By Zulifquar Rao
Many in Pakistan were surprised when the association of five major emerging national economies Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa (BRICS) declaration from its meeting in Xiamen, China on September 4, 2017 included Pakistan-based terrorist outfits Lashkar-e-Tayyaba (LeT), Haqqani Network, and Jaish-e-Muhammad (JeM) as the entities which have threatened the peace and stability in the region. Pakistan formally rejected the BRICS’ declaration saying there’s no space left for terrorist outfits in the country following its military operations against terrorist organisations; although there aren’t many buyers of this assertion. Pakistan further reiterated that the country itself has been the victim of terrorism as thousands of civilians and military men lost their lives in the fight against terror.
Both political commentators and the government saw the declaration with an element of surprise because in the past, China had been obstructing any move by India to directly or indirectly implicate Pakistan and to designate some of the key leaders of the terrorist outfits based in Pakistan as a global terrorist and a threat to regional peace. However, the fact the declaration mentioning names of these outfits had been signed by China too, speaks volumes about the limits of the sensational perception among Pakistanis of their so called deeper-than-ocean and higher-than-Himalayas friendship with China. Locally, it feels more shocking as government of Pakistan and a number of policy experts had not expected this, especially in the backdrop of recent Sino-Indian border skirmishes and consequent diplomatic tensions between them.
However, what makes the declaration even more significant is that it has echoed some of the points of the new US policy on Afghanistan and South Asia, that President Trump had recently announced, which had already upset Pakistan and led to postponement of scheduled diplomacy visits between the US and Pakistan. From Pakistan’s point of view, certainly, to an extent, one can say that the new US policy has favored India’s stance, offered India a greater role in Afghanistan, and scapegoated Pakistan for US’s own failures in Afghanistan. Yet, the argument is incapable of rubbishing the views shared by the US, EU, and many of neighboring countries that Pakistan’s government’s actions and military offensives against the terrorist outfits are only selective and without much regard to regional peace and stability.
This is precisely what Pakistan’s Foreign Secretary had warned about the participants of a high level meeting on national security that then Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif had chaired last year in early October. The Foreign Secretary had shared that despite Pakistan’s counter diplomatic efforts to India’s avowed plans to render Pakistan diplomatically isolated, the country found no eager recipients of its counter narrative across the world’s most influential capitals, and that a diplomatic isolation may be imminent if Pakistan didn’t act against Masood Azhar, JeM, Hafiz Saeed, LeT and Haqqani Network.
Unfortunately, the forewarning from the Foreign Secretary got buried under the farcical ‘Dawn-leak’ scandal, which was no more than a news story of that meeting in a newspaper. But the military establishment created so much of ruckus through media men and TV channels aligned to its narrative that civilian led democratic government had to find respite only in constituting a joint investigation committee on that news story and forget insisting on acting against terrorist outfits indiscriminately.
Situation one year after proves that unless Pakistan acts its part well first, none of its friends like China, Saudi Arabia and Turkey can help it in diplomatic success or survival beyond their own interests and limited clout. Pakistan requires a policy shift in national security perception and foreign policy principles. For instance, Pakistan must learn not to transform what are actually its diplomatic and political disputes with other countries into militaristic ones. Letting anti-Afghan and anti-US Taliban operate from Pakistan not only tarnishes Pakistan’s image but also triggers tit-for-tat acts from Afghanistan side, which is witnessed in the form of anti-Pakistan Taliban and other similar forces finding refuge inside Afghanistan. Similar is the story vis-à-vis India in the form of its support for Baloch separatists and anti-Pakistan Taliban inside Afghanistan, which is a response to terrorists using Pakistani soil to infiltrate into India and inflict death and destruction there.
So the kind of diplomatic isolation facing Pakistan can only be averted if its national security policy and foreign policy principles start revolving around and aiming at social and economic well-being of its people. Pakistan’s influence in Afghanistan will follow, and it can better pitch its legitimate claim over Kashmir as Pakistan switches to more pro-peace approach. Pakistan must be warned: with empty coffers and empty stomachs fed with jingoistic narrative it will risk inviting more troubles and miseries than success and prosperity for itself as a state and people therein.
Daily Times, September 7, 2017