Have We Come to This?
By Dr Shireen M Mazari


The desecration of the Holy Qur'aan in Guantanamo Bay simply to cause psychological torment to the incarcerated Muslims, with no thought to the sensitivity of innocent Muslims across the globe, certainly makes it clear how the US administration views Muslims. Add to this The Washington Times' portrayal of Pakistan as a pet dog obeying the commands of the US, in the wake of the arrest by Pakistan of al-Qaeda's Abu Farraj Al Libbi, clearly reflects the abuse the US media feels it can dish out to Pakistan at will.
The cartoonist's explanation is absolute drivel and he should recall the British reaction to George Michael's video, "Wag The Dog". Incidentally, on such a blatant abuse of Pakistan, why was it left to the Deputy Chief of Mission to take up the issue at the level of our embassy in Washington? Surely our ambassador should have made the public protest. Despite this continuous insult of Pakistan and Islam, we continue to live under the illusion that we are being seen as a partner in the war on terrorism!
In fact, there seems to be a growing disconnect between our national sovereignty and developments on the ground. As stated in an earlier column we now have foreign personnel actually examining our passports within our own territory - in our departure lounges. No other state would accept this micro level usurpation of sovereignty-- certainly not a state that is a major regional player and a nuclear power. It is no wonder then that we have had the US and British ambassadors pontificating on our domestic issues ad nauseum. In fact, we have the EU and the US (with a few exceptions) evolving a highly intrusive and dialectical relationship with Pakistan. They want us to have democracy but cannot stomach the results of the electoral process. Then they want to alter our social norms and educational system so that eventually we shed our Islamic identity - something that seems rather remote and a trifle absurd also.
While the US focuses on external strategic cooperation with India, with Pakistan the focus is primarily on seeking to shape internal societal dynamics. But we have continued to accommodate and go more than the extra mile in the open-ended war against terror. This, despite the abuse of Muslims and Islam in Guantanamo Bay and the many attacks against Pakistanis in the US itself - of which little ever comes out in the US media. And one cannot forget the anti-Islam tirades from within the US Administration by such representatives as General Boykin!
What has been the net result or our extensive cooperation with the US and its allies? We have had our nuclear program come under scrutiny while the Iran-India nuclear cooperation has remained beyond the pale of examination, and the European links in the A.Q. Khan network have been kept out of the media spotlight. And now there are members of the US Congress who are seeking to link the supply of US weapons to Pakistan with a US Presidential certification that Pakistan has provided unhindered access to Dr. Khan. So while we may read news reports of new weapon systems that the Pentagon is expecting to sell to Pakistan, all these sales will have to get Congressional approval! And that is not going to be smooth sailing for Pakistan.
The worse aspect of our cooperation has been the domestic access given to foreign governments and NGOs, both at the micro and macro levels. It is not just the man at the departure lounge, but the intrusive NGOs commenting on developments within Pakistan with a heavily biased agenda. Take the case of the International Crisis Group and its heavily biased reports on Pakistan. Interestingly enough, the ICG had to leave India, where it was working on Kashmir, because of "safety" reasons. So while Pakistan allows the ICG to continue functioning and producing its own agenda-ridden reports, there is now no ICG office in India. Strange how no one at the ICG headquarters in Brussels has made a noise on this.
With our increasingly accommodating approach to all abuse, it is no wonder, then, that even US film stars, feel a compulsion to hold forth on aspects of our policies. Notwithstanding Ms Angelina Jolie's very attractive personality and dedication to the cause of refugees, we had to suffer her political statement on the relocation of refugees. She declared, while in our country, her opposition to our policy of seeking a return of Afghan refugees back to their country and setting them up in camps in Afghanistan instead of their continuing presence in Pakistan. The similarity between her views and US views on the subject expressed soon after the fall of the Taliban regime in Afghanistan must surely be a coincidence.
Pakistan has done more than its share of accommodating Afghan refugees, including allowing them full access to the country - in contrast to most states that keep refugees in camps. But why we should accept them as part of our civil society remains unclear, especially when thousands of stranded Pakistanis in Bangladesh have yet to be accommodated. So while we appreciate Ms Jolie's work on behalf of Afghan refugees, her blundering into a sensitive political issue, is unacceptable. Incidentally, with the billions earmarked by the international community for the reconstruction of Afghanistan, the return of the refugees either to their homes or to camps within Afghanistan should be part of that reconstruction process. If the process itself is faulty, why should Pakistan have to continue paying the price - especially when aid for these refugees within Pakistan has been dwindling over the years? As it is, the continuing presence of these refugees is a growing security risk for Pakistan because they can provide space for the al-Qaeda and Taliban remnants.
There really is a strange slide down a slippery path in terms of our national identity and sovereignty. This is apparent in meetings visiting Indian delegations have with Pakistani elites - both official and at the level of civil society. Some Pakistanis now seem to be hell bent on informing Indians how we are all the same! Well, in one sense I suppose we are the same as all humankind. But many of us do relate to the reality of a Pakistani identity which is why the doling of our nationality to any foreigner who happens to state his love for the country is also not very comforting. If I were to declare my love for a European or Asian state, would I automatically receive an offer of nationality from that country?
Where are we headed and how far will we go in compromising our sovereignty seems unclear, but we have reached a low point when we are seen as pet dogs by our supposed ally's media and American movie stars state their opposition to our policies while in our country. Apart from the strong Foreign Office protest, where are the voices that normally harangue on our foreign policy? Strangely silent. So this is what we have come to now.
(The writer is a Director General of the Institute of Strategic Studies, Islamabad. Courtesy The News)


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