The reaction of Pakistan’s security establishment’s proxies and its unofficial mouthpieces to President Donald Trump’s new South Asia Policy so far seems to range from anger, to defiance to shrugging shoulders. The spectrum of reactions coming from these quarters ranges from wanting to slap Trump in the face to going on the offensive and talking about the American-Afghan nexus supporting terror inside Pakistan, to circumventing the entire issue of the Haqqani Network and India focused jihadi groups and instead diverting discussions to jewish-hindu conspiracies against Pakistan supported by the CIA, to dismissing the entire new policy as business as usual and nothing new. These reactions may look different to each other, but they have a very strong common thread running through them: they will talk about anything except the elephant in the room; they go into real or perceived 100 year old grievances but refuse to focus on the stark reality and choices and possibilities Pakistan is now faced with.
Many such reactions also include flat denials of what Pakistan is being accused of for at least the past ten years. This genre of reactions is as dangerous for this country and its polity as those somehow skirting around the issue or obliquely defending Pakistan’s non-state instruments of foreign policy, because not for a minute do they consider that Pakistan might be in the wrong, even in some small part.
All such actors, be they retired military personnel or be they in the media or elsewhere, refuse to introspect while pretending to do so. A personal favourite of mine is a common refrain half-heartedly admitting ‘some’ policy and strategy mistakes of the past, but no frank discourse on where Pakistan might be making mistakes in the present, which would determine its future. This phenomenon is my favourite because I have observed this refrain for decades: current policies are always correct and justified, without a thought to the fact that every past was a present at some time, but was declared correct at the time with disastrous consequences for the future, with that future at some point becoming a present with continuing ‘correct’ policies that took Pakistan into deeper hot waters in the future rolling in, and so on. The poor country at the mercy of its defence establishment’s stranglehold seems to be strangulated perpetually in a correct present that proves to be ‘mistakes of the past’, and an eternally damned future on the horizon.
This denial, defiance and shruggery is deeply worrying, because neither can President Trump’s latest South Asia policy be treated as business-as-usual nor is Pakistan militarily, economically or diplomatically in any position to dig in its heels or be defiant. One statement of false bravado I came across was warning Trump that Pakistan would become a graveyard for its soldiers. These sorts of statements are frightening because the people of Pakistan do not wish to become minced meat between American interests and Pakistan’s oafish death wishes.
The reason I assert that Trump’s new policy should not be treated as mere sabre rattling is that it’s the first time such a blunt warning has come from the American President himself. It would be foolish at best to consider it a bluff. Many think it’s a bluff because war is no more popular in America, that the public and the Congress have no stomach for further body bags etc. However, what naysayers mustn’t forget is that this would be the very reason the U.S could privatize the war. Pakistan should also not feel complacent because of recent statements of support to Pakistan put out by Russia and China. These statements denote these countries’ geo-strategic rivalry with the U.S., and should the U.S. make good on its threat, these countries will enter the fray, not to ‘defend’ Pakistan but to defend their interests in the region, as one has seen in Syria and its destruction. Hence relying on rival Superpowers to fight on Pakistan’s soil to ‘defend’ (sic) Pakistan as a plan-B would be nothing but lunacy, because should matters come to this, the population would become fruit juice, rind, pith and all.
There is too much circumstantial evidence that what the entire world insists upon has much basis in truth. Not only is Pakistan’s policy of continuing with non-state instruments of foreign policy hurting the world, it could become the ultimate and final ruination of Pakistan. Serious introspection in the interests of Pakistan must be undertaken. This is not just for the reason that non-discontinuation could bring a prolonged devastating war to the country, but because even without that war, keeping snakes in the back garden is never a good idea, with some of that already evident by the over 70, 000 Pakistani lives lost to terrorism.
The writer is a human rights worker and freelance columnist.