In a recent interview with a German radio’s Urdu service, Director General Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) Lieutenant General Asim Bajwa lamented that “the world has abandoned Pakistan to handle and face terrorists in the region alone, and Pakistan has completed the task.
The narrative that Pakistan has not done enough to fight terrorists,” he went on, “is unfair as it does not recognize Pakistan’s contributions.”
Indeed Zarb-e-Azb operations in North Waziristan – something Washington too had been pressing for because of the presence there of Afghan Taliban, especially the powerful Haqqani network – has almost been completed successfully. More than 60,000 Pakistanis, an overwhelming majority of them civilians, have lost their lives in this fight that resulted from the US’ war in Afghanistan.
Notably, while the then US secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, had admitted that fact as she explained before the House Appropriations Committee how militancy in Pakistan was linked to her country’s proxy war against the Soviets in Afghanistan.
Clinton had reminded the committee that “the problems we face now to some extent we have to take responsibility for, having contributed to it … Let’s remember here… the people we are fighting today we funded them 20 years ago…we also have a history of kind of moving in and out of Pakistan.”
The truth of the matter is that there is no morality in international relations; countries do what they deem in their self-interest. The US will protect and promote its own interests rather than Pakistan’s. Hence the ‘do more mantra’ continues.
Instead of complaining of abandonment the foreign policy establishment in this country needs to draw a lesson from its experience. Some introspection is in order about the reasons that have landed Pakistan into a situation where it feels left on its own to deal with the outcome of its short-sighted decisions to jump into other peoples’ wars.
Answering a question about internal situation in the country, which obviously came from a growing perception about the military encroaching upon civilian space, the ISPR spokesman said, “consultations are made on all major issues of national security, and whenever called the Army supports the civilian government in various issues, ranging from natural disasters to development works to law and order.”
Perceptions, as they say, are stronger than reality. On the face of it, there is nothing objectionable about the statement. But those sensitive to nuances point out that it smacks of a patronising attitude. The military, of course, is not a state institution at par with the executive, but merely its subservient organisation.
Hence it is not up to the Army to offer or withhold support to civilian authority; the former must do as directed by the latter. There are several indications that all vital matters relating to security and foreign policies are decided by the military rather than the Prime Minister’s office.
In other democracies as well military gives its input on such issues. But the final decisions are made and owned by the executive.
That this is not the case here also comes out from the optics. Routinely, almost all important visiting foreign dignitaries, in addition to holding meetings with the civilian leadership, are seen in photos making calls on the Chief of Army Staff, creating the impression that the country has two centres of power.
That surely does not help flowering of democratic traditions in this country. But the question is: Are civilian governments upholding the principles of democracy in true letter and spirit? Consider:
How ironic, however, it is that the country’s democrats themselves are not interested in creating a better democracy in the country. Transparency, accountability and rule of law are three central pillars of good governance. These are, however, in woeful short supply in our political culture.
The PML-N government seems to have squandered away a golden opportunity that a thorough-bred soldier General Raheel Sharif as army chief had thrown up for it: a chance to move towards a more democratic, and modern, state of affairs.
Pakistan’s situation in relation to democracy is no different from the one in William Shakespeare’s play Othello in which there are many people that can be blamed for the tragedy that happened. All the characters in some way contributed to that tragedy although a lot of blame could be placed on Othello.