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Head of PPP Media Cell
Pakistan’s foreign policy predicaments may not mitigate in their entirety till such time the elected Parliament does not take the charge of its formulation and implementation juxtaposed with the framework of transparency, accountability and evaluation. The people of Pakistan want our foreign relations based on the vision of the Founder of the Nation, Quaid-i-Azam, who said, ‘our foreign relations will be based on friendship with all and enmity with none’. His visionary advice was, unfortunately, shoved aside by the tyrant rulers and their acolytes in particular and the resultant faux pas in our national life was a foregone conclusion. Our foreign and security policies did not reflect the aspirations of the people because these had hardly been formulated by the elected representatives of the people. The one exception was the great Bhutto time when democracy swayed right across all facets of national life. Otherwise, the foreign policy of the country had been quite clearly the self-assumed domain of the security establishment, Foreign Office inconsequential, seeking to run foreign policy within the prism of security doctrine. Security interests were equated with the national interests.
Chairman Bilawal Bhutto while recently talking at the Iftar dinner underscored the importance of improving relations with our neighbouring countries while pointing out that Pakistan’s relations with them were much better during the PPP previous government than what these were today despite the Mumbai attack at that time. His reference apparently explicitly implied that our relations with neighbouring countries have been going from bad to worse during the watch of incumbent government causing grave concern in the region and beyond. There is dire need to revisit our relations with immediate neighbours because friendly neighbourhood will prove as a death-knell for the hawks on the both sides of the borders. They see their relevance in the countries’ engagement in getting to each other throats while they go full-throttle fueling the fire manifesting their sick mentality. Pakistan needs to reach out to Iran, Afghanistan and India and scrupulously convince them of Pakistan’s eagerness to play its role sincerely and whole heartedly for regional peace and security as a shared vision. Action on their part should speak louder than words because clap of one hand is always end in silence. One sided- diplomacy, no matter how rationally undertaken, cannot yield results.
The Chinese government’s intention to mediate between Pakistan and Afghanistan is good news that demonstrates the level of importance the country attaches to this normalisation for the betterment of the people of two countries and indeed of the region. The news are also emanating from Moscow as well to the effect that Russian president has also shown his interest to use his clout to bring India and Pakistan on the negotiation table to settle their differences as good neighbours, so critical for the peace and security of the region. They may otherwise perpetually remain at the brink of conflagration with devastating consequences. Pakistan may capitalise on this convergence in Beijing and Moscow and seize the opportunity by taking imaginative diplomatic steps to improve the regional environment by assuming the role of as a sincere and dignified collaborator rather than a fierce competitor of regional leadership. Similarly, the neighbouring countries may also endeavour to figure out the spirit of genuine partnership, and jettison their quest for regional hegemony for the reason of its detrimental ramifications. This is great opportunity that should not be lost at any cost. The leadership of the neighbouring countries owes to their people the better future that could be brought about only in an environment of peace and security fortified with complete mutual trust.
The recent statement of the Army Chief General Qamar Bajwa, demonstrating the institutional commitment to solve the national problems by extending its fullest cooperation to the civilian institutions, is indeed a thoughtful bonhomie that is much cherished for since long. It may efface the well-entrenched impression, both at home and abroad, of the institutional juggernaut of supremacy, -- state within state -- which had been the case during our chequered political history, unfortunately. Considering it the constitutional responsibility not favour, the security establishment should extend full cooperation to the civilian government like all other government departments and desist from meddling in the domains which do not fall in the scope of its responsibilities if the statecraft is to be navigated in the desired directions. It will improve the image of the institution in the real sense. Former Army chief’s bellicosity to save General Musharraf from facing the law will be deemed as a black spot in the history in his otherwise enviable career. The mega political and economic mess the country is embroiled today was the hurtful legacies of the successive autocrats who trampled upon the Constitution and held the nation as their hostage at gun point to fulfill their political ambitions. The politicians could be absolved of the culpability to a degree emanating from the discourse of learning through mistakes in the context of exigencies of the evolutionary process.
The major cause of the national predicaments had been the uneven civil-military relations inflicting series of political disruptions prodigiously affecting the process of national integration and nation building. The tyrants’ witch hunting of the politicians and the political opponents divided the nation. The corresponding political alienation cobbled with economic deprivation led to the dismemberment of the country eventually. The culture of sycophancy and corruption flourished during the times as the collateral damage discounting merit in every sphere of life. The progression was replaced by retrogression in politics, human rights and minorities’ rights, in socio-economic fields, in art and culture, hampering the steady growth of national institutions. The culture of illegality and impunity was visible in its horrendous forms and manifestations in the absence of accountability and the muzzled media.
The question of civil-military relations is of no relevance in the well-established democracies where the army personnel obey the civilian authority without second thought if it is not illegal or immoral, according to US General Pretreats. This question assumes significance in nascent democracies like Pakistan where politicians are ruthlessly engaged against each other in their quest of ‘power for power sake’ without caring the legitimacy of the methods. The invitation to “third empire” by the opposition leader during sit-in politics optimised the worst form of power politics play choreographed to pull down the elected government even at the expense of the entire political system. The PPP’s role at that time saved the political system from the jaws of power hungry who were hell bound to grab power by hook or crook. They have been still desperately trying to create wedge between the institutions with insidious intention of creating standoff that might create an opportunity for them to jump in the saddle. These shenanigans of politics may be resisted and exposed and its undertakers taken to task who deserve to be made politically redundant with the support of the people. Their long list of schadenfreude may serve as catalyst among its supporters to look for other choices.
Chairman Bilawal Bhutto also paid rich tributes to Malala Yusufzai and Mishal Khan on the occasion when he said that they were our heroes who suffered at the hands of the scourge of terrorism and extremism and their perpetrators. The victims are the source of inspiration for the young people of Pakistan who have stood up to defeat the evil that has been cause of infamy to our religion as well as the country and indeed its ideals as a democratic welfare state of Pakistan. The PPP has clear and unequivocal stance against extremism and terrorism also because the forces of extremism and authoritarianism assassinated Shaheed Benazir Bhutto who was the answer to the desperate prayers of the poor for salvation. The same forces are at the rampage today because the government has miserably failed to implement the National Action Plan (NAP). The proscribed organisations and their leaders do not respect the law and violate it with impunity without fear of legal consequences. This is not acceptable and must be addressed failing which our credibility in the international community may reduce to the needle point. Make no mistake.
Terrorism has emerged as an international problem. It has targeted the important world capitals like Paris, London, Brussels and many other cities. The international consensus and commitment to liquidate the paraphernalia of extremism and terrorism right across the globe may be channelized to nip the evil thoroughly. It is important because the front-line states have neither the capacity nor the sufficient resources to defeat the faceless and callous enemy those are out there to kill innocent people with vengeance in the name of their toxic ideology. It is heartening to mention that Chinese and Russian leadership are cognizant of the deadly threat and has evinced their interest in improving relations between Pakistan and Afghanistan and between India and Pakistan that will go a long way to marginalise the common enemy who have been taking the full advantage of the differences among the three countries. Pakistan’s Foreign Office has rightly welcomed such developments hoping that the countries of the region will appreciate and reciprocate by exhibiting sincerity in reducing the tension because their intransigence and enmity have provided the terrorists the hotbed for their survival and carrying out deadly terrorist attacks inside the secured locations with temerity and confidence.