Pressure on Government Mounting
By Salahuddin Haider
Karachi , Pakistan


Government pressures are mounting much more rapidly than had been anticipated. The United States, displeased with delay in issuing of over 2000 visas for their diplomats etc, prime minister calling Nawaz Sharif in London to seek support in case of threat in the parliament, direct foreign investment displaying negative growth, and now the Americans rushing two of their senior most officials to talk about controlling the Pakistani Taliban can only be summarized as bad omen for a country, already a victim of poor governance.

Yes. It may sound nostalgic, but it is a bitter fact that the Americans, keen on increasing their diplomatic presence at five different centers of Islamabad, Karachi, Lahore, Peshawar and Quetta, have not been feeling comfortable with the government decision to hold approval of their 2000 visa applications. The administration at the centre does have the right to ask questions, but where satisfactory answers are available, the visa application must be cleared quickly to enable the Americans to expedite their visa processing at different centre, including Karachi, as quickly and speedily as they had originally planned. In case of doubts, queries can be addressed on urgent basis with the American embassy and minor objections can be overlooked. The visas must be expedited. Otherwise, signs of tension, visible far more clearly now than before, may halt, or at least delay and damage the process of building strong and viable ties, which Hillary Clinton had foreseen and projected to the Pakistani nation during her visit last October.

The process of what was imagined in October by the US and explained to Pakistanis publicly and in private meetings, has suffered immeasurably. New developments, emanating from the arrest in Times Square of Faisal Shahzad, has slowly and gradually been taking a serious turn. The sudden arrival of US national security adviser James Jones and CIA chief Panetta, gives a whole new dimension to the Pak-US relationship.

Media reports, fairly credible, says the two adopted a change in tone from a threatening statement by the Secretary of State to persuading the Pakistani officials to take action against the Pakistani Taliban which should be visible to the American public and satisfy it also, is a mere change in tactics. These reports have also spoken of the two distinguished visitors citing linkages between Pakistani Taliban or trainers in terrorism of Pakistanis living abroad or here, for action in India, Europe and America. It appears that much more has been made on Faisal Shahzad’s episode, to frame a strong argument of making a mountain out of a molehill. My only desire is that I should be wrong in my summation, but some facts are too clear a pointer to be ignored. After all, why were such high profile officers sent out to Pakistan? Surely they had not come for sight seeing. My advice to the government will be to remove their apprehensions, and present a case strong enough to satisfy the visitors.

Foreign Minister and Gen Kayani must be sent to America to meet the cross section of people there, find out what their thinking is, and dispel misperceptions without wasting much time. After all India’s security concerns have also been loaded on our shoulders, which is alarming. We must give a new orientation to our foreign policy. Consult China, Iran and Russia, our three major neighbors to seek their views. We must also normalize ties with India as quickly as possible, and consult them on major international issues. Being our immediate neighbor they can be taken into confidence. The solution of Kashmir should be found out, and water issue resolved quickly.

It seems the foreign minister, the prime minister and his entire cabinet, are oblivious of the inherent dangers in the rapid developments and change of thinking in Washington. India seems to have won a major war on diplomacy against Pakistan. It knew that Pakistan is being given importance by the Americans and therefore, after failing to raise a hue and cry, they seem to have relied heavily on the US State Department to build pressure on Islamabad that terrorism, threatening America, and now that Europe too has been the latest addition to the list, is also a major worry for India, and that everything relating to terrorism, has connections in Pakistan. This is a very, very serious matter.

The President, the Prime Minister, and the administration, must summon the Parliament, and have a full-fledged debate in open houses, not in camera, to build Pakistani opinion about our goals and aspirations. Iran must be taken into confidence. The government must shed pressure on ties with Iran. Iran has stood by us in times of crisis, and is a true Muslim State. Building public opinion is a must. The parliament in my view, has been dormant so far, lifeless and listless. Hardly does a PML-N or ruling PPP parliamentarian speak on issues of national importance and of international scenario, especially those directly impacting us.

The government has failed both in providing good governance to the people and of winning friends abroad. The entire African region, the Muslim world, has been left unattended. If President Zardari visited Saudi Arabia two years ago to meet the monarch, he was more concerned about his begging bowl, which unfortunately was politely denied. Japan, China, etc. forming a so-called Friends of Pakistan Club, pledged huge amounts for development, but lack of trust in the government, or its ability to utilize the money effectively, turned that Club into a non-starter. A sad story, but this is a bitter fact which the Pakistanis must know.

I wanted to dwell on domestic developments also but because of the length of this piece, I will leave the topic for another day. - sallu



Editor: Akhtar M. Faruqui
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