Facing the truth


Our rulers have a feudal mindset. It is this very mindset that the Pakistani public and foreign powers have to face when dealing with the Pakistani establishment. This mindset can neither comprehend internal matters nor fully understand foreign issues. This is why it is always in a state of conflict with the Pakistani people, treating them like subjects of a fiefdom, belying the realities of the 21st century. The people want change; the ruling class is not ready to deliver change. Consequently, the aims and work of the rulers and the public are never in tune. This is why certain factions of society are ahead of the rest of the country like the media and the judiciary while others lag miserably behind like the departments under the establishment. This internal discordance means that Pakistan has always suffered from a lack of stability. The rulers and public go through the motions in an aimless manner, without focusing on a single target and getting their affairs in order. They are not completely in control, rather at the mercy of their conditions. This is the state of someone who has no idea of where they are heading. Like our cluelessness back in 1971 which led to the secession of East Pakistan. The country is again at a decisive crossroads. The federating units have no confidence in the system. We are targeting a single leader from a single province without regard for the implications of our actions. That leader is now holder of the office that has become the symbol of the federation and constantly undermining him is deepening the crisis. The mindset that we are enslaved by, neither adjusts to nor creates change. Thus, there is nowhere to go but down.

Our relations with the international community are afflicted with the same problems. In the framework of our foreign policy, our relations with the US are, by far, the most influential. But we have yet to fully ascertain the nature of these relationships; even though they are clear and unambiguous. In international relations, friendship, loyalty, compassion and sincerity have no weight. These are just diplomatic flourishes to mask the ugly face of selfish interests. These are just eyewash for the public and mean nothing in practical terms. This is all meaningless in the negotiating room but we still carry this baggage with us to the negotiating table and the other party doesnt know how to deal with our navet and ignorance with the mores of international relations. Once again, we are taking a bundle of complaints to our dialogue with the US.

If you talk to diplomats, they dont shy from using metaphors for international political relations. For example, The US is often compared to a wealthy philandering playboy who is ready to indulge the mistress but not willing to accord the same indulgence to his wife. The countries that play the hard-to-get cat-and-mouse games with the US are in the benefit. Like the case of India. Not only did it get help but also got a plethora of benefits from the US. It even got a nuclear agreement out of the deal. But it never bowed in submission before it. It shows The US an attitude whenever it gets the chance. These kinds of relationships can be maintained while preserving ones own independence, self-respect and sovereignty. On the contrary, our rulers begged for serving the US from the very beginning. Ayub Khan said that Pakistan will unconditionally help the US against communism. In return, the US had to give us due remuneration. This was the basis on which a master-servant relationship was born. It wasnt even a constant relationship like Britain, Germany and Japan on the basis of which we could get special allowances. It was a job-to-job quid pro quo. The US gave us a job, got it done, gave us our due and left till next it needed us. And we were delusional enough to think it was our friend. It was the height of self-deception and denial.

The reality is that our rulers reprised more from the US than they actually delivered. We didnt fire a single bullet in the fight against communism, yet we squeezed the US out of billions of dollars and arms. I dont know why the rulers thought it was their right when the US realised it was giving more than it was getting. The first war in Afghanistan used our territory and our services and we got a lot of finances and arms out of the deal. We even got an opportunity to keep our nuclear development programme functional. When the war ended, America absconded; but not without giving us our due. During the second war in Afghanistan, The US again made us its ally and gave us capital and arms to do the job. But the job given to us had not been executed completely. The counteractive forces that were trained and armed in our land and then dispatched to Afghanistan turned on the US-led Allied forces. The US has always complained that these elements resisted the US with Pakistans help. It was not happy with the results. Hence, the flow of cash and arms had to suffer. The relationship that we established with the US was never of one with equals. It was simply give-and-take. We asked for money and offered our services in return. It was a deal whose measure of success is the mileage it accorded to each party. When the US sees that the job has not been properly done, it grumbles. It then tries to pressurize us by cutting off the supply of arms and money. Its then our turn to grumble and complain about the erratic behaviour of the US with regards to us and assert that our demands be fulfilled. In such relationships, its better to get paid before you do the job. Otherwise, you have to face the consequences of a dalliance based on purely selfish reasons.

I think the US has milked us for all our worth. It has India as a strategic partner. The Soviet Union is long gone. China is now an international trade partner. Pakistan as an Islamic Republic is of no use to the US in the Islamic world. It has Turkey to do that job. If we refuse to work for the US, it will not matter to them. Our negotiators will have to face this shift. They will be befuddled by the US change in attitude. But we would not have had to witness this day, if we had not approached international relations with the same feudal mindset that cripples our every action

The writer is one of Pakistans most widely read columnists.