Passing the buck

Published: December 12, 2014
The writer is a columnist, a former major of the Pakistan Army and served as press secretary to Benazir Bhutto

The writer is a columnist, a former major of the Pakistan Army and served as press secretary to Benazir Bhutto

Now let me get this straight. If the secretary of the ministry of foreign affairs of any country in the world is handed a draft of a declaration (by someone outside of the FO) to be made at the conclusion of talks between his chief executive (CE) and that of another country, would he blindly accept it and formalise it for signatures by the two CEs and disseminate it to the world’s media?

Specially, mark, the CEs of Pakistan and India, two countries which had fought three and a half wars, and many more skirmishes along the border/ceasefire line; two countries which came close to at least two more wars; and which were constantly suspicious of the other’s intents; two countries that opposed each other at international fora on any and all matters, even the most trivial, to the extent of appearing facile; nay churlish, even infantile to the rest of the civilised world?

For this is what my friend, the bright, and gentlemanly Shamshad Ahmed, a former foreign secretary himself, said he had been told by Riaz Khokhar, foreign secretary at the time that the Islamabad Declaration was signed by General Pervez Musharraf and Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee.

In Mr Ahmad’s words spoken at a seminar on “Flashpoint of the South Asian Security — A Review of Political and Security Architecture in the sub-continent” at the Strategic Vision Institute, an Islamabad-based think tank, and as reported widely in the press: “The former foreign secretary (Mr Ahmad), who had then retired, recalled that on reading the statement he doubted that it was the language of the Foreign Office.

“The statement issued on January 6, 2004 after a meeting between the then President Pervez Musharraf and Indian Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee in Islamabad had included an assurance by the former (Musharraf) that ‘he will not permit any territory under Pakistan’s control to be used for terrorism in any manner’.

“‘I asked the then foreign secretary, Riaz Khokhar, if the statement had been drafted by the Foreign Office and he told me that Tariq Aziz, a close aide of Musharraf, had given him that draft,’ Mr Ahmad said.

“‘This (terrorism accusations) has been a familiar narrative that India has been using against Pakistan since after 9/11, taking advantage of the global anti-terror sentiment and our own rulers’ apologetic postures in the face of India’s sinister campaign,’ the former secretary said.

“‘General Musharraf had in effect given an affidavit that there would be no cross-border activity from Pakistani side. This could be implied as an admission that whatsoever happened in the past was Pakistan’s fault,’ Mr Ahmad said.”

First to Mr Khokhar, who was handed the text of the Declaration by Tariq Aziz. Does the FO have no internal Rules of Business, or/and indeed is it not its bounden duty and responsibility to carefully study any draft handed to it by whosoever and report back to the person concerned, indeed to the chief executive of the government, and point out the inappropriateness of the language and suggest alternative wording?

Have any of them stood up and disagreed with ‘orders’, giving reasons for doing so? Or are our babus just there for pushing paper and blindly following orders/instructions from on high, especially from those who wear army boots and carry swagger sticks, and their close aides? I have often asked this question and have never ever received an answer. The typical FO response to something that goes awry, or shall we say against the country’s ‘interests’ is, simply, ‘We are not aware’, or ‘So and so is to blame, not we’.

As to Mr Ahmad’s assertion that Musharraf “in effect” gave “an affidavit that there would be no cross-border activity from Pakistani side”. And that “this could be implied as an admission that whatsoever happened in the past was Pakistan’s fault”, I could not disagree more. One country giving another, especially a neighbour, an assurance (let’s call it an affidavit) that there will be no cross-border ‘activity’ (let’s call it terrorism) from its territory is exactly the thing to do.

Also, giving this assurance in no way means that “whatsoever happened in the past” was Pakistan’s fault. It means just what it says about the future. However, as the newspaper Dawn noted in an editorial just three days ago: “It is no propaganda to say that militant proxies were encouraged by official quarters to use Pakistani soil to support an armed insurgency on the other side of the Line of Control, which some militant groups later decided to extend to the Indian heartland as well.” So there. Time we pulled our heads out of the sand.

Let me immediately say that I am no admirer of the Commando’s as his admirers will tell you! But one has to acknowledge that he re-started talks with our Indian neighbours despite his foolish Kargil adventure which put a full-stop to Pakistan’s and India’s progress on the path of peace upon which both the countries had embarked after the Male meeting between then Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and his Indian counterpart Mr Atal Bihari Vajpayee in 1997. This was followed by the sagacious Atalji’s bus trip to Lahore where he spoke so warmly of Pakistan at the Pakistan Monument in Lahore.

A short reminder: I hope readers recall the efforts of the Jamaat-e-Islami — whose former Amir Syed Munawwar Hassan breathed fire and brimstone threatening universal and domestic Qitaal just a week ago in Lahore — to scuttle the Indian PM’s visit to Lahore on February 20, 1999 and the stern handling of the mobs by the then Shahbaz Sharif government in Punjab.

Which reminds me: the recent public rally at the Pakistan Monument of all places, mounted by the militant organisation Jamaatud Dawa (JuD) in which it too talked of the certainty of Ghazwa-e-Hind and freeing Kashmir by force of arms can hardly be helpful in pursuing peace with India, especially since the JuD is an internationally proscribed organisation. What else will the world think but that militants are encouraged by elements within our state structure?

Published in The Express Tribune, December 12th,  2014.

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Reader Comments (14)

  • shahid
    Dec 12, 2014 - 12:17AM

    This article seems like a repeat of what Shamshad Sahib has said. One really wonders who may have drafted this article and handed it to Shafi Sahib for onwards transmissionRecommend

  • Vakil
    Dec 12, 2014 - 12:32AM

    Dear Mr. Shafi, whatever is wrong with calling for “Ghazwa-e-Hind” …? After all, that is the whole purpose of this organization… and to hold that view and preach it (within it seems, your own country’s laws) is their ‘democratic right’. This is to do with what they (many Pakistanis, esp the likes of who are LeT/JuD) regard as the “unjust partition of Punjab” (that included Delhi at the time) — simply put: Whoever rules Delhi, rules the entire South Asia, that’s it. That is precisely what LeT/JuD/Hafiz Saeed et-al are on to… Kashmir is merely an “appetizer” – and the whole world knows that. Now tell me, that man (the one on whom there is a 10million$ bounty) was able to muster 100s of thousands and feed/house them for 2-3 days in Lahore, just HOW MANY can YOU, good sir be able to do in support of your good statements (and that too of an ex-Army-man)…??? That in itself tells everyone just WHO rules the roost in your country…


  • Rahul
    Dec 12, 2014 - 12:50AM

    The history of Pakistan is replete with affidavits, assurances and agreements. None of these has any meaning because there is always a question mark about who is really in charge. While Musharraf and Zia were clearly usurpers, there is also a question mark about the Nawaz governments legitimacy. There is also doubt about about who actually runs policy. Musharraf was already well into Kargil while Nawaz was signing agreements with Vajpayee. Zardari, Singh Track II diplomacy was in full swing when Mumbai happened. Musharraf finally came to his senses in 2004, but by then Musharraf was already deeply unpopular among the public as well as right wing hardliners. Pakistan Army has conducted operation against FATA based groups because they have become a thorn in its side. India is a big country, it has time on its side. Kashmir terrorism has almost died down. There will be peace between India and Pakistan, but it will be on India’s terms.Recommend

  • Dec 12, 2014 - 2:00AM

    How long has Shahbaz been in charge of Punjab? Is it owned
    by the Sharif’s? Are they the Maharajas of Punjab? Why don’t
    we call Punjab….Sharifistan? [it is already known as Punjabistan]
    And who OK’ed this rally of JuD? In Lahore, the heart of Punjab.
    Nawaz and his brother Shahbaz.
    This Kashmir is just a tumor. Collectively shared by the two countries.
    Festering and growing. With no end in site. Recommend

  • Ranjha
    Dec 12, 2014 - 3:16AM

    Are our babus just there for pushin­g paper and blindl­y follow­ing orders/instru­ctions from on high

    Yes. If still in doubt, ask your failed leftists, ex babu Irfan Hussain aka Gordon Ramsey–he will fill you in on the details of abuse of government property and foreign junkets!


  • wb
    Dec 12, 2014 - 4:08AM

    “But one has to acknowledge that he re-started talks with our Indian neighbours despite his foolish Kargil adventure”

    I don’t know if Mr. Shafi is playing safe or being naive, in not recognizing Musharraf’s unabashed narcissistic megalomania.

    The truth is, Musharraf always claimed that India talked to Pakistan only because of Kargil.

    Which is ridiculous, but shows the delusion and narcissism and megalomania and pseudomania and mythomania that the Pakistani society lives in.

    And then there’s the claim that Hindus suffer from inferiority complex vis-a-vis Pakistan because Muslims ruled over us for 1000 years.

    A typical psychedelic society.


  • excalibur
    Dec 12, 2014 - 7:05AM

    No wonder Shafi never made it in the Army and was thrown out . With pseudo Pakistanis like him we dont need Indians to troll here


  • Dilli Ka Billa
    Dec 12, 2014 - 7:51AM

    Pakistanis have problem with India because it is Hindu majority country. If India becomes majority Christian country then it will not have any problem with it because the countries who fund Pakistanis with arms and weapons are Christian countries. Christian countries do not support a Muslim country in its wars against a Christian country. When Indians convert to Christianity then Pakistan also has to convert to Christianity to get Western support. In the fight between Christian Ukraine and semi-Christian Russia, the west supports Ukraine. Knowing all this, it would be wise for Pakistan to preempt Indians and become Christians. Hana Lulah!


  • American
    Dec 12, 2014 - 8:41AM

    Shamshad Ahmed is duplicitous and double faced, speaking with a forked tongue…perectly suitable for representing his country. Why blame the poor chap!


  • Author
    Dec 12, 2014 - 10:21AM

    @excalibur: And what, pray, is a ‘real’ Pakistani? An ostrich? Instead of making a sensible comment on the contents of the article you prefer to make nonsensical and patently wrong ad hominem attacks.


  • Parvez
    Dec 12, 2014 - 2:22PM

    What this amounts to is that…….diplomacy is too serious a business to be left to military men , politicians or bureaucrats so that leaves the ‘ yahoos ‘ as you call them. Now isn’t that sad.


  • K B Kale
    Dec 13, 2014 - 8:31AM

    Dear Shafisahab
    Read your article after a long break as I shifted back to India & busy with relocation pains and realised how wonderful I felt to read it!
    I also feel that Pakistani PM is just a facade behind which Pakistani military handles the business of governance. Your PM is just like ‘kathputli’ dancing at the ends of strings that your COAS controls. So during Commando era he was surely in full control!
    Kudos to you for another wonderful article!


  • javed Iqbal
    Dec 14, 2014 - 2:46AM

    I wonder my country had foreign secretary like Riaz Khokher an ‘ innocent’ gentleman.LOL


  • bahadur khan
    Dec 14, 2014 - 9:21PM

    Come to think of it can any one highlight the some achievements of Shamshad Ahmed, Riaz Khokar, Abdul basit, other than getting adverse publicity in New delhi to gain promotions in Islamabad.


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