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From Egyptian Diary

The contemporary age is particularly conspicuous because Pakistan is regularly visited by crises of great magnitude.

By the start of September, I had to come to Cairo for some official assignment. It was a good opportunity to visit Egypt and to savor the Historic Egyptian Civilisation that has always been the tourists’ attraction. Moreover, it is always refreshing to take a brief break from official routine ‘which often becomes monotonous for reasons not quite unknown.

This time I have decided to write not on satisfy any academic interests of the readers rather to share my travel experience and my observations that I am very fond of making. Since there was no direct flight to Cairo so I had to schedule a connecting flight from Dubai ‘a glorious city that is also facing the brunt of 2008’s economic recession. Dubai Airport with its vast stretch is a tourist attraction in itself. Last year on 29th October, the Airport marked its 50th anniversary and so far has seen more than 402 million passengers with double figure per annum growth. With a true cosmopolitan aura, Dubai in particular and all the Emirates in general always pose me a question: Why Pakistan cannot make such progress?

Life of a diplomat primarily revolves around promoting the image of one’s country and to win friends at personal, institutional and even private level. In this regard, being a Pakistani Diplomat means being always ready to answer many burning questions that are mostly related to incidents at our national level and our policies and conduct as a Nation and a State at international level. The contemporary age is particularly conspicuous because Pakistan is regularly visited by crises of great magnitude ‘one on the heel of the other. Unfortunately to make the matters worse, we are being faced with the negative confluence of shockwaves of international and regional politics’ death of OBL in Abbottabad etc.’ and natural disasters and this situation is festered by our lack of institutional and pragmatic approach towards there solution. Therefore, I was totally prepared to face any such situation.

From Dubai to Cairo I got the company of a British-born and South African based engineer who worked for Toshiba Company and was operation manager at Cairo. As expected the topic of terrorism and other related topics cropped up during discussion ‘the death of OBL and alleged state support being the foremost. I told him that Pakistan had handed over more terrorists than any other state the list includes many most-wanted terrorists such as Abu Fraj Al Libi etc. So what purpose would OBL had served for Pakistan? And had Pakistan been involved, the US would have unearthed all the alleged connections that the Western Media including even the US officials claim Pakistan had with the militants or with OBL since they had confiscated a lot of valuable digital data from his compound.  On the contrary, the US decided to pocket the credit of entire operation and humiliated Pakistan ‘the non-Nato ally and so called front line state in the WOT. The operation was itself conducted in a manner that gave rise to a lot of conspiracy theories as why the OBL was not put under judicial trial when he was caught alive? Why he was killed and corpse thrown into the Sea? And now the eventual permutation in the bilateral relations between Pakistan and the US has served no good for the cause for which both the countries are making efforts.

Then there is a strong impression in the west that Pakistan created Taliban and used terrorism as an instrument of state policy. The major argument is the support Pakistan provided to Taliban movement and the diplomatic recognition that was accorded to Taliban Government. However, what is totally ignored while stating these allegations is the geo-strategic compulsions and the role played by none other than the US ‘who fought proxy war through creating the entire edifice against whom it had to fight after three decades. I felt my responsibility to give my friend our version of reality.

Why has Pakistan become a Security State? 
In 1947, the leadership of Pakistan was not able to promote its health, education and other developmental areas due to the security threat and uncompromising attitude of India. Therefore, the dominant interest was to preserve its newly found and hard fought independence and national security and which has regrettably continued to influence Pakistan to-date. According to some people, the overriding concern for the political leadership of the country is its safety and sovereignty.

The regional security dilemma that Pakistan was facing was at its peak in 1947. We have had hostile relationships with India, difficult relationships with Afghanistan, almost no relationships with China and strained relationships with the Soviet Union. We had no manufacturing capacity, or capital available to undertake public sector development what to talk of ensuring our security, which was an alarming scenario. China was going through a civil war which created difficulties for it and left the leadership of Pakistan uncertain as to the potential benefits that Pakistan could derive from China. The Soviet Union had its own problems and was not a seriously interested to have Pakistan in its fold. The only available option for seeking economic bail out and military assistance was the United States therefore Pakistan had to side with the US in order to preserve its interests, kick start its economy and seek security guarantees.

The relations with the China were improved significantly due to the wise approach of the contemporary leadership of both sides. Pakistan and China peacefully solved the demarcation of boundary and astonished the world community the way that boundary dispute was settled amicably. Iran had fraternal bonding with Pakistan and under Shah of Iran, Pakistan enjoyed excellent working relationship with Iran. In the aftermath of Islamic Revolution in 1979, there came a brief pause but normalcy returned soon thereafter.

The Soviet’s invasion of Afghanistan on 27th December, 1979 and the Islamic Revolution in Iran changed political landscape of the entire region. The Shah of Iran was considered to be one of the pillars of America in the region. Iran’s challenge has primarily been its clergy, who despised the US policies, coming into positions of power. The Soviet’s invasion of Afghanistan impacted the security situation globally because after the World War II, the Soviet Union and the US had come to a rough understanding: not to interfere with each other’s area of influence or backyards.

The division of backyards as per mutual understanding of big powers took place tacitly. The Soviet troops marched into Hungary in 1956 and marched into Prague in 1958. The US had no problems because they had lent tacit approval to the Soviet invasion meaning thereby that these areas were the backyards of the USSR.

Pakistan and China peacefully solved the demarcation of boundary and astonished the world community the way that boundary dispute was settled amicably.
But since Afghanistan was a non-ally and a neutral country (member of NAM) therefore, Soviet’s invasion created ripples in the global political scene. The dramatic escalation in the Super Powers’ confrontation as a result of the Soviet invasion in Afghanistan turned the tables. So the rules for ‘international conduct’ were violated. Some political scientists of the region felt that the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan was the first step towards access to the warm waters. The entire political scene was roiled up when the region occupied the center stage in political and diplomatic circles and the role of Pakistan gained global attention. Pakistan managed to bring about an end to the Soviet invasion in Afghanistan with the help of the US. But unfortunately after the end of the war, the US ceased all assistance to Pakistan on 1st October 1990 apparently because of pursuing the cause of becoming a nuclear state. The main reason was that since its own interests were served, or at least that what the US thought at that time therefore it was thought convenient to ditch Pakistan unceremoniously; it was done.

The hasty withdrawal took its toll in the form of bloody internecine among the Afghan warlords and ironically the Taliban ‘young graduates of religious seminaries from institutions located near Pak-Afghan border’ managed to restore at least a semblance of peace in the war-torn country. Pakistan found it to be a God sent opportunity to lend recognition and to secure support of a friendly Afghanistan. However, being unskilled and amateur in the art of state craft, the Taliban government soon invited the wrath of entire international community due to their extremist orientation. And eventually, Pakistan had to revise its decision after 9/11 but not without offering wise counsels at various occasions. The rest of the story is now known to everyone. I took a break here as the journey was about to end and my friend thanked me for providing him with a new perspective. I took his appreciation as a compliment but deep inside my conscious, I asked a question to myself: for how long we will continue to swerve from one crisis to another? And for how long each Pakistani has to be defensive about identity?

By: Muhammad Azmat Farooq (CSP)

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