After a gap of four years, we finally have a full-time minister to take charge of foreign affairs. We welcome Khawaja Asif and wish him success in discharging his responsibilities in accordance with aspirations of the Pakistani people. To be sure, the counsel he will need for the purpose has to come only from the Parliament.
It is good that the new minister has gotten done with playing to the gallery in his first press talk held in Sialkot over the weekend. There, Asif predictably put the onus for regional peace entirely on our eastern and western neighbours. That is, he vowed that Pakistan was committed to peace but India and Afghanistan needed to reciprocate to its moves.
Asif should now get to the real task of drafting a much-needed foreign policy for the country. Regarding Pakistan’s relations with India and Afghanistan, the new minister should undertake an assessment to figure out what has led us to where we stand right now and what course needs to be taken for progress on the road to peace and stability in the region.
Surely, there may be elements in these two countries working to destabilise Pakistan but unfortunately, and Asif should know this very well, when it comes to such troublemakers we have had plenty of our own as well. If he comes to think of it, there is only one guiding principle that he will need — and that already has the Parliament’s stamp of approval — in drafting a policy conducive to regional peace, stability and economic well-being. That is, he will need to use his ministry and work with other ministries concerned for reining in militant groups of all stripes and colours.
Asif would do well to bear in mind that assessing regional affairs and drafting a policy will be the relatively easier tasks. Seeing this policy implemented will remain his real test. The latter will require him to work with his colleagues in the cabinet to assure that all forces in Pakistani territory with means of violence possess and use these means under the law. That is, the violent militias — lashkars and the hizbs — will need to be dismantled once and for all.
Once that is done, Pakistan’s case for regional peace and stability will be more persuasive and its neighbours will think twice before turning a deaf ear to its calls for reciprocity.
Daily Times, August 8, 2017