Long-term strategy needed to address problems


Former Defence Secretary Lt-Gen (retd) Talat Masood said on Wednesday that it was not advisable for Pakistan to take action against the militants at the behest of the United States, but it was important for it to evolve a long-term strategy to address its own problems, including terrorism.
“There is a future for Pakistan beyond the Haqqani Network,” said Masood, during a roundtable organised by the Institute of Regional Studies (IRS) Islamabad.
Masood emphasised that it was imperative for Pakistan to reduce its over-obsession with India and improve law and order situation and governance problems not on the insistence of any foreign power but for its own sake. Masood advised the US policymakers to refrain from publicly blaming Pakistan for the problems they were facing in Afghanistan.
He underlined the great sacrifices made by Pakistan in the war on terror. “Our sacrifices are going waste because our narrative is not getting along. The world thinks that we are not suffering because of others but because of ourselves,” said Masood. He also warned the Pakistani decision makers that Pakistani people would suffer if the relations between the two countries deteriorated.
Jonathan Pratt, the political counselor at the US embassy in Islamabad, enumerated the US foreign policy priorities for Pakistan as counter-terrorism, regional stability and security, democracy, economic development and integration, and energy security among others. He added that both the US and Pakistan had convergence on these policy priorities, but that the divergence was on the timeline of implementation and relative priority of any of these issues and how to go about addressing them.
Independent Defense Analyst, Dr Ayesha Siddiqa, argued that Pakistan’s policy towards religious radicalism was based on denial. She added that Pakistan did not have a roadmap for eradication of terrorism in the country or its spillover into other countries. Asif Ezdi termed the problem of terrorism in Pakistan an outcome of the struggle between the haves and have-nots and said that Pakistan needed to take care of corruption and bad governance to reverse the tide of Talibanisation.
Dr Tahir Amin, professor, Department of International Relations, Quaid-i-Azam University, criticised Pakistan’s foreign policy approach toward the US as based on short-term tactical objectives. He called for a renegotiation of the terms of engagement between Pakistan and the US on give-and-take basis on Pakistan’s long-term strategic objectives such as resolution of the Kashmir dispute, normalisation of relations with India on the basis of sovereign equality and assistance with Pakistan’s water problems. Dr Amin added that Pakistan was not out of cards in redefining its terms of engagement with the US, but it was not using them properly.
Dr Shaheen Akhtar, a research fellow at the Institute of Regional Studies, urged the decision makers of Pakistan as well as other regional countries to capitalise on the vast economic potential of the region by constructively engaging with each other to promote reconciliation, especially between India and Pakistan and within Afghanistan.