The swing gets wobbly

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With a bit-of-all strategy failing, it is time to decide

The pendulum that Pakistan has been swinging is showing increasing signs of wobbliness. It appears that Pakistan can no longer be allowed the luxury of enjoying a bit at both ends. It is time to settle for what it may (rightfully) construe as appropriate for its interests which should also be acceptable to the international community.

There is no one to blame for this sordid state than Pakistan’s own myopic policies formulated and practised through decades of corrupt and self-centred leaderships – be they ‘democratic’ or ‘military’. In an editorial captioned Wheeling and dealing with Pakistan, Washington Post has recently commented: “The fault is not inadequate diplomacy by the (Pakistani) administration, drone strikes against al-Qaeda targets in Pakistan’s tribal territories or the raid that killed Osama bin laden at a compound near the heart of the country’s military establishment. Rather, the insurmountable obstacle is the political dysfunction of Pakistan, a country divided between a feuding, corrupt and insular civilian political elite and a military establishment dependent on terrorist allies and obsessed with unacceptable and unattainable geopolitical ambitions”. Is it really as bad as it looks?

Pakistan has been traditionally propelled by an uneasy accord between a combine of inept and exceedingly corrupt political mafias and an overwhelmingly India-centric military leadership eternally vowing to safeguard the country’s founding ethos and, lately, its Islamist credentials. This has been achieved through bouts of experimentations in parliamentary democracy in a country lacking in the ground conditions essentials for any representative system to work efficiently and countless bloodless military interventions on the excuse of an abysmal lack of delivery of the political governments. It appears that this unspoken contract between the civilian and the military arms of the country has waned sufficiently to sow seeds of discord with an over-zealous political mafia protesting loudly regarding the interventionist proclivities of the military as the core cause of its own inadequacies. Wrong it may be, but the rationale has won buyers across the international community because the military has apparently stuck to its traditional mindset and methodologies in securing its objectives. In the contemporary context, that is tantamount to extending support to the terrorist networks and sanctuaries that the world is united to dismantle. This, inter alia, pits it against the combined might and resourcefulness of the entire civilised world. Can Pakistan remain secure in its increasing alienation from the international community and still hope to achieve its objectives, even survive?

For the rest of the world, Pakistan’s commitment to defending its interests has become synonymous with an attempt to damage their infatuation with eliminating terrorism. As Washington Post comments further in its editorial, “Even such an accord (of the political leadership) is unlikely with the military which appears locked into backing a militant Taliban faction as its proxy in Afghanistan and is equally relentless in its attempt to challenge India through a use of terrorist proxies. Until Pakistan develops a democratic civilian government capable of purging that belligerence, the United States will have to settle for a pragmatic combination of buying off Pakistan when it is possible – and containing it when it is not”. Imagine! This is the status Pakistan has degenerated to.

After a 7-month hiatus in its relationship with the US, Pakistan has emerged as decisively weaker and has also lost on numerous opportunities to play a meaningful role in the post-US-withdrawal-from-Afghanistan environment. This has also created an enormous trust deficit between the two which would be difficult to bridge in a long time now. Consequently, the relevance of a combination of the “paying off” and “buying off” strategy which the US opinion-makers perceive appropriate for Pakistan at this juncture makes some sense after all. This is all to Pakistan’s ultimate detriment and a serious setback to its short- and long-term policy interests and its relevance in the region.

While the subjugation of Pakistan’s political elite to its military command has remained almost unshaken because of the manner of the former’s emergence, its inherent contradictions have intensified with the induction of the incumbent aberration which is being rightly touted as the most corrupt government ever in the history of the country. It may, therefore, be advisable that before coming to any conclusions about Pakistan, US should recognise its own part in having further badgered the tenuous balance between the civil and the military arms of the state of Pakistan by facilitating the induction into power of a highly inept government vide the NRO which may have damaged the prospect of developing a “democratic civilian government capable of purging that (military) belligerence”.

Most of the conflict that is currently raging in the country pitting one institution against the other is because the weird formulation could not stand before any court of law anywhere in the world. That’s why the executive perpetuated a conflict with the judiciary which, at one time, was being perceived as a precursor to the demise of the system. Pakistan may have outlived that fear, but the seeds of conflict have damaged its foundations with no signs of it waning in the near future.

Harmony within and co-existence with the regional and international stakeholders is the key challenge that Pakistan faces. This cannot be achieved if it continues to be perceived to be “obsessed with unacceptable and unattainable geopolitical ambitions”. That calls for a remedy in terms of redefining our strategic priorities. With increasing signs of discontent with its approach to tackling the existing and evolving issues, the future may not offer much respite for its over-extended resources and its myopic policymakers.

The writer is a political analyst and a member of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf. He can be reached at [email protected]