back home.

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  • Timour
    Jun 3, 2012 - 12:20PM

    @WTF: I hope you write in jest because you may want to think again as to why china and Russia may be egging us on to disengage….the arabs well, I don’t see any free oil coming from them and their diplomats call us their servants so maybe we should take their support with a pinch of salt ?Recommend

  • Hasan
    Jun 3, 2012 - 12:43PM

    @Wtf:
    What are you trying to say? You don’t make any sense!

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  • Shyam
    Jun 3, 2012 - 12:50PM

    @Adnan

    How about Pakistani terrorists stay in Pakistan and not conduct terror activities elsewhere

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  • Nand
    Jun 3, 2012 - 1:53PM

    I think for once the voice of the people should be heard. If they want to be isolated so be it.

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  • vigilant
    Jun 3, 2012 - 2:17PM

    What benefit mingling gave us……i think nothing….so why to afraid of isolation???……there is a simple rule if u r strong every-one is your friend & if you r weak every-one will isolate u…..

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  • observer
    Jun 3, 2012 - 2:54PM

    @vigilant

    there is a simple rule if u r strong every-one is your friend & if you r weak every-one will isolate u…..

    And since you do not have too many friends right now,What does it tell you about your strength.

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  • cautious
    Jun 3, 2012 - 5:31PM

    @huda

    How can Pakistan be isolated by
    standing against one of the most
    unpopular war in history?

    Your not unpopular because of your position on war – but because your viewed as the epicenter of terrorism. The last poll I read had Pakistan’s popularity ranked lower than North Korea – doesn’t get much worse than that.

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  • Jun 3, 2012 - 8:21PM

    @sundar: “Pakistanis have to realize that they are minor players..”

    If wishes were horses pigs would fly.

    Here’s the reality: In Afghanistan, Pakistan is a “major”, not a “minor” player. Besides, there is nothing minor about being the world’s sixth most populous country with nukes located in a highly Geo-strategic area.
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  • Gul
    Jun 3, 2012 - 9:37PM

    @Riaz Haq: You forgot to include your propaganda website.

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  • Wtf
    Jun 3, 2012 - 10:40PM

    @Sundar

    India is involved in state sponsored terrorism against the Kashmiris and the Muslims of Gujurat. You should focus on those issues. If the 200 million Muslims in India are tortured and treated with systematic violence, they deserve a new state. ;)

    India should give supply routes to NATO as they relish serving their British masters like before

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  • Cynical
    Jun 3, 2012 - 10:41PM

    Isolation is not bad per say.It provides both time and space for introspection.

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  • gp65
    Jun 3, 2012 - 10:46PM

    @Riaz Haq: “If wishes were horses pigs would fly.”

    A lesson in English : The actual saying is ” If wishes were horses, beggars would ride”.

    “Besides, there is nothing minor about being the world’s sixth most populous country with nukes located in a highly Geo-strategic area.”

    High population is not something to be proud of (neither for India nor Pakistan). China and India are in the same area and they have nukes too but you do not see their politicians and media people constantly brag about their nukes. Constant implied threats of using nukes is leading to alienation of Pakistan. By no means does it lead to importance.

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  • gp65
    Jun 3, 2012 - 10:53PM

    @Riaz Haq: “NATO is important and Pakistan should make reasonable accommodation to maintain good relations with its member states, particularly the United States. However, NATO is not the only game in town as demonstrated by the back-to-back senior Chinese and Russian officials’ visits to Pakistan.”

    1.What percentage of PAkistani exports go to NATO countries? What percentage of Pakistani exports go to Russia and China?
    2. What percentage of expat remittances come from NATO countries? What percentage of expat remittances come from Russia and China?
    3. Where do the kids of top politicians, judges and army leadership live and study – in NATO countries or Russia and China?
    4. Did China and Russia back out from the IP pipeline once it became clear that US sanctions might be involved? There might be some lesson there in terms of the degree of support you can expect from them.
    5. Who steps up to provide help when Pakistan has floods and earthquake? NATO countries or China and Russia?
    6. Who has supplied free weapons to Pakistan which it needs to keep up its ongoing enmity with India?

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  • ayesha_khan
    Jun 4, 2012 - 1:12AM

    @Wtf: “f the 200 million Muslims in India are tortured and treated with systematic violence, they deserve a new state. ;)”

    The people who thought they would be ill treated in India formed a separate state – Pakistan. My forefathers and millions of other Muslims did not believe in the 2 Nation theory and felt that Hindus and Muslims CAN coexist, so they stayed behind in India. In 1971 Bengalis from what was then ‘East Pakistan’ found out out how safe they are. Since 1974 the Ahmadis have been finding out how safe they are. Recently it has been the turn of Hazara and Gilgit Shias as well as Balochs to find out how safe they are in the state made in the name of Islam.

    We Indian Muslims on the other hand are happy where we are. No country is perfect and neither is India but the Gujarat riots you refer to happened 10 years back. There has been no communal riot since then. More Muslims die in Karachi target killing each year than the total number of Muslims (790) who died in Gujarat riots 10 years back. Worry about your country and if you can, make it safe for the Muslims who live there. We Indian Muslims are happy where we are and do no need your interference.

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  • Arjun
    Jun 4, 2012 - 4:05AM

    @Riaz Haq: so far nothing of what you said happened. the rules of the game are USA will order-Pakistan will obey. No questions asked. That is how things will run. Everyone knows what happened after Pakistan asked for 5000$ per truck. Ask again…dare you..

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  • Arjun
    Jun 4, 2012 - 4:08AM

    @_soota: how about some rogue states that use terrorists as state policy? should we not punish the entire country?

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  • Arjun
    Jun 4, 2012 - 4:09AM

    @sundar:
    you nailed it buddy.

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  • Arjun
    Jun 4, 2012 - 4:10AM

    @Riaz Haq: It is now a minor player or it will learn the hard way.

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  • Arjun
    Jun 4, 2012 - 4:15AM

    @Wtf: lack of sense is another term of insanity and perversion. Contrary to your willingness to be called one of those-it was Pakistan that has played to the tunes of western masters and opened NATO routes. So who is the true slave??? Religious arrogance bows to force of superpower. Go ask. Just watch what you say… USA controls Pakistan anyday. Thats what happens when ask for aid for 60 years!!!!

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  • ayesha_khan
    Jun 4, 2012 - 6:47AM

    @Cynical: “Isolation is not bad per say.It provides both time and space for introspection.”

    At an individual level , this is true. I am not sure it is true for a country unless it is self sufficient. When 70% of electricity is through imported oil, exports are necessary to earn money to pay for those imports. There are other necessities that have to be imported. So isolation is not an option for a country though solitude may be perfectly fine for an individual. Just my 2 cents…

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  • 1984
    Jun 4, 2012 - 6:58AM

    @Wtf:
    “If the 200 million Muslims in India are tortured and treated with systematic violence, they deserve a new state. ;)”

    OK,if what you say is true….Whats stopping these Indian Muslims to move a new state which was created in 1947 .a.k.a Pakistan…???

    Every month,at least one Pakistani Hindu family finds asylum in India….whereas could anyone tell me why those 200 million Muslims are preferring systematic torture than migrating to the “Land of Pure” which was created for Muslims to live happily???

    @ayesha_khan:
    Thanks sister for giving him a good reply….They keep harping about Gujarat for the next 100 years,while even Gujarati Muslims are now supporting to Narendra Modi….

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  • realist
    Jun 4, 2012 - 8:41AM

    @ayesha_khan:

    No point saying what you said. Falls on deaf ears.

    As another note, I think India should just cut off all contacts with Pakistan (though I agree some common pak people might be innocents) and not allow any kind of foreign financing to religous institutions in India (all religions included) mainly from Gulf and West. This would insulate the indian muslims from the kind of problems faced in Pakistan. As it is, there are reports of Sunni radicalization in some parts of India.

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  • ayesha_khan
    Jun 4, 2012 - 10:22AM

    @1984:
    I am as annoyed by WTF talking about a separate state for Indian Muslims as you are and my response to him clearly indicated that. I think though the best part of India is its secularism – so perhaps you should be careful not to say things like ” what’s preventing Indian Muslims from going to Pakistan”. We Indian Muslims are as patriotic and as Indian as any Indian Hindu.

    Salaams

    @realist

    Some ears are deaf, some are not but keeping quiet in face of such bigotry is not an option. Effort is in our hands, result is in the Lord almighty’s hands. Not familiar with too much of Hindu scriptures but having watched Mahabharata in the 1980s I know about your belief that matches ours in this respect…. Karmanye vaddhikaraste…

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  • Bhindi-Hunter
    Jun 4, 2012 - 11:15AM

    @Shyam:
    Stop the terrorism in Kashmir and give them Independence. and we will our support to them. until then dream on bharati

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  • Deb
    Jun 4, 2012 - 12:30PM

    @ayesha_khan

    I commend your response @1984.That’s as bold and as assertive as it can get.
    I am Indian and hindu (by birth not by choice).

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  • Sam
    Jun 4, 2012 - 1:07PM

    Thanks Aayesha,
    proud of you !!!!!!!!

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  • 1984
    Jun 4, 2012 - 8:17PM

    @ayesha_khan:
    Sister,I know that Indian muslims are patriotic…Indian muslims have as much rights in india as to Hindus,christians,buddhists,sikhs and jews…BTW,Abdul Kalam is my idol and hero….

    I think you should read my comment once again….I was just responding to the allegation made by @Wtf that Indian muslims were systematically tortured…If what he says is true,then logic questions why would Indian muslims suffer torture when they can move to a muslim majority country and live happily….

    We know the ground reality in India,I just was refuting what Wtf said…

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  • ayesha_khan
    Jun 5, 2012 - 9:23AM

    @1984: Thank you. I appreciate the effort you made to address my concern. Indians should be united and we should not allow outsiders to divide us on the basis of religion/caste/language etc.

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  • harkol
    Jun 5, 2012 - 11:36AM

    Pakistan has gravely miscalculated the mood and ability of USA. It thought USA is bruised by the recession, and also that US is tired of long war.

    While both are correct, the mood of USA is not to give in to blackmailing tactics. It has achieved most of its objectives – killed OBL, almost destroyed Al-Qaeda – now only has to withdraw. It can do so at an higher cost than originally imagined, but keep a policy option of Punishing Pakistan open.

    Pakistan by playing up will only invite punitive sanctions, multilateral actions (like support to Baluchistan, denial of IMF/WB loans etc.).

    When a coconut, with its hard shell, goes headbutting with a large stone – it is the coconut that’ll break first.

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