The third presidential debate was the only one I watched in full. A day later, on October 23, joining a discussion on Twitter between friend Nusrat Javeed and another person on the absence of a ‘feel-good’ mood after the debate, I tweeted: “I should have thought Romney’s comments should have triggered feel-bad mood #ALLTHEWRONGREASONS Taliban; our bums; Haqqanis; ISI.”
On that same day I also tweeted: “Pakistan scares the s… out of the world by holding a machine-gun to its own head.” Indeed, if you read Mitt Romney’s words carefully, you will agree with me on both counts. In answer to a question about Pakistan, this is what Romney said: “No, it’s not time to divorce a nation on earth that has a hundred nuclear weapons and is on the way to double that at some point, a nation that has serious threats from terrorist groups within its nation — as I indicated before, the Taliban, Haqqani network. It’s a nation that’s not like — like others and that does not have a civilian leadership that is calling the shots there.
“You’ve got the ISI, their intelligence organisation is probably the most powerful of the — of the three branches there. Then you have the military and then you have the — the civilian government. This is a nation which if it falls apart — if it becomes a failed state, there are nuclear weapons there and you’ve got — you’ve got terrorists there who could grab their — their hands onto those nuclear weapons.” And tellingly added: “This is — this is an important part of the world for us. Pakistan is — is technically an ally, and they’re not acting very much like an ally right now, but we have some work to do.”
Replying to a question about the use of drones (are you listening, Imran Khan?), Romney said: “Well, I believe that we should use any and all means necessary to take out people who pose a threat to us and our friends around the world. And it’s widely reported that drones are being used in drone strikes, and I support that entirely and feel the president was right to up the usage …and that we should continue to use it to go after the people who represent a threat to this nation and to our friends.”
So there you have it: Pakistan’s near-rogue, near failed-state status put before the world in no uncertain terms. I cannot help but feel a somewhat cruel delight at the sure discomfiture of the Deep State (well I hope so, unless its leaders are stupider than I thought) at these words by a Republican, when quite foolishly it has always thought the Republicans better friends of Pakistan just because they are better friends to despots anywhere in the world.
The real question, however, is whether we Pakistanis are learning anything at all. Just last night the newest sensation to hit the talk shows, the youngest-looking retired air marshal in the universe, was saying that the Americans were actually only using this country for their own purposes. He did not address the point that if Pakistan was being used, it was being used because its leaders, mostly army dictators aided and abetted by the other services chiefs, wanted it to be used; because there was lucre aplenty to go around; because US-supplied tanks and jeeps and weapons and fighter aircraft were, and are, critical to our defence needs. To say nothing of the sacks full of cash that went straight to the coffers of the establishment.
Indeed all the participants, barring one, were of the view that the United States is more of an adversary than a friend. Neither are they alone, not by a long shot. Imran Khan thinks the same, touting the drone attacks as proof. Indeed, he has said he will go as far as to shoot down the drones (with what weapon he does not tell us, though) if he is in charge of Pakistan and if the Americans do not desist. Other rightist parties, led by the religio-political parties as seen in the Difa-e-Pakistan conglomerate widely believed to be an adjunct of the Deep State, hate America too.
Indeed, every poll taken over recent years shows that most Pakistanis consider America as, at the very least, not a friend, fuelled by incendiary narratives from the ghairatmand parts of our media, fuelled in turn by, you guessed it. Let us then differ with Romney about the timing being wrong for an American divorce from Pakistan. The timing is just right.
Nothing will galvanise our greedy elite groups, both civilian and military, than a cut-off of all aid which they largely misuse for their own purposes anyway, be they BMW-7 Series limos or other perks and privileges; or and indeed expensive weapons systems when a war with anyone is the furthest thing on the Pakistani horizon. Let there be a realisation that there is no free lunch; that the Pakistani establishment will have to make up its mind one way or the other on fighting the main menace: the monstrous jihadis who not only threaten Afghanistan and our other neighbours, but who are also threatening the very foundations of our own state and country.
Indeed, once reality begins to bite, ordinary citizens will sit up and understand that foreign relations cannot be run on fancy notions alone; that possessing one or two hundred bums and X number of missiles that can carry them does not at all mean the country is strong. And that all we have been fed by the Paknationalists and their ilk is poppycock. Most importantly, that no country can live in isolation, not even bum-infested Pakistan.
A word about the letting-go of Dr Pervez Hoodbhoy by LUMS for several reasons that can be found on the Internet, all of them glaringly spurious. Whilst I have immense respect for the founders of LUMS, particularly Syed Babar Ali who also set up the once-upon-a-time well-considered Ali Institute. I have an observation to make. If the Ali Institute could lose the most well-respected Dr AH Nayyar, why can’t LUMS lose Dr Hoodbhoy?
Published in The Express Tribune, October 26th, 2012.