US-Pakistan tête-à-tête

Yasmeen Aftab Ali




By Yasmeen Aftab Ali

On the invitation of the all-powerful US Prezzy, the not so powerful Pakistan Prezzy (aka prime minister) flew all the way to US to reinforce the commitment of both leaders to an enduring US-Pakistan relationship, a prosperous Pakistan and a more stable region. Each time we make such reaffirmations, note it is always the not so powerful Pakistan’s Prezzy flying to reaffirm with the powerful US Prezzy, never the other way round. All of roughly 30 hours of it. And how exactly do we define an enduring US-Pakistan relationship please? Let us remember the not so powerful Pakistan Prezzy flying 30 hours to reaffirm the friendship to the all-powerful American Prezzy. The endearing term ‘reaffirmation’ sounds dangerously close to a direction ‘do more, do more’ from the all-powerful Prezzy to the not so powerful Prezzy. The ‘do more’ mantra changes with time and on need basis. It is something like saying: when we say jump, you had better jump, sonny. Therefore, the affirmation that both unequal Prezzys with unequal power base absolutely committing to have an enduring relationship translating into a commitment to a prosperous Pakistan and a more stable region (I am quoting from the Joint Statement issued by both the presidents) needs a closer look.

Why do we need to reaffirm the ‘enduring’ relationship? Does not (or did not) Pakistan enjoy the status of ‘most-allied ally’? In an article of his (not in light of the current US-Pakistan tête-à-tête though), General (retd) Mirza Aslam Beg writes, ‘Necessarily, the new terms of engagement must lead to an enduring strategic partnership founded upon ‘institutionalised mutual cooperation mechanism’, to secure regional stability and a stable and prosperous future for Pakistan.’ The official press release drones on and on and on about all the things both Prezzys must do to counter climate change (for heaven’s sakes Pakistan has basic issues to deal with right now) ‘economic growth; regional integration; rule of law; people-to-people and cultural ties; and support for democratic principles’. What a mouthful!

Economic growth? Hope the US Prezzy did his homework and realises that the lack of electricity alone is responsible for shutting down of factories, lack of employment, bad state of industries, etcetera etcetera. But then of course we have the Metro bus service in exchange thereof. The leaders however announced the formation of a new US-Pakistan Clean Energy Partnership, based on the initial work in April 2015. Good! Good! Please tell us what will it deliver to us?

Rule of law, yes, please. I am sure the all-powerful Prezzy understands that ‘where the rule of law exists the government and its functionaries are accountable. Due care is exercised to ensure that no single organ of the state becomes omnipotent.’(Local newspaper, March 19, 2014) Democratic principles, did I hear? Where political parties internally lack democratic principles, I am at a loss to fathom the meaning of this. Maybe, another press release jointly released can clear the air.

A lot was said about the reform agenda based on being supported by the World Bank Group, the Asian Development Bank, the International Monetary Fund, and other multilateral financial institutions. I offer no comments on this delectable reaffirmation by the Prezzys. Whereas a lot of recognition was given to developing bilateral economic ties etcetera etcetera, the reaffirmation did not go beyond reaffirmation.

Regional stability? Hmm. Sounded like Pakistan is the only country in the region with the sole responsibility of maintaining stability in the region. Mohammad Hanif, the celebrated writer of ‘A Case of Exploding Mangoes’ in his op-ed for The New York Times writes, ‘The latest US-Pakistan talks reportedly were as much about democracy and infectious diseases as about which mullah to kill and which one to talk to. I hope Mr Sharif bargained for less money. Like Manto. We remember Manto because of the stories he published, not because of what he was promised by America. There are no official records of his gig with USIS, but all the circumstantial evidence suggests he never even got his 300 rupees a letter.’(October 23, 2015)

Was the all-powerful US Prezzy aware of the three dossiers shared with the US State Department delegation led by Secretary of State John Kerry, containing evidence of Indian involvement in stoking unrest in Pakistan? (September 17, 2015) Did he per chance get the time to read it? If he did, the official communiqué did not mention it. From a local newspaper I quote, ‘Secretary Kerry was briefed about the destabilising role of Indian agencies in FATA, Balochistan and Karachi. Three separate dossiers containing evidence of the Indian involvement in subversive activities were handed over to the US side, by Adviser to the Prime Minister on National Security and Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz. The prime minister was assisted by Finance Minister Ishaq Dar, Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan, Water and Power Minister Khawaja Muhammad Asif, Adviser on National Security and Foreign Affairs, Sartaz Aziz, Special Assistant to the PM Tariq Fatemi, Foreign Secretary Aizaz Ahmed Chaudhry and Ambassador Jalil Abbas Jilani.’ (October 22, 2015)

In India, anti-Muslim sentiments are at an all time high in what India is increasingly being called as ‘Modi’s India’. Recent ugly incidences against Muslims are a reinforcement of Modi’s apathy to check such incidences. Does US Prezzy recall Modi’s comments earlier in June this year openly confirming Indian support to Mukti Bahini in severance of East Pakistan in 1971 and Pakistan’s appeal to the UN to take note of such statements? Modi made the comment during his state visit to Bangladesh, duly reported on June 10, 2015 as: ‘During his official visit to Bangladesh, Modi last Sunday in Dhaka said the establishment of Bangladesh was a desire of every Indian citizen and that was why Indian forces fought along with the Mukti Bahini, thus creating a new country.’ (Business Standard) Do not such hate mongering statements pollute the already muddy waters?

Was the meeting between both the countries’ heads deliberately hyped up?

Oh, yes mama, certainly!

Dr Salman Shah, former Finance Minister Pakistan, says, ‘Let’s put it this way: the visit could have been much worse. The two sides for the moment decided not to rock the boat as Obama wants to leave a peace deal in Afghanistan as a legacy and we have volunteered to help in exchange of 8 F16s.’

Jump, man, jump!

‘What began as a charge sheet against Pakistan on terrorism and its nuclear capability whimpered into a rather long communiqué high on gobbledygook with punctuated spaces for the dos, don’ts and friendly neighbourhoods (India). Surprisingly the statement was released even before the meeting was over,’ says leading analyst and columnist Brigadier Samson Sharaf.

By the way, Kashmir plays no role in establishing regional stability, neither does the water issue for Pakistan with India. Or so it seems from the meeting with the core issues relegated to the back burner.

Let us cut out the crap, shall we?

Is Brigadier Sharaf right when he says ‘diplomacy between USA and Pakistan is akin to a floating iceberg? For the most part, it looks like a tip that floats above the water, occasionally rattling with chunks falling into sea. For most, it is the submerged mass, if not observed by the common eye, that causes ripples and is more meaningful. Someone compared USA and Pakistan to an estranged couple that fights their ways through differences but close to divorce, exigencies prevail. Something always happens when they are about to cut the nuptial cord. Then they renew their wedding wows.’

The author, Yasmeen Aftab Ali, is an Attorney-at-law, Columnist at Pakistan Today and the author of ‘A Comparative Analysis of Media & Media Laws in Pakistan’.

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