New Age Islam Edit Bureau
21 May 2018
By Huma Yusuf
The Role of Religion in Polls
By Muhammad Amir Rana
The Lure of the City
By Mubarak Ali
A Counterproductive Strategy?
By Umair Javed
Truth Shall Prevail
By Syed Talat Hussain
A Legacy of Deficits
By Fahd Humayun
By Samantha Krop
Compiled By New Age Islam Edit Bureau
By Huma Yusuf
May 21, 2018
OUR prime minister on Friday joined leaders from the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) to condemn the recent violence in Gaza, the “brutal” and “criminal” actions of Israel, and the US decision to move its embassy to Jerusalem. Our prominent role in the special meeting fits the religio-nationalist mood that has gripped Pakistan in recent years; its simple messaging resonating with our righteous patriots: up with the Muslim world, down with the US and Israel.
But indignant fist thumping cannot mask the truth. Saudi Arabia has sided with Israel in efforts to undermine Iran and check its regional ambitions. The Gulf Cooperation Council remains at loggerheads a year into the dispute. The Saudi-led conflict in Yemen rages, fuelling one of the worst humanitarian crises of recent times. The horrors in Syria seem endless. Sectarian hatred is deeply entrenched across the Muslim world, with particularly violent ramifications in the Middle East.
The anti-US posturing is also ambivalent at best. While condemnation of the embassy move has been almost universal — encompassing not only members of the OIC but also many European and Asian countries — the rejection of US policies is hardly that resolute. Washington and Riyadh, for example, are enjoying revitalised relations spurred on by mutual suspicion of Iran (and Saudi Arabia’s dispute with Qatar, a US ally, has barely registered as a bone of contention).
The weakness of the OIC is reflected in the outcome of last week’s meeting. All the outrage cumulated in a plan to express solidarity with the Palestinians and lobby other countries not to move their embassies to Jerusalem — hardly a game plan to tackle the worsening plight of the Palestinians.
The sound and fury of the OIC meeting highlights our challenges.
The sound and fury of the OIC meeting highlights the challenges ahead for Pakistan. At a point when our Foreign Office is faltering — as pointed out by Moeed Yusuf in these pages, writing about the snub our new US ambassador’s appointment represents for the diplomatic corps — we seem ill equipped to navigate the complex foreign policy landscape of the Middle East.
A show of Muslim unity serves to accentuate the fact that one of Pakistan’s trickier foreign policy puzzles is simultaneously managing relations with Saudi Arabia and Iran. Much has already been written about the need for Pakistan to juggle the relationships to prevent a return to the proxy sectarian war of the 1990s, and to continue to benefit from both Saudi benefactors and the opportunities for trade, energy connectivity and counterterrorism cooperation that Iran offers closer to home. This need is more urgent since America’s withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal.
In the event that European efforts to save the deal fail, Tehran would likely resume its nuclear programme. That in turn could stir Saudi aspirations of becoming a nuclear power. In this scenario, Pakistan could face pressure to support such a move with all its implications.
The failure of the Iran nuclear deal could also present Pakistan with a new juggling act. Our typically binary foreign policy calculations make much of our tilt away from the US, and into China’s arms. But what if the US decides to push its attempts to weaken Iran further, either by targeting Iranian nuclear facilities in conjunction with Israel, or seeking regime change, as certain White House officials have hinted is the ultimate goal? In that scenario, Saudi Arabia would back America’s aggressive anti-Iran posturing, while China, which has opposed the US’s withdrawal from the agreement, would see an opportunity to strengthen ties with Tehran, drawing it further into the Belt and Road Initiative. How would Pakistan manage the competing interests of its key allies?
All this would be further complicated by the fact that Pakistan in some ways benefits from the collapse of the deal, despite our initial official statements in support of Iran. Further obstructions to doing business with Iran will limit the competition for Gwadar from Chabahar, and also stymie India’s plans to trade with Afghanistan via Iran. Seen this way, Pakistan is more aligned with the US than it would like to seem.
There’s also a domestic angle to consider. Pakistan’s support for Palestinians is ethical and necessary. But there’s a twinge of hypocrisy in our vehement condemnation of the human rights violations and brutal killings of Palestinians gathering in opposition to unjust policies. After all, closer to home, Pakistani citizens who gather to protest killings, displacement and humiliation are met with intimidation and media blackouts.
The idea of Muslim unity in the face of gross injustices may be a beautiful one. But there is little beauty in our world today. And Pakistan seems ill prepared to protect its interests — and those of all its citizens — in the midst of growing complexities.
The Role of Religion in Polls
By Muhammad Amir Rana
May 20, 2018
THE political landscape in the country is changing fast with the approaching elections. The religio-political parties have also set their tone, indicating a rise in religious sentiment in their electoral campaigns. However, the TV cameras appear more focused on political turfs in Punjab and Karachi. In the heartland of the political arena, the processes of remoulding the PML-N and reconstruction of the PTI also continue.
A few recent by-elections in Punjab and KP triggered a debate, which gradually faded away, on the religious factor in general elections. Even the assassination bid on Interior Minister Ahsan Iqbal failed to revive the debate on a threat that could affect the upcoming electoral campaigns.
Apparently, using religious sentiments for acquiring political gains is not confined to religious parties; mainstream political parties have also mastered the art. However, religious sentimentalism is not merely political rhetoric; it has become a life-threatening reality to the extent that mere dissent can bring harm. Although political parties condemned the attack on the interior minister, no one dared challenge the driving force of religious sentimentalism. Perhaps they are not willing to do what they perceive as tantamount to putting their political careers at risk. The ruling party is an obvious target of the hatred arising out of this phenomenon, but also avoids facing it. Otherwise, it would not be able to run its electoral campaign.
It remains to be seen how religious sentimentalism will play in the general elections. But it could become a big challenge for the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) and security institutions to ensure that polls are conducted in a free and fair environment. At the same time, it would be a huge task for major religio-political parties to keep a distance from some new actors who tend to encourage violent religious sentiments.
Traditionally, religio-political parties have struggled to find an inspiring agenda and narrative.
Traditionally, religious parties have struggled to find an inspiring agenda and narrative in the general elections. Their primary focus has remained on Islamisation of the state and religious socialisation of society. Their worldview is constructed on the notion of the ummah that helped such parties secure a few electoral gains in 2002, mainly in KP and Balochistan; the US invasion of Afghanistan was a major factor in their success.
The alliance of six religiously inspired parties, the Muttahida Majlis-i-Amal (MMA), successfully exploited anti-US sentiments in those elections. However, by the time of the 2008 elections, the anti-US agenda had lost its appeal. Since then, such parties have been trying to make their manifestos and slogans more attractive for the general public while adopting mainstream political discourses.
In the 2013 elections, two major religious parties, the Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F) and the Jamaat-i-Islami (JI), attempted to build their image as anti-status quo and, to a certain extent, as anti-establishment actors, but these slogans also failed to attract voters. Indeed, in 2013, between them, the religious parties secured five per cent of the total votes, which was the second-worst performance of such parties after the 1997 elections when amongst all religious parties, only the JUI-F secured two National Assembly seats.
The JUI-F, JI and smaller religious parties have revived the MMA as an electoral alliance and their leadership hopes they can repeat the 2002 results. The MMA is missing the emotional appeal it had in 2002, and will build its electoral campaign around four major themes: protecting democracy; Islamisation; anti-extremism; and to a certain extent, being anti-establishment.
To counter its influence in KP, the PTI has entered into an electoral alliance with another one of the JUI’s factions led by Maulana Samiul Haq after donating huge grants to his religious seminary in Akora Khattak. Maulana Sami was an active player in the Difa-i-Pakistan Council (DPC), an alliance of religious and small political parties formed after 24 Pakistani soldiers were killed by American planes along the Afghan border in 2011. The banned Sipah-i-Sahaba Pakistan and the banned Jamaat ud Dawa were other active members of the alliance. These three parties have an image of being pro-establishment actors in Pakistan. Maulana Sami tried to convert this alliance into an electoral alliance with the help of the SSP and JuD.
The JuD’s political face, the Milli Muslim League has decided not to be a part of any alliance of religious parties because, first, the registration of the party is still pending with the ECP, and second, it wants to shed the tag of ‘religious’ party. It wants to be considered a mainstream political actor and will enter some broad-based electoral alliance. Because of the registration issue, MML members will contest elections as independent candidates.
Maulana Sami, the SSP and a few of their DPC allies could form an alliance of religious parties similar to the one they formed in 2013. However, the chances of their electoral success are bleak. Yet the alliance would be used not only against the MMA but also other mainstream parties, mainly to challenge their patriotic credentials.
The MMA will focus on KP, Balochistan and some constituencies in Karachi; Punjab, Sindh and the Hazara belt of KP will remain open for other religious parties as well. In these areas, all religious parties appeal to people to some extent, and which could be translated from hundreds to a few thousand votes, depending on the attraction of their electoral narratives. The Tehreek-i-Labbaik Pakistan of Khadim Rizvi, its breakaway faction the Tehreek-i-Labbaik Islam, the Nizam-i-Mustafa Muttahida Mahaz, the MML, and small and large sectarian organisations will capitalise on their constituencies in these regions. There is little doubt that these parties will exploit religious and nationalistic sentiments.
If such sentiments reach at a level where it could trigger hatred against political opponents, violence could be the outcome. In this scenario, the religious vote base in these regions may slip from the hands of the MMA and shift to new sectarian and hyper-nationalist political actors.
The hatred and violence will help new religiously inspired actors maximise their vote bank. This might not translate into electoral success but will surely increase their street power and weight as pressure groups.
The Lure of the City
By Mubarak Ali
May 21, 2018
Oswald Spengler, a German historian, was working as a teacher at a school when the idea to write a book on the rise and fall of civilisations cropped up in his mind.
He resigned from his job and devoted his time towards writing this book. He published ‘The Decline of the West’ in 1918. During his lifetime, he witnessed stiff competition among European nations that led to World War I. Spengler also explored the results of the Industrial Revolution, which completely altered the way of life in European society. Factory smoke blackened the site and polluted the fresh and fragrant air. Workers in these factories worked under subhuman conditions.
The Industrial Revolution made people yearn for a pre-industrial society dotted with green fields surrounded by thick trees and filled with the pleasant sounds of birds. The life of peasants was simple during the pre-industrial era. They enjoyed nature’s beauty and were deeply attached to the land that provided them with sufficient food. They preserved the natural environment and didn’t extract more resources from it than was required. The cultural values that originated and developed during this period did not focus on accumulating more money at other people’s expense.
Humans broke their ties with nature when they decided to build cities. In cities, humans became hunters and wandered from one place to other. They eventually lost their attachment to Mother Earth.
According to Spengler, the history of mankind is the history of cities, where state institutions emerge along with their paraphernalia – kingship, bureaucracy, army and administrative setup. Art, literature, sculpture and other branches of knowledge flourish in cities. Cities tend to nurture great writers who only become famous when they leave villages. When a city is fully populated and developed, it creates its own spirit. The difference between a city and a village is that the latter is a friendly place that is close to nature while the former constructs its own environment. The differences between villages and cities produces varied characteristics among. The mentality of a weaver or a cobbler from a German village is not the same as that of a citizen of Berlin.
In the early period, buildings in various cities represented nature. The Doric pillars, the pyramids in Egypt and the Gothic churches appear as to be rising from the depths of the earth. They not only provide shelter but also ensure serenity under their shadows. With time, the architecture of buildings became far removed from nature.
The language of cities has changed to such an extent that villagers fail to understand it. Urban art, culture, literature and architecture, therefore, become alien to villagers. Cities are populated and destroyed. But villages remain intact. While most cities in Greece have been wiped out, the villages remain alive. Similarly, the city of Mohenjodaro was reduced to ruins. But the villages that surrounded the city continue to exist and represent their culture.
Rulers built and rebuilt cities according to their needs. For instance, Napoleon III reconstructed Paris and Bismarck changed the entire structure of Berlin. In this process, villages are neglected and remain in their original shape. However, such is the charm and fascination of a city that when once a villager arrives and settles down, he prefers to die on the footpath of a city rather than return to his birthplace.
The most important city is the capital of a state. This is where rulers and aristocrats build palaces, beautifying them with gardens, fountains and waterfalls. They also build zoos in an attempt to enjoy nature. These are artificial means of representing nature in cities. In the 17th and 18th centuries, when a ruler was displeased with a noble, he rusticated him and sent him to a village as a form of punishment.
The irony is that history records the achievements of the ruling classes and religious leaders who live in cities and ignores the contributions made by villagers to human civilisation. Despite some external changes, villagers retains their ancient faith and often believe in supernatural powers.
Whenever the bourgeois bring change, it is only confined to the city. The adjoining villages remain unaffected by these developments. Two factors emerge as a symbol of power in cities: wealth and belief in rationality. These factors eliminate all religious, ethnic and linguistic differences and make city life more cosmopolitan.
Over time, a city gradually decays and loses its importance – politically and geographically – and the ruling classes replace it with a new city. For instance, the Muslim capital of Medina was changed to Kufa. The Ottomans shifted the capital from Bursa with Istanbul. After Fatehpur Sikri, the Mughals adopted Agra and Delhi as their capital cities. When traders overpower the aristocracy, they reshape cultural values and traditions. This is evident in the way that North American traders annihilated the culture of South America.
Oswald Spengler romanticised and admired the feudal culture of the medieval period. He viewed the new political, social and economic changes that occur during his time as a sign of the West’s decline.
A Counterproductive Strategy?
By Umair Javed
May 21, 2018
NAWAZ Sharif’s (now) controversial interview in this paper serves to bolster the confrontational positioning chosen by his faction within the party. In the absence of any detailed reasoning from his end, this is a perfectly valid assumption. Similarly, in the absence of any explanation for what they seek to gain from this positioning, one can assume that he sees his defined political goals being best served through a confrontation with the judiciary and the military.
In the debate following the remarks, some commentators have pointed out that Sharif’s democratic credentials appear to have surfaced only after his ouster from office. What did he do to expedite the Mumbai attack trial or limit the influence of the military while he was in office, they ask. What was done to strengthen parliament or the sanctity of the vote? Some (if not all) are valid critiques, and from the normative perspective of principled politics, stand on solid ground. What they do miss, however, is the occupational compulsion dictating the actions of any politician.
Winning and retaining office/influence remains the primary objective of a careerist politician. What they do in and outside of office flows from this objective. Applying this basic framework to Nawaz’s actions since July 2017 helps peg all the recent chaos to a means-ends yardstick.
That Nawaz’s personal political career is at a dead-end for the immediate future is more or less confirmed. The odds of him returning to elected office in any capacity are contingent on an unprecedented upheaval in electoral and party politics. Admittedly, the same was said when he was shipped off to exile during the Musharraf era, but the key difference this time around is that it’s happening within the bounds of a legal system that enjoys some manner of constitutional and political cover. It’s an ouster of a qualitatively different kind than the one seen last time.
If confrontation is Nawaz’s chosen route to retaining political influence, then defecting and staying in the establishment’s good books are means for retaining elected office for many in Punjab.
Given this context, his primary objective appears to be retaining outside influence through his daughter and their faction within the party. It’s not clear if this is a self-serving strategy or some form of paternal affection, or a combination of the two. What is safe to assume is that Nawaz’s political actions are in service of this particular end.
Here’s where it gets a little more complicated — politicians can be deeply committed to the means used to serve a particular end, but it’s far from given that they’ve picked the right ones. Political strategy is often clouded by poor feedback and echo chambers, hubris and ego trips, and a lack of information and a failure to understand the context. In this particular case, if the aim is to improve his faction’s standing within the party, and ensure that it does well in the general election, the means actually appear to be counterproductive.
The ‘theory’ introduced by Nawaz & co. is that a story of confrontation and victimisation works well internally in the party and with their core electorate. Getting people riled up about his encirclement by what he terms ‘khalai makhlooq’ is a way of consolidating support, and consequently, getting people within the party to fall in line behind his faction.
As highlighted by myself and several others on these pages, there is little empirical evidence of this actually happening. In a piece published in late February, I pointed to the lack of data that back Nawaz’s claim of enjoying a boost in popularity on the back of his narrative of victimisation. Since then, polling data published by Gallup shows the PML-N with its thinnest lead over the PTI in these past five years. Similarly, Nawaz’s favourability ratings as documented in a recent survey by Herald appear to have fallen, with a sizable segment of the sample holding strongly negative views.
Even if survey data is deemed insufficient, qualitative evidence through both history and recent events seem to point towards the counterproductive nature of Nawaz’s strategy. In most elections, ideological appeals have only worked with core urban voters, who are mobilised outside of conventional factional or patronage-based strategies. It is entirely possible that Nawaz’s narrative is resonating with PML-N supporters in the cities and towns of Punjab, but it is also an overriding truth that cities and towns of Punjab constitute a smaller fraction of the total electorate.
The electoral keys to the rest of the province lie with patricians and their brokers who’ve dominated this occupation for decades. A few months back, one particular point underscoring Nawaz’s narrative was that despite his ouster, the party was holding together. There were no large-scale defections, and his decision-making continued to reign supreme. Fast forward to the last few weeks, and this reality appears to be changing. Defections have gained steady pace, and dissolution of the assemblies will likely speed up the process. If confrontation is Nawaz’s chosen route to retaining political influence, then defecting and staying in the establishment’s good books are means for retaining elected office for many in Punjab.
It is a long-standing tragedy of Pakistani politics, and coincidentally of Nawaz’s present predicament, that ideational appeals hold little sway on the electoral map. The next three months will thus answer a riddle that lies at the heart of our recent political chaos: either Nawaz has read what many (including those defecting) have simply failed to read, which is that confrontation does work both in Punjab and within the party; or Nawaz has gotten it horribly wrong, and in the process, ruined his chance of retaining outside influence on the party, and the chances of his party actually doing well in the election. Going by recent trends, it increasingly looks like the latter will be the correct answer.
Truth Shall Prevail
By Syed Talat Hussain
May 21, 2018
Bow to the truth for its buoyancy. It pops up from strange locations, at odd times, in the weirdest ways possible – to the embarrassment and humiliation of those who attempt to kill and sink it. A pushy army chief careening his career forward by using muscle and the marvellous power of the great institution fortune put under his command; a head of the ISI high on his unassailable position peddling political agenda of the crassest kind; shady donors loaded with money; feuding politicians desperate to outdo each other in a game of snakes and ladders played on a rigged electoral board. This about sums up the famous Asghar Khan case in which dollops of money (by the 90s’ standards) was moved through accounts into the pockets of various politicians apparently to influence the outcome of the 1990 elections, which Nawaz Sharif had won and which were widely believed to be massively rigged.
There is nothing new in the information summarised above. This is all included in the detailed October 19, 2012 judgment of the Supreme Court which had found generals and Younus Habib, the donor, the then president Ghulam Ishaq Khan and the recipients of these funds to be involved in illegal activities deserving of legal actions against them. But the case has come up for investigation after decades of dormancy, because the Supreme Court has now ordered FIA to proceed with the probe and determine penalties. General Aslam Beg and General Durrani, ageing and frail, are both being probed by investigators.
The FIA probe has taken all the old ghosts of history out of the box, refreshing our short national memory about this defining phase in politics. General Beg and General Durrani are slugging it out against each other, one blaming the other of vendetta and the latter suggesting – as he had previously in his signed affidavit that became the basis of late Air Marshal Asghar Khan’s petition to the Supreme Court – that he was only following orders from his top boss.
“I, Lt Gen. (r) M Asad Durrani…do hereby my oath and state on solemn affirmation as under: …In September 1990 as DG ISI, I received instructions from the then COAS…General Aslam Beg to provide ‘logistic support’ to the disbursement of donations made by some businessmen of Karachi to the election campaign of [the] IJI (Note: the 9 party alliance that won the 1990 elections and threw up Nawaz Sharif as prime minister for the first time)…”
General Durrani’s affidavit was given in 1994 when he was enjoying ambassadorship in Germany, appointed by the very Benazir Bhutto, against whose party he had supposedly facilitated the stealing of elections in 1990. Ironies! Gen Beg, in his recent declaration before the FIA investigation team, lays the blame squarely on the shoulders of General Durrani, making him sound either like an independent operator who pushed his political whims through the power of his portfolio or someone working directly in cohorts with the then president, the late Ghulam Ishaq Khan.
General Beg’s unflattering account of Gen Durrani’s conduct makes for painful reading, considering the positions that both the generals have held in the past. General Beg suggests that he in fact warned General Durrani against dragging the army into ‘political engineering’. It is unclear how a DG ISI who was well connected within the civilian setup would end up dragging the army into political engineering against the wishes of the sitting army chief, but so is the argument that the former army head makes in his defence. Regardless of who was pulling the strings and who shares the biggest chunk of responsibility in deforming what could have been a fair and square electoral exercise strengthening revival of democracy after the demise of Ziaul Haq, the justification for this distressing plot is even more scandalising.
This comes in the shape of another sworn statement – by Brigadier Hamid Saeed Akhtar, who was directed by the earlier Supreme Court bench to make his representation on the matter. He had been named as the top member of the team involved in opening accounts for the money transfer and also playing a central role in the eventual political engineering that took place.
The long and short of his statement (he was posted as head of Military Intelligence in Karachi) in the October judgment of the Supreme Court is that the PPP government (1988-1990) had pushed the city of the Quaid to the brink of mortal disaster and murderous mayhem and operations such as the one carried out in Pucca Kila Hyderabad against Urdu-speaking Mohajirs had forced their party to look for Indian help. His statement also notes (strange for his rank and responsibilities) that earlier that year “the PM had also publicly criticised the army or enriching uranium to a level which was not acceptable to big powers. She also gave an interview to BBC in which she mentioned …her support to India in crushing Khalistan movement….(she also) criticised the army for conducting the annual exercise in the Sindh province without her consent.”
Continues the mighty brigadier: “ISPR had to clarify through a press release that under the law [the] COAS was not obliged to seek anyone’s permission for conducting training exercises in any part of the country. All such events were reported by the print media (the equivalent of electronic media at present).”
Other parts of the brigadier’s statement complete the charge sheet against the sitting government by accusing it of offering jobs to Al-Zulfikar workers in government institutions like the Railways, PIA and Customs. He then delivers his final judgment on the status of the first PPP government: “[the] general perception of the common man [how he came to this conclusion in a country of 120 million remains a mystery] was that the ruling party had got the votes but lacked the vision to run the country.”
This charge sheet serves as the basis of his explanation for carrying out the patently illegal orders of General Asad Durrani to open bank accounts and then use the donated funds to be distributed among politicians and to other agencies. Although he does not say that, what becomes clear from his statement is that in the brigadier’s estimate the Benazir Bhutto government deserved to be sacked and replaced by a more reliable and patriotic arrangement, which did not pander to the interests of foreign powers and did not raise silly questions on matters of national security.
It is possible that the brigadier, the army chief, the DG ISI, the then president and all those who took part in this vile exercise of rigging the 1990 elections and piecing together a patchwork of reliable politicians in power did so believing that they were doing the right thing. Just as possible is the scenario in which they took extreme liberties with the constitution and, while going against their oath to the office, defended their actions in their heads and in official meetings on the ground that this was the ‘need of the hour’.
What is impossible is that both the generals could have ever factored into their calculations the possibility of coming face to face with their past in the twilight of their lives. When in power they must have considered themselves beyond the reach of any law or accountability, and must have pushed ahead with their own agendas without any sense of restraint. But life is stranger than fiction. It grinds mountains to dust and shrinks oceans to scorched earth. Now they in their eighties and in the dock explaining their untenable positions to investigators. What a fall from grace.
Would they have done things differently if they had known what could come their way as a consequence of their actions? Maybe. But then you never know. Those who came after them have not done things differently, even though they have had a long list of failed political experiments before them. They learnt nothing from history, thinking – like General Beg and General Asad Durrani did – that they could crush truth under the heel of their power to turn the constitution into a living joke.
The Asghar Khan case makes for maddening reading. How could so few do so much destructive work against the will of so many? What drives you totally insane is the knowledge that the template set by the two has survived so long.
A Legacy of Deficits
By Fahd Humayun
May 21, 2018
The odds that the PML-N was going to be remembered for having contributed meaningfully to Pakistan’s foreign policy and reputation-building abroad were never high to begin with. But Nawaz Sharif’s latest blunder on India has only resurrected the ghosts of his party’s gross mishandling of foreign policy. Three performance deficits stand out.
The first has to do with the party’s marginalisation of democratic institutions. This was most recently on display with the leadership’s sudden and unexplained missive to deploy troops to the Middle East at the behest of Saudi Arabia. Over the course of the past five years, political stakeholders across the aisle have had to work hard to resist getting sucked into yet another geopolitical conflict. But the PML-N’s penchant for letting executive declaration override parliamentary injunction, both during and after Nawaz’s tenure, managed to delegitimise the policy process.
In 2015, a joint session of parliament commendably debated Pakistan’s involvement in Yemen, and settled for neutrality. Ideally, Yemen should have been a brave and principled turning point, reflective of parliamentary prerogative feeding into foreign policy formulation. But what followed was a tale in strategic missteps, from privatising diplomacy with India to disregarding parliamentary deliberation into Pakistan’s involvement in the 36-nation Islamic Military Alliance. The former cost the ousted prime minister space and territory in India, while the latter showed an autocratic unwillingness to demonstrate parliamentary leadership, galvanise legislative bodies around key national security conversations, and encourage political debate.
On China, meanwhile, this government rightly made CPEC its focus but the PML-N leadership dragged its feet when it came to addressing political misgivings on feasibility, regulatory reach and enforcement, and the awarding of contracts. On average, consistent non-transparency by a PML-N that operates like a close cabal has only added to democratic anxiety and compromised hard-won civilian agency.
The second failure has to do with the gradual but preventable erosion of Pakistan’s international standing, made worse by the political inertia at home. Micro-management of key portfolios simply left too much undone in strategic ministries. Pakistan’s return to the FATF grey-list in March was as much a result of institutional lethargy as it was a monument to the failure to appoint a full-time foreign minister, the delay in the government’s outreach to the Trump administration, and the usual indecision when it came to filling key ambassadorial posts.
Pakistan finally regained membership of the strategically vital UNHR Committee in 2017, but it should never have lost the seat in the first place. And Islamabad should not have responded with silence after India’s National Investigation Agency quietly cleared Pakistani state apparatuses of involvement in the Pathankot attack in 2016. On Kashmir, the government chose an unwieldy diplomatic strategy of dispatching envoys to foreign capitals to highlight Indian brutality in IHK, sans a clear follow-through, feedback to parliament, or efforts to mount a sustained and robust diplomatic and political defence of the Kashmiri cause.
The reconstitution of the parliamentary committee on national security took place four years after the government was formed; during these years thr country would have benefited from informed and inclusive deliberations on foreign policy. Finally, it took a full five years of foot-dragging before the cabinet division was instructed to fill the empty Pakistani chairs at 14 international universities in the US, UK and Turkey, Iran, Egypt, China, meant to be conduits in the service of image-building abroad.
The third and final failure has to do with a lack of strategic vision defining Pakistan’s engagement abroad. Although gains were made in ties with China, Saudi Arabia and Russia, relations with the US, Iran and Afghanistan soured. While many of these setbacks had to do with externalities beyond Pakistan’s borders, relationships left on autopilot only invite miscommunication. The next government, whoever’s it will be, will have to work hard to repair ties on these fronts. This includes advancing broad-based relations with both Riyadh and Tehran, not as indivisible goalposts but as mutually reinforcing prerogatives embedded in a clear understanding of Pakistan’s own interests. Pakistan can also not let the US’s pullout from the international JCPOA frustrate the regional search for improving ties with Iran. Javed Zarif’s last visit to Islamabad only underscored Pakistan’s own sluggishness in operationalising the Iran-Pakistan Preferential Trade Agreement.
Meanwhile, disengagement with the US is in neither side’s long-term interest. A new government in Islamabad will have to continue developing cross-party and multi-stakeholder consensus on the contours of the future Pak-US engagement, to ensure civilian-military uniformity on what will be Pakistan’s foremost foreign policy challenge in a changing neighbourhood. The new government must also prioritise the reset with Russia. Despite the recent surge in defence and economic partnerships with Moscow, a Russian head of state has yet to visit Pakistan. The next prime minister will be in a position to extend an invitation while looking to build up bilateral trade, defence and infrastructure cooperation, including expediting the North-South gas pipeline.
Finally, a second consecutive democratic transition at home is as good an enabler as any for policymakers to think pragmatically and innovatively about a foreign policy that is responsive to national interests, and the next decade of international relations. Locating Pakistan in a new world order requires defining its role in a meaningful way, which can only be done with vision and leadership.
By Samantha Krop
May 21, 2018
The United States of America’s Declaration of Independence states “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights that among these are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness.” The Declaration of Independence is a document that Americans uphold to the highest standard, yet the words in that sacred sentence continue to be violated along the United States/Mexican border.
Walter Ewing of the American Immigration Council writes, “Immigrants in detention suffer from physical abuse, inadequate food and medical care, lack of access to legal counsel, coerced signing of removal documents, and prolonged (sometimes permanent) separation from US-citizen children.”
Before immigrants even cross the border into the United States, they are faced with situations that no human being should ever have to experience – often originating in flight from brutal cartels or corrupt armed forces. They are then exposed to intense temperatures, threat of assault, lack of water, and exploitation. To add to the gratuitous cruelty, Border Patrol officers have been caught dumping water canteens left in the vast desert stretches by immigration activists and humanitarian organizations.
Ewing states that “Prevention through deterrence” is a tactic used by immigration enforcement officers to “redirect the flow of unauthorized immigrants into ever-more isolated and dangerous terrain with the explicit aim of placing them in “mortal danger.” The result: 5,287 pointless deaths of border-crossers from 1998 through 2008.”
Suddenly the words “certain unalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness” no longer apply to people who grow up outside of the United States borders. Immigrants are being rounded up like cattle and given the worst possible detention conditions. Mothers and their children sleep on the concrete floors of cells with one blanket to share between them. Men stay huddled together outside in freezing temperatures deprived of food and water. The conditions they are forced to live in while at these detention facilities are severe violations of the human rights the United States says they uphold.
Now, of course, Jeff Sessions and Donald Trump have decided to take babies from their mothers’ arms at the border. Did the US really sign that Universal Declaration of Human Rights?
According to the U.S Customs and Border Protection website, the agency is exists to: “To safeguard America’s borders thereby protecting the public from dangerous people and materials while enhancing the Nation’s global economic competitiveness by enabling legitimate trade and travel.”
Growing up the daughter of hard-working, law-abiding immigrants, I would always hear of stories of the suffering people experienced along the border. My parents are not “dangerous people” and I find it troubling to label immigrants as such. Most are just people who seek a safer life, a more free life – the American Dream.
This nation was built on immigration. In September 1620, the first pilgrims came to the New World. They endured the 66-day journey so that they could have more opportunities than they would have had in England. The pilgrims came over the treacherous sea to escape a life that was not making them happy. There really is no difference in the stories of the immigrants coming to the United States now.
Like the Pilgrims, immigrants know the risks but they push their fears aside hoping for something more. How can we call this nation great when we take part in hurting human beings who just want the opportunity for life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness?