Ever More Farcical
By Dr Shireen M. Mazari


Post-9/11 one has had to witness a strange decline of national self-confidence, despite our innate national strengths, to a level where we are now being subjected to all manner of abuse, by all and sundry. For instance, despite our unstinting support in the war on terrorism, the nation had to face an outright insult by President Bush when he declared that the purpose of his visit was to see whether President was "as serious" on the war against terror as he had been in the immediate aftermath of 9/11. Nor was that all. Mr Bush also declared that he wanted to see "fair, free and honest" elections in Pakistan in 2007.
While one can concede to the "fair" and "free" -- although coming practically in the form of a command did nothing to bolster the issue -- what did Bush mean by the use of the term "honest". Was he remembering his own deceit in Florida which led to his first electoral victory, or was he casting yet another aspersion on our leadership? In any event, despite the cricket, and my admiration for the young bowler who defeated Mr Bush at the batting crease, Mr Bush followed true to Clinton's form even though the admonitions may have been less aggressive at first glance.
The US interaction has become ever more farcical. Following the Bush visit, we have now had to hear more absurdities from representatives of the US Administration -- this time in the form of the visit to Islamabad by US Secretary of Energy, Samuel Bodman. While we still continue with our dream of getting US nuclear cooperation similar to what has been promised to India, the US once again has sent a clear message that that will not be the case. As Bodman stated: "Let me make it clear to you that nuclear energy is not part of our agenda." This, despite the very rational Pakistani proposal of safeguarded nuclear parks for energy generation.
So what is part of the US energy agenda for Pakistan? After seeing the text of Bodman's press conference, clearly the primary agenda item is to undermine the Iran gas pipeline project and push us towards gas projects "with Turkmenistan or Qatar." In addition, we have been told we must meet our requirements of energy from coal and solar power! Given our technical capabilities in the nuclear field and the support of China, under IAEA safeguards, in the field of nuclear power generation, there is little to be gained from pursuing the energy dialogue with the US.
But that would be a strong, nationalist message being sent to the US, and we seem to have been reduced to a state of uncertainty psychologically in terms of our own strengths. So many dollars will be wasted in sending teams to continue a fairly meaningless energy dialogue in Washington which will only increase the pressure for abandonment of the Iran pipeline project. Despite no technical or material help in the nuclear field, Bodman has declared that the US "will also send a delegation of scientists to Pakistan". One really needs to know what the purpose would be for such a visit.
Ironically, the US insistence that civil nuclear assistance is not for Pakistan comes at a time when more revelations are being made about India's proliferation deals. We already know, although the US Administration has chosen to turn a blind eye to this reality that India has had nuclear deals with Iran and the Saddam regime and that Indian nuclear scientists worked in both these countries. Now a former UN weapons inspector, David Albright, who heads the Institute for Science and International Security has revealed how India circumvented other countries' export controls and leaked sensitive technology in order to procure materials for its nuclear programme. How long will the US State Department deny India's faulty proliferation record?
Interestingly, for Pakistan even the promised US investment is not going to be forthcoming. That is the other message Bodman has brought in the wake of the Bush visit. As Bodman put it: "There is a potential security issue in Balochistan and unless there is a substantial reduction in that risk, it is hard to think that there would be any substantive American investment there."
Of course, given that India is one source of the security problems in Balochistan, perhaps the US could talk to its strategic partner to desist from aiding terrorism in that part of Pakistan. More critically, we should now realiZe how critical our economic cooperation with China is becoming for the future and give it topmost priority in terms of investment opportunities and joint production ventures.
So at the end of the day, clearly given the US intent vis-a-vis Pakistan in terms of security and economic investment, the so-called joint statement signed during the Bush visit to Islamabad, to launch the Pakistan-US "Strategic Partnership" has been reduced to a farce with the US simply telling us what we should and should not do -- and what it will and will not do with us. Basically, they want us to fight the anti-terrorist war along the international border with Afghanistan because they are increasingly unable to control the situation within that country despite all the high tech military arsenal and despite the highly equipped US soldiers.
But the Afghan leaders are also getting cocky vis-a-vis Pakistan, especially in the wake of the Bush visit. President Karzai, who has only US support to keep him in power, has now made his hostility to Pakistan clear. But he keeps contradicting himself because he wants us to stop "cross border infiltration" but opposes our fencing of the international border. Now we have the totally absurd situation where every puny little Afghan leader feels he can abuse Pakistan ad nauseum as that will garner him local and US support. So we have had the ridiculous statement coming from Sebghatullah Mujaddedi that Pakistan was behind the attack on his person. Given the intricacies of in-fighting amongst all the former Mujahideen leaders, Mujaddedi would be closer to the truth if he looked closer to himself for his enemies. After all, why would Pakistan bother with him?
Like Karzai, whom Pakistan sheltered for many years, Mujaddedi was the first Mujahideen leader to be installed as President after the fall of Najibullah. As a reporter, who witnessed the event recalled, Mujaddedi had to be forced to go to Kabul from Peshawar since he was in a state of total fear. So scared was he that he even feigned a stomach ailment till a doctor was summoned and he was told he was perfectly fit to travel to Kabul!
As for our so-called interference in Afghanistan -– which is what we are constantly being accused of even now -– we can hardly feign complete indifference when we still continue to host Afghan refugees and when we are seeing the Karzai regime allowing India space for low intensity operations within Pakistan. President Musharraf's rejoinder to Karzai's accusations was timely, but this tough stance has to be sustained. It is time to restore a nationalist assertiveness. Else we are in danger of being reduced to an absurd farce as a nation.
(The writer is director general of the Institute of Strategic Studies in Islamabad. Courtesy The News)


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