New Age Islam
Fri Oct 30 2020, 09:29 PM

Current Affairs ( 27 Oct 2013, NewAgeIslam.Com)

Nawaz Sharif and Barack Obama: Met, Wept and Left


By Muhammad Shoaib

October 28, 2013











Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif (left) says he told U.S. President Barack Obama to halt drone attacks in Pakistan.

Liberation, separation and radical Islamic movements pose a bigger threat to national security than India and Afghanistan

The White House has published a joint statement of Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and American President Barack Obama. After reading the statement, it seems convincing that this meeting was dominated by a few words: thanked, noted, reaffirmed and suggested. It does not seem difficult to assess ‘who used which word’. Ironically, nothing was discussed that was used as a base to get votes and manipulating the public sentiment against competing political players during the May 2013 elections in Pakistan. For instance, the word ‘drone’ is not used even a single time in the whole statement. Nawaz Sharif preferred to discuss regional security over the drone conundrum, although Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz was a strong anti-drone voice before coming into power.

By the time this article is published, Premier Sharif would be back in Pakistan. But one might wonder that if ‘preparing the agenda of meeting’ was so simple then why the advisors to the honourable premier took so many days in preparation of this agenda? Why did the news (agenda for meeting with American president has been completed) remain highlighted in the news bulletins? On the contrary, there are many other issues in the country that still await concentration. If ‘points of focus’ were fostering bilateral trade and investment, agriculture, bilateral cooperation, regional cooperation, defence cooperation, counter-terrorism, military training and exchanges, women education and furthering people-to-people ties, then he must have dealt with the domestic problems first before visiting abroad. Or is it necessary for every Pakistani leader to visit the US after coming into power? It might be; after all, we are one of the major recipients of American aid.

Pakistan and the US leadership have reaffirmed to continue the ministerial level bilateral dialogue, which Secretary John Kerry would be hosting next year. For some in Pakistan, it might seem positive that the US would be giving Pakistan previously blocked annual aid in coming months, but this is something that is ‘a necessity’ for the US rather than Pakistan. After all, Pakistan has already survived without this aid package. And now the US needs Pakistan more rather than the other way around.

The prime minister’s concentration on international issues is necessary but only if domestic issues are being handled in an appropriate manner. It is a common practice in the world that a government chalks out its priorities, and keeps trying to pursue these goals before completing its duration. The priorities deal with matters at both the national and international levels, but one level inevitably remains more important. However, the priority is always regarded as a priority. And the business of statesmanship continues in this manner. But in Pakistan, things are unfortunately the other way around. The premier has not visited all of the provincial capitals (including Azad Jammu and Kashmir and Gilgit Baltistan) twice yet, but the US within five months after assuming office. If President Obama does not feel reluctant to cancel his visit to the East Asian countries (even when East Asia has already been proclaimed as the future priority by the administration), then why can’t the Pakistani premier reschedule his foreign visits? Pakistan needs more than the friendship and aid of the US in the 21st century.

As far as the US is concerned, it is undoubtedly one of the most important countries for Pakistan. Pakistan has remained an important partner in the American global military and political strategies since the early years of its creation, and it is likely to play an important role in the US forces’ exit from Afghanistan. But Pakistan has also got its own problems, which it is necessary to deal with.

Problems in the country are sundry and difficult to manage. A half-year seems enough for the government to devise a comprehensive grand strategy to deal with the insurgency in Balochistan, overcome terrorism, ensure peace in Karachi and promote education (doing more than distribution of laptops and construction of Daanish schools) in the country. But one might wonder where the change is. Pakistan has become no place to live in. No foreign tourist wants to visit the northern areas of the country, which they once considered heaven. Who is responsible for bringing peace in the country?

On the other hand, the government seems unable, so far, in clarifying its direction to ensure peace and wipe out terrorism. Since the convening of the All Parties Conference, there has not been any development. In fact, none of the opposition parties has been informed about the future strategy of the government vis-à-vis terrorism. How can economic development be possible in a country where the real stakeholders (governors, ministers and generals) do not feel safe?

The country is at a critical juncture of its history in this decade. The events of the previous decade have wreaked havoc on its economy and social fabric. Liberation, separation and radical Islamic movements pose a bigger threat to national security than India and Afghanistan. In short, the nature of the existential threat to the country has changed over a decade. But the remedies to deal with the threat are still the same. The attitude of the ruling elite is still traditional. The country will be facing dire consequences if the remedies are not changed and domestic issues are not concentrated on in the near future.

Muhammad Shoaib is a visiting scholar at Ball State University, USA