Our Foreign Minister’s candid talk at the Asia Society Forum, on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly moot has generated a heated debate at home. Foreign Minister Khawaja Asif pointed out the unfairness of the US position: that is, to have courted groups such as the Haqqani network and Afghan Mujahideen and then call Pakistan out for not managing to flush out these “darlings of the White House” overnight. Give or take a decade or two.
The PTI chief Imran Khan expressed his anger over Asif’s acceptance of militant outfits as liabilities to Pakistan. Somehow the former cricketer took this to mean admission of ownership. And then he accused him of targeting, rhetorically at least, the country’s armed forces. Mr Khan has called the FM an enemy of the state. Well, Ok, he didn’t. But that is the beauty of Twitter. What he said was this: that with such an FM, who needs enemies.
We applaud our Foreign Minister. We would have applauded him even more, it is true, had he also mentioned the security establishment’s political mainstreaming of its proxies as a liability of equally great proportion.
Maybe it is because we have been without a Foreign Minister for so long but we like what we are hearing. For Asif is not trying to appease, as the PTI chief suggests, the India-US lobby. He is fighting for Pakistan’s very survival. And all without firing a single shot.
Certain narratives emerging from the Washington think tank circuit from the beginning of the year have suggested that Pakistan’s problem is one of image. Naturally this is linked to terrorism. The American priority appears to be cross-border terrorism, namely on both our eastern and western sides. In short, the US wants Pakistan to stop threatening its vital assets in the region. India, after all, is the strategic partner for the 21st century; wooed to contain the rise of China that Washington doubts is as peaceful as claimed. What the US fears from Beijing more than anything is an economic war, which of course is a dirty war by another name. That India is the world’s largest democracy also goes some way to allowing the White House to brush off those pesky questions about Saudi Arabia. And Afghanistan, for its part, is crucially positioned, given how it represents access to Central Asia. Securing the latter is essential in the battle for natural resources. This is to say nothing of the massive and untapped natural mineral reserves that Afghanistan itself is said to be home to.
Thus what Khawaja Asif is likely doing is buying us a little time; to avoid the nuclear option for as long as possible. By this we don’t mean that Trump is going to push the red button on us — by way of a misspelt tweet or otherwise. What we are talking about is holding off for as long as we can any US moves to sanction us. For if that were to happen then we would become an international pariah state; which would create a climate whereby military boots would be pushed to come centre stage not to mention the economic hardship that may result. We have been here too many times before to not understand how this story will end.
So there is nothing at all wrong with our FM not so gently reminding the US and the world that it, too, has the same blood on its hands.
Daily Times, September 29, 2017