Pakistan recently had two major delegations visiting the US. Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi led the first contingent under the auspices of a new ‘Strategic Dialogue’ with the US. In the second trip, Prime Minister Gilani led his team to President Obama’s first Nuclear Summit. Attended by over 47 heads of state, the summit was the largest gathering of world leaders to descend upon the US soil since the 1940s. Recognised as one of the world’s safe-keepers of a nuclear stockpile, Pakistan gained a nod of approval from the world’s seven nuclear bomb carriers.
I am unaware if many journalists or citizens in Pakistan read foreign newspapers, magazines or even blogs, but over the course of the nuclear summit, many international media outlets praised our country. From the words of admiration showered on Pakistan by President Obama for keeping its nuclear arsenal safe, to the positive role played by Prime Minister Gilani, it was our time to be in the limelight. Much attention was directed towards the professionalism of Army Chief General Parvez Kayani while the brilliant display of diplomacy carried out by Ambassador Husain Haqqani did not go unnoticed. Penned as a key ally of the US and taking the war to the very militants who threaten the fabric of our peace and security, Pakistan garnered much respect from the world community.
I believe we are witnessing a new dawn. President Zardari has probably received more hate mail in his current tenure than the dictator Pervez Musharraf did in his nine-year rule. But Zardari did not suspend the constitution; he did not depose the chief justice, nor introduce the Legal Framework Order (LFO); nor did he chalk out the 17th Amendment, which put a black mark on our constitution. Rather, the current president put into place the 18th Amendment, which rectified the above-mentioned wrongs done by a military dictator. Giving credit where it is due, I think we have seen the rise of a new dawn.
Ironically, many journalists and media personalities in Pakistan are still unhappy with the current set-up. Earlier they used to admonish Zardari for not shifting the authority granted to him under the 17th Amendment to the rightful heir, the prime minister. With a streak of vengeance, columnists penned articles day after day, inciting anger and hatred towards Mr Zardari. But, like spoilt children, these journalists have not applauded the transfer of power, and have found nothing but faults in the latest legislation. In my humble opinion, they have continued in the age-old habit of misconstruing facts to suit their own needs.
Constantly speculating on motley issues, from clash between the judiciary and the executive to resignation of Mr Zardari after the abolition of the NRO to demanding expulsion of Ambassador Haqqani within 48 hours (which was sometime in October last year), these reporters have used every ploy to bring down the current government. Mind you, I am not arguing that the Zardari administration does not have its flaws, but surely we can give credit where it is due, especially if it is in the interest of our nation.
One of the reasons many Pakistanis showed dissent towards the US over the past decade was due to President Bush’s blind support of General Musharraf. A bitter relationship between Pakistan and the US stemmed from the love affair of these two polarising figures. Citizens of both countries were wary of the other, while public perception of Pakistan in the US was at an all time low and vice versa. During the Busharraf years we constantly heard the mantra of “do more”, while the Bush administration turned a blind eye towards the undemocratic steps taken by General Musharraf.
President Obama strode into office, articulating a new, stronger and secure relationship with the Muslim world, especially with Pakistan, due to our deep involvement in the war on terror. Placing Ambassador Haqqani at the helm of affairs has led to a much-needed boost in what was a tattered relationship with the US. Much criticism was directed at Mr Haqqani during the Kerry-Lugar saga, but many have failed to acknowledge the depth of the strong bond our ambassador has secured with the US. It was through the efforts of Mr Haqqani that Pakistan was able to procure the long-delayed F-16s and the crucial grant of $ 7.5 billion in non-military aid.
If we, as a nation, constantly harp on the past, we may never be able to see the future. We are not out of the woods yet, but that does not mean we will remain in this perpetual cycle of suicide bombings and low standard of living. Constantly bickering over the role of President Zardari or his appointees will lead us nowhere. The primary reason for fighting for an independent judiciary was to have an accountability mechanism in place. A section of the current ‘independent’ media needs to stop finding fault with every positive initiative the government has undertaken. Giving credit where it is due and holding elected officials accountable for their actions while in public office is the way to go and truly enjoy the fruits of democracy we strive for.