Fodder for alien cannons

By Raoof Hasan
September 23, 2023

With the release of the follow-up report by The Intercept regarding the alleged sale of arms to Ukraine due to economic contingencies and US pressure, the key question that arises is whether we have become embroiled in another conflict, this time in Ukraine. An affirmative answer to the above would be laced with unmitigated disaster.

We have fought more wars in the past than we should have, some for advancing Pakistan’s strategic interests, and others as partners in wars waged by other countries. The war against the former Soviet Union and the one on terror that we fought on the behest of the US ended with disastrous consequences for Pakistan that we are still reeling under.

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There is a long history to this fraught mindset which is dictated by a myopic security outlook and going for an easy immediate way out without ascertaining the state’s long-term interests and requirements. Pakistan’s inclusion in Seato and Cento in the past and its acceptance of a so-called non-Nato status in the current times are all indicative of the same malaise which, by now, has really dug in deep.

Despite suffering immensely by adopting a brazenly partisan approach at the beginning of our journey as an independent country, we have remained stubborn in our approach and blind in evaluating policy options which may have served our interests better. The visit to Russia (then the Soviet Union) should have materialized much earlier in response to the invitation that was extended to us in 1948, but our mostly incomprehensible pro-West inclinations buried that prospect and, with it, the possibility of Pakistan emerging as a key influence in regional matters. We forfeited that task to India which has made the most of it.

Apparently, China has been an exception to the rule, but we owe it more to their sagacity and perseverance than our ability and capacity to build mutually productive, profitable, and sustainable partnerships. Granted that we have been under intense and incessant pressure from the US to contain both our relations with China and the operational expanse of CPEC, but, in the ultimate analysis, it is us who need to ascertain our interests objectively and clinically to decide where they belong and how we can preserve and promote them without any undue interference from any quarter. It is exclusively our failure in this capacity that we have not been able to do so to the benefit of Pakistan and, instead, have surrendered to playing subservient roles to the command of some erstwhile partners.

With the Intercept report, the missing links in the puzzle are gradually falling in place to complete a flawed policy picture. Much more may yet come but, in essence, it is another instance of the US exploiting an economically captive country for its strategic gains. It is also an example of a country falling into the trap without even a cursory glance at its experience of having dealt with the partner in the past.

What does it entail for Pakistan in the long run? Is this a one-time trade-off to ease the pressure on the country, or will this be a precursor to more such deals in the future with the prospect of an active role remaining an option? Is this repudiation of Khan’s oft-stated policy of willing to become a partner in peace ventures, but never in war?

The lurking danger of another conflict in this part of the world has been a subject of much discourse in recent times. In the face of China rising as an economic giant, the US has been busy contemplating ways to contain that progress. An embattled region, it seems, has been a priority item on its agenda with Pakistan likely to suffer the most on account of this misadventure, both in the strategic and economic domains. This is a reality that escaped our rulers in the past and, it appears, the same may happen with the current coterie particularly when the country is suffering from the growing strain of a depleting economy.

The pages of history are replete with countless wars the US has waged, but hardly ever has one produced the stated results. They have all left destruction in their wake which many would perceive as the original motivation – of leaving countries and regions in turmoil, thus putting them back on the scale of growth and progress. The recent devastation caused across Afghanistan and the Middle East is an apt reminder of how lethally this strategy has been put to practice and how countries have been left bemoaning the aftereffects of many such mass-scale criminal undertakings.

Pakistan has been reduced to becoming the epicentre of an embattled zone: internally because of having to suffer the grave consequences of dismantling a democratically elected government and, externally, because of an ill-conceived policy of pursuing dangerous alliance with a partner it has tried often in the past much to its sufferance.

Treading the dreaded track again can only spell further disaster. In this context, one utterly fails to understand the policy perceptions and guidelines which propel the people in power to keep falling for the trap that is laid ever so deceptively, ever so malevolently.

We are standing at a juncture that necessitates a re-evaluation of our policy objectives for the short and long term. The consequent strategy devised should remain focussed on the achievement of the desired goals. While waging a war is unthinkable, becoming part of one orchestrated by another country would be even more disastrous. So, not only should any temptation for initiating a misadventure be doused, but, far more importantly, we should gather the courage and strength to say no to a partner of yore. There are no viable alternatives to the centrality of this approach.

Pakistan has suffered enough due to its fundamental policy aberrations with its people having borne its consequences in terms of being deprived of moving on in life with hope and promise of a better future. With time, we have dug deeper into the quagmire of backwardness and loss of optimism. Having been hostage of our blunders in the past, we should resist the inclination of becoming fodder for alien cannons.

That is why a mere rejection of The Intercept story by the Foreign Office spokesperson will not suffice particularly when such efforts in the past were found to be lacking in substance. The incumbent caretaker regime must convince the people that such an arrangement is neither in place, nor is it envisaged. Anything less than that will carry little credibility.

The writer is the information secretary of the PTI, and a

fellow at King’s College London. He tweets/posts RaoofHasan

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