The blame game

Not my fault

Pakistan faces severe threats and challenges and we have suffered more than anyone in the world. This we are reminded of often. This week we have also been reminded of the second part of our national identity which is that we are not responsible for any of our problems. We are only the helpless victims.

Yesterday PM’s Foreign Advisor Sartaj Aziz accused former Ambassador Husain Haqqani of being responsible for failure of Pakistan’s diplomatic efforts. This is not the first time that a government official has given this excuse as Defence Minister Khawaja Asif has also blamed Husain Haqqani for his own failure to secure F-16s.

This may be a national emergency. If the entire diplomatic corps including even Gen. Raheel’s ceremonious efforts can be completely undone by a single person sitting in a think tank, what hope have we of ever overcoming our troubles? Is all of Pakistan unable to overcome one man?

Today we are also reminded that Pakistan has been abandoned by the whole world to face terrorists on our own. This was declared by no less than Army spokesman DG-ISPR Gen Asim Bajwa. However, this statement left many scratching their heads in confusion. Didn’t the US give Pakistan Army billions? Didn’t the US kill TTP chief Hakimullah Mehsud, capture TTP commander Latifullah Mehsud and hand him over to Pakistan Army? Isn’t US still funding Pakistan Army?

It is true that Pakistan is facing a declining relationship with historic allies including the US. However facts are facts and it is simply too much to say that we have been ‘abandoned’ yet. It is also unrealistic to blame a scholar for all of our problems. So why are we facing such a difficult time, and if we are not exactly ‘abandoned’, why are we becoming more isolated? Ironically, the answer may have been given by Husain Haqqani himself:

“Pakistan’s difficulties in the US were the result of years of supporting ‘jihadis’ and making excuses that are having less and less effect on Americans. Moreover, Pakistan’s dependence on US aid made it susceptible to changes in the US national mood and attitude,” elaborated Haqqani in the statement released.

Our top leaders, especially those at the level of Minister and General, need to give an honest assessment of our situation and take responsibility for putting the nation back on the right path. Blaming others and playing helpless victim will fix nothing. We need real leadership that is willing to speak the truth and take necessary action.

Our Washington Problem

Sartaj Aziz John Kerry
After months and years of negotiating, the verdict is in. America will sell us more F-16s, but they won’t just give them to us. Earlier this year, the American Congress considered blocking the sale completely. When this was defeated, our Ambassador to the US Jalil Abbas Jilani praised the US congress and said the vote was a “demonstration of strength of Pak-U.S relationship”. America will sell us the planes, however they are now saying that they will not help to fund the sale as it was expected. This has once again reversed the earlier good feelings and now Sartaj Aziz has declared that “Pakistan will buy F-16s from some other country if funding [from US] is not arranged”.
This issue is being discussed from the familiar views about American betrayal and Pakistani utility in a purely transactional relationship. But the one problem that is not being discussed is the rapid decline in our ability to negotiate with the Americans.
First let us look at the recent past.
F-16 2009
In 2009, America held a rolling out ceremony for F-16s being delivered to Pakistan. Present at the ceremony was our own former Ambassador Husain Haqqani. Today we find Khawaja Asif accusing Haqqani of lobbying against a F-16 sale, but the question hasn’t been asked whether Haqqani has even been enrolled to lobby for our side, or at least to advise on how to improve relations with the American Congress.
Instead, what we see are increasingly strong media statements from Tariq Fatemi and Sartaj Aziz talking tough about F-16s that help heal our wounded pride, but they do nothing to actually help our cause. We seem to have become so obsessed with the success of Gen Bajwa-era information operations that we have forgotten that PR is only one
Today we badly misread American politics and find ourselves crowing about being beaten by Indian lobby at every stage, blaming our own former ambassador instead of enrolling him to help make our case, and even firing our own lobbyists. We thought that our role in Afghanistan would be enough to make us indispensable, or maybe we thought that Gen Raheel would charm the Americans like he charmed us…but it didn’t work…and we had no ‘Plan B’.
The first step to recovering is not actually to hire our own lobbyists, but to face the fact that we have a policy problem, not a PR problem. We need to stop blaming everything as anti-Pakistan conspiracy and start understanding how the rest of the world sees us and why. Instead of only thinking of new ways to make our case, we also need to rethink why our case stopped convincing anyone.