Lost space - Tanvir Ahmad Khan - Wednesday, April 27, 2011

A proud nation of 170 million people with a large professional army is baffled by the fog of war that shrouds the events in what an Italian analyst Vanni Capelli calls ‘the alienated frontier’, his phrase for the land of Afghan tribes in our north west. No less baffling for the nation is the fog of diplomacy in our dealings with the United States. Admiral Mullen arrives and does some tough talking before meeting the government leaders. The message in the ensuing consultations, according to the media, is that drone attacks would continue till General Kayani launches the Pakistani army in North Waziristan. The leaders of the Pakistani military reportedly, repeat Pakistan’s disquiet over these lethal incursions. In distant Washington Foreign Secretary Salman Bashir stands in the coveted place next to Secretary Hilary Clinton and we are reassured that strategic relations are intact and will continue.

Meanwhile, Dandi Kachi village in Mir Ali subdivision comes under attack by a predator in which 25 people including women and children and presumably some militants get killed. Recent attacks have revived the old debate whether the laws of war, in this case an undeclared one, permit the certain slaughter of innocent civilians on the basis of questionable target information. In the end, we are left with the same old grisly tale. CIA’s predators come and unleash their breathtaking weaponry against a tribal settlement leaving behind crumpled mud walls and burnt out bodies of hapless villagers. They also leave behind a wave of seething anger against the Pakistani government that would eventually hurt our federation. A growing number of unanswered questions congeal into a dark mass of despair and disillusionment.

I once described our relations with the United States as a liaison of compulsion in which our options have been progressively curtailed since 2001. The basic challenge today is what Imran Khan has formulated (The News, April 23) as that of recovering Pakistan’s lost space. In our zero sum game with the United States, what the foreign secretary seeks to achieve in Washington has already been negated by Admiral Mullen in Islamabad. How does, then, Pakistan leverage itself into a position where this vital relationship becomes more equitable and sensitive to the national interest of both the ‘partners’?

I have supported party-based politics all my life but I wonder now if Imran Khan’s message to “all hues of the Pakistani nationalist leadership” to put aside differences and come together to reclaim “Pakistan’s sovereignty and national dignity” would be anything more than a cry in wilderness. We live in an age of coalition politics wherever democratic institutions exist. But the utter lack of principles in building coalitions in Pakistan belies the hope that the political class can ever close ranks to save Pakistan.

During the life of our parliaments, the only pressure that the elected representatives truly face from their constituencies is that of job opportunities which are often provided at the expense of merit. If we want them to address real national issues upfront, Pakistan’s political parties would have to be subjected to much greater moral pressure than is exerted at the moment. For this the media, the engaged sections of the middle class, the youth and the civil society will have to cut across party lines and agitate issues of national importance with the new innovative tools that energised Arab masses recently. Pakistan needs a concerted effort by the political class to save it from disaster but that may not happen without an irresistible impulse for change from what is now metaphorically called the Facebook generation.

The writer is a former foreign secretary. Email: katanvir@ yahoo.com

Source : http://thenews.com.pk/TodaysPrintDetail.aspx?ID=43745&Cat=9

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