Pakistan’s establishment and the elite that supports it have long had a history of short-sighted action.
During the Cold War, Pakistan chose not to be nonaligned and instead provided an intelligence base to the United States for spying on the Soviet Union. So instead of building our economy and educating our people and staying out of wars and conflicts we preferred to rent our geo-strategic location and use that money to keep fighting against India.
Then the powers that be decided that they should involve themselves in the anti-Soviet Afghan jihad and in return obtain money and equipment from the Western bloc. Military dictator General Zia ul Haq thought this would help solve Pakistan’s Pashtun problem. Instead it created a refugee crisis, radicalized our society and built this hydra headed jihadi monster that we have been unable to get rid of. We have also not been able to educate our people or build an economy.
Now it seems that there is a similar short sightedness where people believe that Pakistan can obtain money from Saudi Arabia and the Trump administration by playing a role in Iran similar to what Pakistan did against the Soviets in Afghanistan.
As the former editor of Dawn Abbas Nasir wrote, ‘Sanity demands neutrality.’ Nasir argues that for its own sake Pakistan should remain neutral. “On more occasions than one, Prime Minister Imran Khan has been absolutely unambiguous in saying that Pakistan will not take sides in any Saudi-Iran tension and, if at all, it has a role to play that would be mediatory in nature. This situation places huge challenges on the civil-military leadership of Pakistan as it will have to steer a clear path away from trouble, while also not rubbing up the wrong way its old allies, and generous current funders, Saudi Arabia and UAE, both of whom are close to the US-Israeli position on the matter.”
Nasir notes, “existence in a region which more often than not resembles a tinderbox is fraught with perils and there can never be a justification for taking on more.” Thus Pakistan “will have to chart an independent course and ensure that as possibilities, no matter how remote, are now emerging of a possible peace deal in Afghanistan, some foreign powers’ desire to play games in Iran does not destabilise us again. This is easier said than done, but not impossible. Our policy needs to be informed by the huge price we have paid in blood for not pondering over the repercussions of some of our decisions in the past and making sure that we are not repeating our follies.”
This is a dangerous game and it will only cause us more harm.
We hope this is not happening.