Pragmatic Moderation: An alternative to failed hyper-nationalism?

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif should be commended for attempting to use diplomacy to highlight the plight of Kashmiri people. However, it is time to face the fact that the hypernationalist narrative that our officials have been promoting has completely failed. This does not mean that the Kashmiri cause is failed, it just means that the way we have been trying to help has actually being hurting. If we truly want to help the Kashmiri people, we need to try something different.

First let us discuss why our current efforts have failed. It is easy to blame the Indian lobby for all of our failures, but we should be honest enough to look in the mirror. Here is one that Jibran Nasir has held up for us.

During the recent diplomatic mission to Washington, Senator Mushahid Hussain found himself facing the usual questions about how Pakistan can be taken seriously on Kashmir when our diplomats are singing the praises of Hizbul Mujahideen commanders at the United Nations. Senator Hussain gave the correct answer, which is that ‘one man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter’. As much as that may make sense to us, though, we need to think about what the rest of the world is hearing which is that ‘your terrorists are our freedom fighters’. We are not convincing anyone that Hizbul Mujahideen are not terrorists. All we are doing is confirming India’s claim that Pakistan is the ‘mothership of terrorism‘.

We can blame whoever we want, but it cannot be denied that our efforts have achieved nothing till date but maintaining the status quo. We can compare Kashmir to Palestine, but in the words of one Pakistani scholar, “In case of Jammu & Kashmir there is not even that level of international support and interest that exists in the Palestinian question.” That scholar is none other than Husain Haqqani, and hate him however much you want, but you cannot deny that he is correct on this point.

That quote was taken from an interview Haqqani gave a few months ago in which he makes several very good points about the Kashmir crisis and how the war between right wing ideologies in both India and Pakistan make this crisis and all other regional crises worse.

Haqqani says that he considers himself a ‘pragmatic moderate’ and notes that ‘solving disputes first and then becoming friends is always more difficult than becoming friends first and then solving disputes’. However we continue to demand that relations can only improve once all disputes are solved. We are putting the cart before the horse.

Despite the failure of our strategy till date, we still have so-called ‘experts’ saying that the way forward is just doing more of the same. As we debate and discuss about enemy narratives and diplomatic offensives, something Haqqani said about his own pragmatic moderation: ‘This is not about winning the argument, this is about winning the peace’. We should ask ourselves whether we are more interested in winning the argument.

Lack of Credibility Undercuts Kashmir Diplomacy

Pakistan Black Day Kashmir

The latest idea of sending abroad dozens of envoys to promote Pakistan’s position on Kashmir has been met with mixed responses. Even the government has offered to make it a bi-partisan affair with opposition politicians involved, but still the opposition has expressed doubt about it.

For years, the establishment has tried to use diplomacy to shift international attitudes on Kashmir, but it hasn’t worked. Actually, the establishment’s attempts at influencing global opinion has done more harm than good. The case in point is the humiliation caused when ISI agent Ghulam Nabi Fai was exposed taking millions in secret funds to lobby the US on Kashmir. Instead of convincing anyone of anything, all this operation did was destroy any credibility of pro-Kashmir voices who are now nothing but suspected ISI agents.

Even after the embarrassment of the Ghulam Nabi Fai fiasco, certain quarters didn’t give up on the idea of sending spokesmen to make Pakistan’s case. Ahmed Quraishi has been sent on many paid junkets in Europe. Who can forget how well this strategy has worked?

The other problem is that the establishment wants to have its cake and eat it too. We want to convince the world that we are acting in support of human rights, but certain people can’t give up also acting in support of jihadi militants. Former Ambassador Husain Haqqani noted this perfectly: “Until Pakistan can demonstrate its complete disassociation with Jihadi terrorist groups, delegations like these will be nothing more than junkets”.

Pakistan does not have the credibility to defend the Kashmiri cause. Actually, our efforts are doing more harm than good. As Defence and Foreign policy analyst Maria Sultan notes, effective lobbying on Kashmir will have to come from independent Kashmiris. If we really want to see justice for Kashmir, we need to step aside and stop hurting their cause by trying to promote our own.

Patriotic Realism: An Alternative to Foreign Policy Failure?

The Foreign Office is out of ideas, and the state appears to be unwilling or unable to diverge from a failed foreign policy that has resulted in isolating the country first regionally and now globally. It’s time to look for new ideas somewhere else. Desperate times call for desperate measures, and considering where we find ourselves at this point, maybe it’s time we give a chance to some people who those who have failed us have been telling us are wrong.

A case in point is the former Ambassador Husain Haqqani. Now that we know that the ‘memogate’ fiasco was all an invented drama, we should be willing to at least listen to what he is saying. After all, the rest of the world seems to be listening to him, so shouldn’t we at least hear what he has to say?

I have to say I was surprised by this interview. After being told for so long that he is ‘anti-Pakistan’, I did not expect him to be so critical of India and especially Indian actions in occupied Kashmir. His view is patriotic, but it is also realistic. Is this the alternative we have been needing to the stubborn refusal to face reality that has brought us to this point?

Husain Haqqani is not the only ‘Patriotic Realist’. Professor Pervez Hoodbhoy has also been making similar points, providing an alternative to the status quo of ‘more of the same’ failed strategies. Like Haqqani, Professor Hoodbhoy has also be labeled as anti-Pakistan and his patriotism questioned. However if you actually listen to what he is saying you will quickly see that he has Pakistan’s interests at heart, and that his difference of opinion is only on what is the best way to protect and advance Pakistan’s interests.

We have been listening to the same voices for decades, and despite constant failure they have been unwilling to change or even listen to any new ideas. Instead, they have tried to accuse and discredit anyone who gave any alternatives to their disproven strategies. ‘Patriotic Delusions’ have only brought us disaster and isolation. Let’s at least give the ‘Patriotic Realists’ a chance to be heard.

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.

Hawaldar Media Accidentally Exonerates Husain Haqqani

Ex-dictator Gen Musharraf may have fled the country, but he still has a following of loyal subjects supporters, especially among the ranks of hawaldar media officers. Latest example is Lt Col (r) Khalid Masood Khan who vigorously defends the former COAS in an article that is filled with incredible revelations. For example, did you know that:

Gen. Pervez Musharraf, who was already been holding the office of the President and had a history of following the line of Benazir Bhutto would have made a natural and comfortable combination with her as the Prime Minister…

I am closing my eyes and trying hard but still having trouble imagining this magical ‘Musharraf – Bhutto’ regime. Obviously I do not have the powerful imagination of a Lt Colonel.

Did you also know that “General Musharraf however has no allegation of corruption against him”? None! So don’t ask how the General became a billionaire. That is ‘need to know only’ information.

Lt Col Khalid concludes that, ‘The mere fact that Gen. Pervez Musharraf who unprecedentedly returned to Pakistan of his own accord in order to face the charges against him shows his courage through the strength of his character and also proves his innocence.’ Actually, the Colonel is incorrect about the lack of precedence as it was actually set by Husain Haqqani who returned of his own accord in order to face the charges against him in two years earlier. Haqqani will surely be pleased to know that Lt Col Khalid believes this proves his innocence.

During the debate about military courts, there were many who doubted whether military officers would be impartial or any innocents would ever be acquitted. Thanks for Lt Col Khalid we know that military officers can give acquittals and be impartial in their judgment.