Out of the chaos and confusion following the disqualification of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif the good news is that Pakistan has at long last got a foreign minister. No doubt it is a silver lining from under the dark cloud that former Hotel Sherzade has finally — after lapse of four years — got someone who would be minding the store at the Foreign Office that had started giving the impression of an orphanage.
Former Defence Minister Khawaja Asif has been relocated as Foreign Minister. He is known for lot of controversies, stirring hornets nest much too often and taking delight in hitting women parliamentarians below the belt with strong words crossing the pale of civility. His appointment is a clear message to those quarters that once used to be happy in having foreign policy cake and eating it too. It is indeed a wise step of the new Prime Minister to appoint a foreign minister.
It was a colossal blunder of the previous government to abdicate space in handling of external affairs to those for whom great statesmen like George Clemenceau and Sir Winston Churchill believed that even “war was much too serious a matter” to be left to be handled by them. And there could not be a more befitting example of this observation then Pakistan where foreign policy since the coup against Zulfikar Ali Bhutto (1977) has been directly or covertly run by the military — be it General Zia, General Aslam Beg or General Pervez Musharaf. In between we have seen the quixotic policy of strategic defiance replaced by the concept of strategic depth. None is either here or there.
President Trump’s team of officials — on various frequent visits to Pakistan — makes it obvious that they are carrying both the carrot and the stick to bring into line our sense in their scheme of things.
Do we have a foreign policy? Most certainly not! Do we have good relations with our next door neighbours — unfortunately none. Our ties have hit all time low with the super power who we allowed to use us whatever manner it wanted — either during the Cold War or its Jihad to demolish Soviet Union selecting Afghanistan to be its Vietnam and converting us into a country to ensure it supply of mercenaries and proxy warriors. Al-Qaeda, Taliban and now ISIS, Daesh and many others that have plunged God’s little earth into a century terror — are Frankensteins created by CIA.
Today when we retrospectively look at our nearly 70-year long relations with the United States who for a long time had a hold on us under the label of most trusted ally east of Suez and we were happy to be tied to their apron string in exchange of arms and other goodies, Generals Ayub, Yahya, Zia, Aslam Beg and Pervez Musharraf — had no vision to see the conversion of Pakistan into a pawn in the hands of the American masters who used us on the chess board of power politics to be part of their policy of ruling the world by creating uncertainties.
Prime Minister Shahid Khaqqan Abbasi seems apparently to be cool headed person well-versed with life in the United States; his decision to appoint a foreign minister is a step in the right direction. Regretfully his government and his foreign minister have too little time to clean sweep the Augean stables infested with too many problems. Keeping his past performance as Petroleum Minister, his questionable conduct in Parliament and his public posturing as angry man with the Establishment and deep state — one is not sure if he would be better than square peg in a round hole. Rather, his appointment indicates a method in it as to how he would deal with the military that since ages has treated Foreign Ministry as its PR department. Khawaja Asif more so is known to oppose its involvement in politics. One wonders how would he interpret latest mantra from the establishment that it would stand by the state institutions such as judiciary and uphold rule of law when the former prime minister claims that decision to disqualify him was taken much before the Supreme Court announced it.
Khawaja Sahib has inherited an environment in which Pakistan is under pressure from the United States. It wants us to do more against Taliban and those elements who don’t want Afghanistan to stabilise. Haqqani Network has to go. In short it wants Pakistan not run with the hare and hunt with the hounds as well not to be selective in dealing with Taliban. President Trump’s team of officials on various frequent visits to Pakistan makes it obvious that they are carrying both carrot and stick to bring in line our sense in their scheme of things. With the sinister move by JuD of Hafiz Saeed to enter mainstream politics by establishing much on the pattern of General Pervez Musharraf’s brainchild of MMA, Milli Muslim League, Khawaja Sahib would find himself out of the fire into frying pan. Americans would not take establishment of Milli Muslim League lying down
One is pleased to note that he wants good relations in the region. Obviously most important being hostile eastern and western neighbours. As a staunch follower of former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif that he is, one is sure he would pick up the pieces and resume moves to build bridges with India, Afghanistan and dispel all misunderstandings with Iran. As regards Saudi-Yemeni conflict, Saudi-Qatari row and creation of a Sunni army to browbeat Iran, Khawaja Sahib would be better advised to be proactively neutral. CPEC and relations with Russia need to be nurtured painstakingly as the way forward to play a lead role as harbinger of regional peace and socio-economic co-operation.
By: Wajid Shamsul Hasan
The writer is the former High Commissioner of Pakistan to the UK and a veteran journalist