So what makes it so hard for our so-called leaders to call a spade a spade when it comes to the US? After the initial outrage at Trump’s South Asia policy, we witnessed their shameful eagerness to clutch at reconciliatory straws thrown their way by lesser US officials so that they could start beating about the bush once again. And now we are being told that Pakistan and the US have agreed to stay engaged to achieve the ‘shared objectives of peace, stability and economic prosperity in the region’.
This ingenious consensus is reported to have emerged during a meeting between our Prime Minister and the US Vice President on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly session underway in New York. Did the Vice President take back all the nasty things his President had said about Pakistan and the threats he’d hurled at us? Or did our Prime Minister promise to ‘put our house in order’ and ‘do more’ like a good boy? Most importantly, what signals are we sending to our partners in the region?
Clearly, if anyone shares the objectives of peace, stability and economic prosperity in the region, it is these partners. The US occupation of Afghanistan is actually aimed at ensuring that these objectives are never met. Disregarding his campaign promise, Trump has decided to continue the occupation and its disruptive agenda. Let’s get this straight: The US occupation is not about fostering peace but sustaining perpetual war. It is not about ending instability in Afghanistan but exporting it to its neighbors.
It is all written on the wall and it doesn’t take an Einstein to read it. Don’t we know what the US has been up to in Afghanistan all these sixteen years? Haven’t we seen it lord over the expansion of chaos and violence; patronizing drug-lords and war-lords, murdering and droning innocents, supervising the spawning and spreading of terrorism? Don’t we know what the US has been up to in other parts of the world; in Iraq and Syria, in Libya and Yemen, just to name a few nearby examples?
The recent outburst of anger at Pakistan stems from the fact that despite all its carrots and sticks, despite its two-faced deceptions, the US has failed to trap us in its Af-Pak quicksand. We are no longer the B-team of Pentagon and CIA. To add to its worries, Pakistan is moving closer to China and Russia on Afghanistan and a regional response to the Afghan conflict, with Iran and Central Asian states on board, is clearly emerging.
The Russia-led initiative envisages a negotiated reconciliation among warring factions in Afghanistan and countries in the region taking the responsibility of regional security. This would ultimately result in an end to the US occupation of Afghanistan along with its agenda of disrupting regional stability and integration. Now, that’s something that the US is not ready to live with. And it would resort to all sorts of divide-and-rule tricks to subvert the consolidation of this regional response.
Such duplicitous talk about shared objectives of peace, stability and economic prosperity in the region comes easy to the US. It double-talks all the time. But is our Prime Minister so daft that he’d believe it? Didn’t he get it even after Trump targeted Pakistan for the mess in Afghanistan and invited India to get more involved in the occupied country? Does he not know that there’s nothing such as working ‘with’ the US? The global ‘badmash’ expects everyone to work ‘for’ it, on its terms.
So, can we work for the US and, at the same time, expect to work with our partners in the region to sort out the mess it lords over in Afghanistan? Where does it leave the regional yatra in response to Trump’s South Asia policy that our finally-appointed Foreign Minister had embarked upon with much fanfare, but not enough heart it seems? Is it just a co-incidence that he visited Beijing, Teheran and Ankara but stopped short of Moscow that was mentioned in his itinerary?
Let’s face it: The shift in Pakistan’s position, away from the US and towards our regional partners is led by the military leadership, and the government has shown only half-hearted interest in pursuing this course, dragging its feet as much as it can. Otherwise, we would have used the Foreign Minister’s visit to regional capitals to announce some concrete developments rather than a rhetorical reaffirmation of our common position on Afghanistan.
To mitigate the expected financial blackmail from the US, we would have announced steps to de-dollarize our economy in step with our Chinese partners in Beijing who are already on that path. In Teheran, we would have announced to complete the Iran-Pakistan gas pipeline. And we would have ensured that the Foreign Minister made it to Moscow, announcing the final agreement on the North-South gas pipeline. Did our government try to make the most of its foreign minister’s regional yatra? Why did our Prime Minister climb down to meet the US Vice President, making flippant announcements about shared objectives and what not?
If it were up to our prime minister and his foreign and finance ministers, they’d go running back to their abusive imperial lover. They can’t imagine a country without borrowed dollars. Like the rich and corrupt ruling elites in so many poor countries, nurtured and cultivated so painstakingly by the empire over decades, they are more like an extension of imperial interests. Their disdain for the interest of the country and citizens they claim to represent can be seen not only in their foreign policy preferences but in every aspect of governance and policy-making.
What makes their slavish subservience more frustrating is that, at this point in our history, the opportunity to finally emerge as an independent and prosperous state is clearly within our reach. The exploitative US-led imperial order is crumbling and the multipolar motif of win-win cooperation is on the ascendant just around the corner. All we need is the vision and the will to grasp this opportunity. All we need are leaders who could speak for Pakistan.
The writer is a freelance columnist.