Thursday April 18, 2024

By design or mere stupidity?

By Shireen M Mazari
August 25, 2016

After watching the MQM’s drama of the abusive absurd, the troubling question was: have we become a joke as a nation and state? From the US to India to the EU and UK, anyone can vent ad nauseum against us, our state, its institutions – and our leaders accept it all with a muted protest at best.

So when the MQM’s Altaf Hussain decided to yet again abuse Pakistan and incite his followers to violence against the media and state institutions and officials, Islamabad’s muted and belated response was disturbing. Equally absurd was the farce of the oft-repeated apology which the nation was supposed to accept. Do the MQM and its leader really think we are so stupid?

Sadly, why should anyone think otherwise? While our military is busy fighting terrorists in Fata, the US has the gall to ask whether Pakistan is a friend or foe; its Congress stops payment of the Coalition Support Fund because the Obama Administration refuses to testify that Pakistan is fighting terrorism with good intent; and Congress also decides to deny us the purchase of F 16s (as has happened to us before but we never learn).

While we continue to host Afghan refugees, the Afghan leadership is busy targeting Pakistan and their army is taking pot-shots at our border posts. While we are shouting our commitment to defending the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia against any threat, our workers are being denied their hard-earned wages in the Kingdom. As for Modi’s India, it is not only ruthlessly killing and maiming Kashmiris in Occupied Kashmir, but also conducting a low intensity conflict inside Pakistan, especially in Balochistan, alongside an international propaganda offensive against us.

With all this abuse and attack from different quarters, one would think that the Pakistani state and its leadership would have been vociferous in objecting to such attacks as well as countering them effectively. But Islamabad has for the most part remained either silent or offered at best a muted, often apologetic, response. No straight talking with the UK on how it continues to allow its citizen to use its territory for inciting hatred and violence in Pakistan when UK laws specifically forbid it. Why?

Especially on India, Modi’s attacks against Pakistan, including seeking to bring Balochistan into India’s intrusive loop, the prime minister has sought to maintain an inexplicable silence. So why shouldn’t the MQM’s leader target Pakistan, even calling on RAW to aid and abet his designs of destroying Pakistan, incite violence and then next day simply utter a farcical apology? After all he has followed this pattern with a bizarre consistency. Nor is he the only one!

It is no wonder then that Pakistan is fast becoming everyone’s favourite whipping boy – often to be blamed for their own shortcomings and failures, as is the case with the US and Afghan governments in Afghanistan and Modi in Occupied Kashmir. So blaming Pakistan is the easy way out because our state seems to have developed a dangerously thick skin.

I can understand the US, India, Afghanistan and the fifth columnists in our midst with their ‘target Pakistan’ agenda because they see that in their interest. What I cannot understand or accept is why our state, its institutions and our leadership is for all purposes playing ball with these hostile actors.

So do we continue being reduced to a joke or can we formulate some cohesive security policy to deal with our external and internal detractors. For instance, we cannot have a war with the US, but we can stand our ground by taking a few resolute actions, beginning with having strictly reciprocal number of diplomats and non-diplomatic personnel. This would mean immediately cutting down the US presence in Islamabad and ensuring that their embassy here does not become the largest CIA base outside the US mainland. We can also remind them in clear terms that without our active support Afghanistan will remain a quagmire for them indefinitely.

The Afghan government should also realise that targeting Pakistan by attacking our border posts and indulging in an irrational blame game will not bring stability to their country or our region. India may have lured them into an anti-Pakistan mode but they should realise they not only share a border with Pakistan but their transit trade flows through Pakistan – a country that happens to be home to a substantial number of Afghan refugees even today.

As for India, we need to expose Modi’s aggressive designs especially in Occupied Kashmir – an international issue on the US Security Council agenda. The UN may not be very effective in real-politik terms but there is ample room for effective diplomacy. With the international media finally focusing on Indian atrocities in Occupied Kashmir, this is the time for an effective diplomatic offensive.

Unfortunately, we are not moving effectively to counter India on any critical front where our interests are prime. For instance, in another two months the US will once again push for India’s membership of the Nuclear Supplier’s Group (NSG). India is wooing China while we are not taking our case to countries committed to nuclear non-proliferation to widen our support base within the NSG.

Equally critical is defending our workers’ overseas, especially in Saudi Arabia where they are being mistreated, but our government is pussyfooting around the issue instead of doing some plain talking with the Saudi government. We cannot allow our workers to be treated with impunity in such a brutal fashion.

Finally, what is needed is an overarching policy framework where old alliance structures can now be revived. With all our problems we should not forget we are not without some power and assets. With Turkey now finally disillusioned with the US and Iran having formally rid itself of sanctions (although our government continues to hide behind the ‘sanctions’ mantra to avoid upsetting the US by moving ahead on the Iran-Pakistan pipeline project), the time has come to revive the old RCD trilateral alliance between Pakistan, Iran and Turkey but within a security framework underlying a community of power. There is a world beyond the US and Europe – as BRICS has shown.

However, for anything positive to happen we have to be convinced we have options beyond suffering abuse and ridicule because we are not as weak and helpless as our leaders would have us believe. But then perhaps our leaders are simply playing games with us; and they want Pakistan to remain a weak, ineffectual nation and state. That would be a fair assumption to make given the shenanigans of our decision-makers.

Postscript: As for Western Europe and its growing problem with its marginalised Muslim populations, what can one say when all logic is lost and Burkinis are seen as counter-secularism and a security threat deserving to be banned! (Out of interest, what exactly is the difference between a wetsuit and a burkini?)

The writer is DG of SSII, a private think tank, and a PTI MNA. The views expressed are her own.