Freeing Islamabad From American Clutches
If Gen. Kayani is going to turn the tables, it will have to be a clean break and we have to be ready for the consequences.
AHMED QURAISHI | Monday | 6 December 2010 | The News International
ISLAMABAD, Pakistan—There is a link between Pakistan’s future and the award-winning Emirates airline. Let me explain.
Today Pakistan is like its national airline PIA, talented but bankrupt, uncreative and miserable. This same failed PIA groomed nascent Emirates three decades ago. Unless we find a way to turn this PIA into Emirates, time won’t wait for us. Pakistanis have already begun swapping loyalties. Many of us prefer to fly any airline to flying the national carrier. What’s true for airlines is also true for nations.
Emirates, the country and not the airline, did it without democracy, elections, or laws. They still don’t have democracy today. But they have laws, discipline and a good life. Most Pakistanis, whether urban, rural or tribal, love to live in the Emirates. The point is that just having democracy won’t give us anything. The last three years are proof. We are having the wrong debate. What we need is creativity, prosperity, and then elections. And no, this is not a call for military intervention. The military is an important stakeholder and has a crucial role but not the only one. Pakistanis will have to pitch in. It’s their homeland.
Without major changes in Islamabad and a leap in Pakistani strategic thinking, nothing is possible. The leaked US embassy cables are colored by the views and the limitations of those writing them. But they confirm one thing: how foreign meddling in Pakistan is at its peak today, starting from around 2005 onwards. It’s useless to talk about an elected government whose principals owe their jobs today to a deal brokered by two foreign governments. What is unfortunate is that our military was dragged into this by a former president-slash-army chief and now finds itself cornered. The worst part is to see members of the ruling troika and other politicians conducting their politics through a former US ambassador. Today, all political parties conduct direct relations with foreign governments to the detriment of national interests.
Not all Pakistanis probably understand why this is happening. Foreign interference will continue as long our politicians and the military continue to abide by commitments made during Mr. Musharraf’s government. Pakistan desperately needs to break away from those disastrous commitments. But we can’t pick and choose. We can’t ditch the 2007 US-brokered BB-Mush deal alone. The deal is apparently tied to other conditions that have to do with serving US interests in Pakistan and Afghanistan. Gen. Kayani was Mr. Musharraf’s interlocutor with BB and the Americans on the deal and NRO. I don’t know his personal views but as a soldier he was bound to either resign or follow the COAS orders. I am sure Gen. Kayani continues to uphold the conditions of the deal like all the other parties to the secret understanding. That’s why PPPP is still in power and the current political setup is intact. But even if Gen. Kayani wanted to opt out, which people like me would strongly urge him to do, it is not possible to do so without also breaking our word on other commitments that Mr. Musharraf had made with the Americans and we are stuck with now. A decision to turn the tables on the deal alone is not possible. If Gen. Kayani is going to turn the tables, it will have to be a clean break and we have to be ready for the consequences. Dealing with this situation is what statecraft and men’s mettle is all about. To be fair, it is a very difficult call.
Except Pakistan, every country involved in our region has reviewed and changed policies in the past eight years. We are the only country strictly following the American diktat. We can’t even stop ourselves from telling Washington no on transferring enriched uranium abroad. We never intended to do so but couldn’t tell the former US envoy no, as one US diplomatic cable shows. There is no way we can ensure the emergence of a strong, proud and prosperous Pakistan in the remaining nine decades of this century with this kind of mindset where our entire foreign and military policies are tailored around one or two foreign countries and where our elite is scared to undergo tough times without foreign handouts.
Pakistanis want to see a strong, prosperous and independent Pakistan and are willing to pay the price. But our decision-makers will have to level with our people on the pressures they face and take the nation along. It’s either this or chaos ahead. Right or wrong, the WikiLeaks have shown our leaderships to be weak and insecure. This could embolden future rebellions against a State seen in the same light.
A The News International column. Reproduced with permission.
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