Tough love

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It was by no means out of the ordinary for President Obama to drop in when a key meeting was in progress between National Security Advisor designate Tom Donilon and a core group of Pakistans Foreign Minister, COAS, Finance Minister and ambassador. It is highly significant however that he reportedly stayed there for nearly an hour. He is reported to have expressed support for Pakistans democracy and also delivered a tough message regarding action against terrorists. Though he balanced it with military aid amounting to $2 bn.

There is a perception in the US that needs to be properly addressed and removed regarding the civilian government and the military establishment not being on the same page on a number of crucial issues. It has been maintained in Washington that Pakistans military can deliver on subjects important to the US, but doesnt want to, whereas the civilian leadership wants to, but isnt able. While there can be no two opinions regarding priority to be given to national interests, what needs to be realized is that it is for the political leadership to decide what these are instead of any other body taking over the responsibility. This is all the more important in matters connected with war and peace which are too important to be left to the generals. The political leadership, for instance, should evolve a consensus on whether the real threat comes from the terrorists or from India and whether the sphere of operations against the militants needs to be expanded to particular areas. The government would be abdicating its duties if it was to surrender its turf to any other institution for whatever reason.

Foreign policy has long been handled by powers outside the Foreign Office. Over the last two years and a half Parliament has succeeded in achieving a consensus on tricky issues like 18th amendment and NFC Award. A parliamentary committee on security is in place and has held a number of meetings to consider important policy issues. The political leadership has to build on these heartening developments to assert itself. What is needed is an across the board agreement that vital internal and external policies have to be debated in parliamentary committees and settled in Parliament without addressing the gallery or resorting to the streets.