Isolation and isolationism

AFRASYAB KHATTAKThere is no denying the fact that international isolation of Pakistan has significantly intensified in the last year and a half. The falling apart of the previous deal on the purchase of F-16s with US, the political and military setback that the country had to face with the first US drone strike in Balochistan taking out Taliban leader Mullah Mansour, rising tension with three out four neighboring countries and getting completely ignored for entry into the Nuclear Supplier’s Group are just a few most recent examples of this phenomenon. Since the security establishment of the country (which for all practical purposes is the real state) looks at the entire gamut of international relations through an India-centric prism, the foreign policy achievements of India are regarded losses for Pakistan. So from this perspective Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s successes in winning broad support for his country not only among important western powers but also among Pakistan’s traditionally close friends among the Muslim and Arab world is calculated in Rawalpindi and Islamabad as a clear setback for Pakistan. But what has enraged the country’s security establishment the most is Narendra Modi’s charm offensive in Afghanistan, his tweets in Pashto and Dari and his very effective use of soft power to expand his country’s political influence in Pakistan’s western neighbor during his two state visits within a span of one year. The fact of the matter is that through substantial economic assistance, effective political initiatives and focused diplomacy India has succeeded in winning hearts and minds in Afghanistan. It goes without saying that the flawed Afghan policy of Pakistan (achieving a strategic depth by militarily imposing Taliban on that country) has made the Indian job easier.

In order to contextualize these developments it is pertinent to recall that the situation was totally different in 2013-14. Pakistan appeared to be making a new beginning to become eligible for mainstream international attention. For the first time in Pakistan’s history an elected National Assembly completed its constitutional term in 2013, general elections were held and power was smoothly transferred from one democratically elected government to another one. International public opinion was convinced that democracy is striking roots in Pakistan. Not only that. In June 2014 the long delayed military operation against terrorist safe heavens in North Waziristan and other parts of FATA started with a bang. The impression was that Pakistan is after long last, changing its policy of tolerating terror sanctuaries and using militants as instruments of foreign policy. National Action Plan (NAP) adopted by an All Parties Conference on December 24, 2014 inspired hope that finally the real war on terror has begun in Pakistan. The historic Pakistan visit of Afghan President Ashraf Ghani generated hopes of rapprochement between the two neighboring countries. Similarly one after another initiatives by Nawaz Sharif to talk to Indian leadership at the highest level also inspired glimmers of hope for normalization of relations. And last but not the least, the PML(N) government seemed to be shifting policy focus to economic development and regional connectivity. The announcement of 46 billion dollars of Chinese investment in the CPEC, Pakistan’s active interest in CASA 1000 and TAPI inspired the hope that the country is switching its focus from geo-strategic of the Cold War to geo economic of the 21st century. Pakistan was all set to be moving towards joining the international mainstream in terms of both political and economic development. So what went wrong?

Any rational analysis would have no difficulty in finding Pakistan’s Achilles heel. That is the deteriorating civil military relations leading to dangerous imbalances in state policies. The generals were not amused at the prospects of trail of former military dictator General (r) Pervez Musharraf in 2014 for abrogating the Constitution. So the IK and TUQ led prolonged agitation for the ouster of PM Nawaz Sharif’s government enjoyed the clear support of at least parts of the security establishment. The government barely survived due to support by most of the opposition political parties in the Parliament but it got considerably weakened and lost control over substantial parts of the country’s security and foreign policy. The ever-expanding role of the apex committees in all four provinces gave the army say in the day today running of the administration. The 21st amendment in the Constitution providing for military courts to try civilians charged with terrorist offenses completed the circle. The balance in the state system decisively shifted in favor of the army. The grip of GHQ over foreign policy is almost stifling. The widening gulf in relations with the three neighboring countries is a crying manifestation of it. It doesn’t mean that the neighbors haven’t contributed at all in worsening of their relationship with Pakistan. Of course each one of them is hell bent on getting a pound of flesh for itself. But the problem is that by totally reversing NAP, allowing Taliban, JuD, JeM and other militant outfits to openly operate on its territory Pakistan has come on the wrong side of the world. The oath of allegiance taken by Dr. Aiman-u-Zawahiri to the Afghan Taliban leader has clearly indicated that the old terror syndicate that was supposed to have vanquished during the last few years is back in business. Unlike the situation in 2014 when Pakistan was supposed to be fighting against both “ good” and bad Taliban, it turns out that factories for producing Taliban are now officially receiving public funds and once again Taliban are becoming main export of the country. JuD is publicly boasting about not only being the guarantor for keeping Balochistan in Pakistan but also making sure the protection of CPEC. Sourcing out national security and foreign policy to the proscribed organizations is not going to endear Pakistan to the world. Present international isolation of Pakistan is a result of the policy of isolationism followed by the country. If Turkey can boldly reconsider its foreign policy to come out of isolation why should Pakistan be shy of doing so? But there is an important difference. In Turkey political leadership is in the driving seat of the state system, which in Pakistan still remains a distant dream.

Writer: Afrasiab Khattak

The writer is a retired senator and a leader of Awami National Party (ANP). He tweets    @a_siab 

THE PASHTUN TIMES

One comment

  1. There are people in the political leadership ,religious political parties civil bureaucracy media think tanks who still are hell bent on paving the way for military takeover and consider the men in khaski as saviour of last resort .The men in boots must not be induced by such opportunists existing in the political mullah caders as it will b a disaster for the institution of Army and would damage the respect and positive image of the institution recently acquired in the civilian minds .

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