Stop posturing, please

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And get your priorities right

With key members of the cabinet at cross purposes, one publicly berating the other, Mian Nawaz Sharif badly needs to put his house in order. After Sartaj Aziz received a drubbing from critics outside the party, not altogether justifiably, it was the turn of Ch Nisar to express his incredulity at what he considers the naivety of the PM’s foreign affairs advisor. Nisar said, he failed to understand howAziz could believe in the US assurances which, to him, were as unsubstantial as the tales in the Arabian Nights. It is not difficult to contemplate of a well thought out strategy where between the two government luminaries, one applying a soft approach and the other a hard one. While the American administration frequently plays its ‘good cop, bad cop’ routine, its proponents never malign one another publicly. One could conceive of ministers with diametrically opposite views on basic national policy matters in a coalition government. But for two ministers from the same party being poles apart is simply bizarre. Is it this then a case of one hand not knowing what the other was doing?

What is intriguing is Ch Nisar’s ‘holier than thou’ posture. He has told the government, which is his own government, “time had come when we’ll have to choose between dollars and honour.” Doesn’t Nisar know that Pakistan faces a situation where it has to cope with an existential challenge? The government has to rid the country of over a decade long militancy, improve the ailing economy which badly needs foreign assistance and put an end to power and gas shortages. Only days before Ch Nisar’s outburst, a bunch of ministers had returned from the US after a week-long series of discussions on the power issue while another went to discuss the post-NATO departure security cooperation between the two countries. After the US forces leave Afghanistan in 2004, the security challenge would become much more serious.

The country cannot afford to toe the line advocated by the extremists who want Pakistan to be painted in a corner. Bidding goodbye to the US, confronting India, and supporting the Taliban is a perfect recipe for disaster. To fulfill the basic national interests like improvement of economy, strengthening of democracy and putting an end to militancy Pakistan needs the support of all its allies an friendly relations with all its neighbours. It is not a simplistic choice between honour and dollars. What is at stake is the very existence of the state. The government cannot afford unrealistic posturing.