Magnificent Delusions: Riyadh Summit Edition

Arab Islamic American Summit

It was supposed to be another opportunity for Pakistan to shine on the world’s stage. An international summit in Riyadh attended by world leaders including the American President Donald Trump. We would be standing side by side with other Muslim leaders including our close allies Saudi Arabia and our message would be clear to all. Only, that’s not what happened. We were caught completely off guard. What happened?

The first problem rose during US President Donald Trump’s visit to Saudi. According to reports, ‘something has gone terribly wrong‘. The reason for the panic? At the ‘Arab Islamic American Summit,’ Pakistan was not highlighted nor given opportunity to present its view. It was a snub felt across the nation, but should it have been so painful?

There are a few things that must be considered. Fifty-five nations were present at the summit. Keynote addresses were given by Saudi and American leaders who did not mention Pakistan’s sacrifices. It is unfortunate, but we must consider the circumstances. The summit took place soon after a series of mob attacks in Pakistan, statements by IHC and the Interior Ministry whipping up religious anger over blasphemy issue, kidnapping and torture of liberal bloggers, and the state’s full attention being paid to tracking down anyone who criticises Army on social media. Meanwhile, TTP is opening offices in KP.

World forums are not arranged by ISPR to promote the state’s narrative. In this case, it may have been better that nothing was said about the state’s actions. However, our frustration did not stop with our not being praised. Our media spit on other nations terming them as ‘minion states’ and even said that ‘Terming India a victim of terrorism was also a deeply painful insult,’ as if we are the only nation that has suffered from terrorists.

According to reports, PM spent hours preparing and rehearsing his speech for the summit, only to learn that he was not designated a time slot. It was a huge surprise to the entire delegation, but how is this possible? The entire affair appears to be another case of our believing what we want to believe instead of looking at the cold hard reality.

It was not just that we were denied the spot light we believed we deserved, policy statements by our allies were completely out of sync with what we expected also. The Saudi King turned the summit into an anti-Iran platform, terming Iran as “the spearhead of global terrorism”. This means that the Islamic Military Alliance led by our own Gen Raheel Sharif is actually a Sunni military alliance against our own neighbor Iran? We were shocked and surprised, but why? Journalists, bloggers, and even some politicians have warned of this since the beginning. Only problem, these were so called ‘liberals’ who were accused of working against Pakistan’s interests. Once again, we allowed ourselves to believe what we wanted to believe instead of looking at the cold hard reality.

Many have blamed the Foreign Office, or what passes for a Foreign Office in this country, for poor diplomacy that led to these embarrassments. But it is not the FO alone that is responsible, it is all of us. As long as we continue to believe that our wishes are reality, and reality is global conspiracy against Pakistan, we will continue to face such shocks and surprises.

In closing, it should be noted that the day after the summit it was reported that the US is considering slashing military and civil aid to Pakistan, and converting what is left to loans which must be repaid with interest. This should be no problem, though, as ex-COAS Gen Kayani has already said that Army has no need for US funds. And, after all, we’ll always have CPEC…

US not cutting aid – Another non-story

US not cutting aid

If your rich uncle offers to pay your school fees and you tell him that you want to take some time off, he’s not going to send you the money anyway. It doesn’t mean you are abandoned to your own fate, it just means that the money is for school fees, not a gift for you to spend as you please. Such a scenario happens every day, and no one is surprised. So why is it that we act surprised when the US says that its not going to pay for certain anti-terrorism operations if the military isn’t ready to carry them out?

This latest chapter in the drama started when The New York Times reported that the US is deferring millions in aid to Pakistan. Immediately I began to hear reactions about how the US is abandoning us just as they always do. But look at what the report actually said.

This aid includes about $300 million to reimburse Pakistan for some of the costs of deploying more than 100,000 soldiers along the Afghan border to combat terrorism, as well as hundreds of millions of dollars in training assistance and military hardware, according to half a dozen Congressional, Pentagon and other administration officials who were granted anonymity to discuss the politically delicate matter.

Some of the curtailed aid is equipment that the United States wants to send but Pakistan now refuses to accept, like rifles, ammunition, body armor and bomb-disposal gear that were withdrawn or held up after Pakistan ordered more than 100 Army Special Forces trainers to leave the country in recent weeks.

Some is equipment, such as radios, night-vision goggles and helicopter spare parts, which cannot be set up, certified or used for training because Pakistan has denied visas to the American personnel needed to operate the equipment, two senior Pentagon officials said.

And some is assistance like the reimbursements for troop costs, which is being reviewed in light of questions about Pakistan’s commitment to carry out counterterrorism operations. For example, the United States recently provided Pakistan with information about suspected bomb-making factories, only to have the insurgents vanish before Pakistani security forces arrived a few days later.

In other words, the aid isn’t being cut. The generals have made a decision that it is in the national interest not to carry out certain operations at this time. Maybe this is because the military is stretched too thin, maybe the generals believe there is not enough popular support. Either way, the result is that American funds that were tied to these operations will be put on hold also. But the money isn’t being “cut” and it isn’t going away.

White House Chief of Staff Bill Daley told ABC TV that the money was only being held back until the two nations could come to agreements about operations that the funds can be used for, even praising Pakistan’s sacrifice and saying that the money has been “committed”.

Speaking on ABC’s This Week programme, Mr Daley accepted that Pakistan had been “an important ally in the fight on terrorism. They’ve been the victim of enormous amounts of terrorism”.

He added: “It’s a complicated relationship in a very difficult, complicated part of the world. Obviously, there’s still lot of pain that the political system in Pakistan is feeling by virtue of the raid that we did to get Osama Bin Laden, something that the president felt strongly about and we have no regrets over.

“Until we get through these difficulties, we will hold back some of the money that the American taxpayers have committed to give them.”

More importantly, and this seems to be getting completely lost in the discussion, is the fact that this announcement affects no civilian aid. Regardless, I continue to hear that the US is cutting one-third of its aid to Pakistan. That is not true. The funds being discussed are actually only specific military aid as is clear from the original report in the New York Times.

Army spokesman Gen Abbas issued a statement that the military is capably of fighting without American assistance. Of course it is. The American assistance is helpful in off setting costs associated with joint anti-terrorism operations on the Afghan border, but it is only a drop in the bucket of the full $6.41 Billion military budget.

Pakistan has plenty of resources to defend its borders. Now, I might argue that this money can be better spent by re-focusing on immediate rather than hypothetical threats, but that is for another post. The point is that the national security will be looked after. And neither is the US abandoning Pakistan – far from it. No cut has been made to the civilian aid package which is arguably far more important as it can be used to improve the lives of ordinary Pakistanis. And military aid that is not related to the operations that are on hold is still flowing.

Officers and officials of both countries should be able to make decisions based on their own national interests and legal requirements of their own countries. This doesn’t mean that relations are falling apart or that worst fears are being realised. We have to stop evaluating everything with emotions and use reason instead. Doing so in this case will save a lot of heartburn.

Ardeshir Cowasjee: Hypocrites to the Core

Ardeshir Cowasjee

THE local outrage over the WikiLeaks exposure is as hypocritical as is the hypocrisy of our civil and military so-called leaders who cosy up to the Americans in private whilst expediently criticising them publicly.

For far too long, Pakistanis have abused the Americans while simultaneously seeking help from them. Those who have attempted to acknowledge our dependence on the US have been slammed by the ridiculous ` ghairat ` lobby. Why the unwillingness to recognise that our military needs US-made hardware and our economy needs US aid and investment? Does ghairat demand that we publicly abuse the US and those who openly acknowledge Pakistan`s dependence on Uncle Sam?

We all know how Jinnah and Liaquat Ali Khan pursued the US seeking aid, as have done all their successors. Let us look at the response to the country`s fifth prime minister, Huseyn Shaheed Suhrawardy, who tried to be honest and explain the realities of the world to the ghairat -obsessed. S.M. Burke, one of Pakistan`s earliest diplomats, who died recently aged 94, in his book, Pakistan`s Foreign Policy: An Historical Analysis describes truth telling thus:

“Suhrawardy frequently defended his pro-US foreign policy in public with a frankness unheard of in Pakistan till then. In one such extempore performance he faced a large gathering of East Pakistani students in the Salimullah Muslim Hall at Dhaka and decried the fact `that if we say anything in favour of America or the UK we are called “stooges of imperialism” and if we say anything in favour of Russia we are called “independent”`. He would try to compare the differences between various Muslim countries but it must be remembered that all the existing Muslim governments were weak. `The question is asked: why don`t we get together rather than be tied to a big power like the UK or America? My answer to that is that zero plus zero plus zero plus zero is after all equal to zero. We have, therefore, to go farther afield rather than get all the zeros together`.”

Nationwide protests ensued against the prime minister`s insult to the ummah. His resignation was demanded, and the Muslim League and religious parties dubbed him an imperialist agent.

WikiLeaks on Pakistan are merely premature. Most State Department cables become available after a few years following declassification. Access to old cables aptly illustrate the hypocrisy of Pakistanis towards the US.

Ayub Khan publicly spoke of wanting Friends not Masters. But what did he say to the Americans in private? In 1953, “Ayub Khan visited Washington `at his own volition,` ahead of a visit by Pakistan`s civilian head of state and foreign minister. He sought a `deal whereby Pakistan could — for the right price — serve as the West`s eastern anchor in an Asian alliance structure.” State Department declassified cable quoted in Shirin Tahir-Kheli`s book The United States and Pakistan : Evolution of an Influence Relationship.

“In the quest for US support, Ayub Khan went so far as to tell a US official, `Our army can be your army if you want.” Dennis Kux . United States and Pakistan, 1947-2000.

Zulfikar Ali Bhutto made a career out of being anti-American. He even wrote a book titled The Myth of Independence after leaving the Ayub government to score the point that whilst others compromised sovereignty, he would not. But let`s look at the text of Department of State Telegram from American Embassy Islamabad to Secretary of State, Secret Cable No 861 dated 22 December 1971. ( Also included in Roedad Khan`s book, The American Papers Secret and Confidential, India-Pakistan-Bangladesh Documents 1965-1973) . It talks of Bhutto`s visit to the US ambassador two days after he took over. “Surprisingly and quite independently, I received a phone call late afternoon of Wednesday, Dec 22, from the president`s office asking if I would receive the president at my residence in the evening. President Bhutto arrived at 2130 hours local and conversed with me for 35 minutes. He was accompanied by Mustafa Khar, recently announced governor and martial law administrator of Punjab. Khar took virtually no part in the conversation which ensued.

“After exchange of social amenities, and after noting that his call upon me was most unusual from the standpoint of protocol, Bhutto said that he was so acting to signal strongly his reaffirmation of a whole new period of close and effective relations with the United States. He said whatever criticism the United States may have had regarding his past posture, he now hoped that it would be forgotten as our two countries `with mutual interests` came closer together in common cause. He said that he again wished to express his appreciation for the assistance which the United States had extended to Pakistan during its greatest crisis, and added that it would not be forgotten.” There is much more but space is short.

Things haven`t changed since 1956, when Suhrawardy made his remark. Pakistan`s present often reviled ambassador the US, Husain Haqqani, has read and learned a lot since his birth in 1956. He attempted to do as did Suhrawardy.

Soon after becoming ambassador in a June 2008 in a TV interview with one of the ghairat champions Haqqani was asked, “Why don`t we look the US in the eye?” He responded, accurately, “To look someone in the eye, you have to be approximately the same height.” Haqqani`s name has not yet cropped up in any embarrassing WikiLeaks cables but he is still unreasonably abused for seeking what Pakistan has always sought from the US — military and economic aid.

Originally published by Dawn on 19 December 2010.

The Americans Finally Learned A Lesson

A report in the American New York Times says that the US is going to cut funding and aid for certain troops that were involved in the deaths of some civilians. At first, this might seem like the US cutting support for the military, but since it comes during the same week that the Americans announced an additional $2 Billion in military support, it must be considered something else. Actually, it looks like the Americans finally learned an important lessons.

The US has a rather sordid history of providing military support to whatever leader served their needs, no matter how brutally he treated his people. The Americans armed Saddam Hussein until he was no longer useful. They supported the dictator Pinochet in Chile, and even the Taliban when it was convenient to their Cold War against the Soviet Union. In our own country, the Americans helped prop up military dictators in the past.

But since the 9/11 attack, the Americans have said that they have turned their backs on this past behavior. They said that the mujahideen who they had armed and supported against the Soviet Union turned on them, teaching them that the enemy of your enemy is not necessarily your friend. The official policy out of Washington was changed, they said, and they would no longer support dictators or militants or terrorists of any kinds.

Of course, it is easier to speak such words than to act on them. The world viewed this new American position with skepticism, and rightly so. It’s one thing to say that you will stop supporting those groups that have turned on you – but what about those who are still allies?

Today we may have an answer.

For the Americans to say that they will increase support to the military – but withhold it from anyone involved in harming civilians – is welcome evidence that the US has finally learned a lesson and is willing to make the difficult decisions necessary to truly support the people of Pakistan and not just their own interests against Taliban.

Foreign Minister Qureshi stated quite correctly that Pakistan is an ally, not a satellite. We are also not a private Army for the Americans to use in their war. Now, we have our own war against these extremists who have been murdering our brothers and sisters for too long. Even today their viciousness has shown itself again when they exploded a bomb outside a mosque in Pistakhara after Juma. What kind of monster can attack civilians leaving a mosque?

Taliban militants may be willing to kill innocents, but it looks like the Americans are not. The Americans may be the enemy of our enemy, but if they also refuse to support anyone who kills innocents, they are also our friend.