Peace Loving Country Determined to Live at Peace with Itself and with the Rest of the World
The Jangir World Times (JWT): A few words about you, your early life and career?
As a student I was actively involved in the College debating team and won several individual prizes and trophies in inter-collegiate and inter-university contests. I am also recipient of Rolls of Honour for academic distinctions and for services to the College Union as President, and as a member of the College debating teams. I was elected President of Government College Students Union in 1961-62.
I joined Pakistan Foreign Service in 1965 through the All-Pakistan Civil services Examination. At professional level, I served in various posts at headquarters in Islamabad as well as in Pakistan Missions at Tehran, Dakar, Paris, Washington, and New York. (1967-1987). My ambassadorial assignments included as Pakistan’s Ambassador to South Korea (1987-1990), to Iran (1990-1992), as Secretary-General, Economic Cooperation Organization (ECO) (1992-1996), and as Pakistan’s Ambassador and Permanent Representative to the UN (2000-2002).
I was Pakistan’s Foreign Secretary (1997-2000). In this capacity, I played a key role in stabilization of the regional situation by negotiating in June 1997 an India-Pakistan peace process familiarly known as ‘Composite Dialogue.’ I was also associated with the finalization of the Lahore Declaration (February, 1999) on the occasion of the India-Pakistan Lahore Summit on improving India-Pakistan relations and on mutual CBMs in areas of peace and security.
After South Asia’s overt nuclearization in May 1998, I had an eight- round dialogue with my US counterpart, Strobe Talbott on ‘nuclear restraint and stabilization’ in South Asia. During my tenure as Ambassador to the UN, I co-chaired UN’s Prep Com on Financing for Development (Ffd) and UN General Assembly’s Working Group on Conflict Resolution and Sustainable Development in Africa (2000-2002).
As Secretary General of the Economic Cooperation Organisation (ECO), I was instrumental in its transformation from a trilateral entity (Iran, Pakistan and Turkey) into a large 10-mmber regional cooperation organization with the induction of seven new members (Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmen-istan, and Uzbekistan, and developed several regional cooperation plans and projects including ECO Trade & Development Bank, ECO Reinsurance Company, ECO Shipping Company, ECO Air, ECO Science Foundation, and ECO Cultural Institute, as well as conclusion of two regional agreements, one on transit trade and the other on simplification of visa procedure for businessmen of ECO countries. I played key role in development of regional infrastructure plans to link member states with each other and with the outside world, including the Quetta Plan of Action and the Almaty Plan of Action.
JWT: Who determines the Foreign Policy of Pakistan the GHQ, the presidency or the United States?
S A: Actually, foreign policy of a country is always predicated on where it wants to go as an independent and sovereign stare.Individuals are not important as far as the making of foreign policy is concerned. In fact, foreign policy is not a manuscript with a set of written points; it is the sum total of a country’s values that must guide its conduct in the comity of nations and also represents a set of political, economic and strategic goals that a country seeks to pursue, bilaterally or multilaterally, in its relations with other countries of the world.
Actually, there are many misconceptions about foreign policy making in Pakistan. We often misunderstand the realities of foreign policy, and tend to overplay the role of military or so-called ‘establishment in its formulation and execution. Foreign policy of every country is inextricably linked to its national security, and no foreign policy is complete without the involvement of its national security agencies’ input. For example, in our case, on issues of national security, our GHQ and intelligence agencies have an indispensable role. This is the case with every country. Even in the United States, their State department cannot operate without the support of their intelligence network.
JWT: What is your impression about the Foreign Policy of Pakistan since the beginning till today?
S A: When we became independent in 1947, we were a house divided not against itself but by more than 1000 miles of hostile India’s territory. The world itself was divided in two rival and mutually hostile blocs presenting our foreign policy with a difficult choice; either align with the free world represented at that time by Western democracies or accept subservience to the authoritarian and monolithic Communist system.
We were also confronted with the stark reality of our geo-political environment that made Pakistan’s relations with India the ‘centre-point’ of our foreign policy. This equation, with all its ramifications, has had a fundamental impact on our domestic matters, on our security policy, on our international relations, and indeed, on the course of our entire post-independence history.
In June 1949, our acceptance of Stalin’s invitation to our prime minister to visit Moscow was quickly matched with a similar invitation for Liaquat Ali Khan to visit Washington. We immediately got sucked into the cold war struggle, and thanks to the old imperial connections at the civil-military official level, Liaquat Ali Khan set aside the invitation to visit Moscow and chose instead to go to Washington in May 1950. What followed that fateful decision is history.
In the early 50s, with growing concern about India’s designs against our independence, we entered into a ‘mutual defense agreement’ with the US (1954) and by 1955 we had joined two major Western alliances, SEATO and CENTO in the hope that they will provide strength to us in our quest for survival. This is how we started our long association with the ‘free world’ in pursuit of what we thought were ‘common goals and shared values.’
This policy decision did not emanate from any institutional process. A personalized approach by the then prime minister with the support of pro-American civil-military establishment in Pakistan led by Ghulam Mohammad laid the foundation of Pakistan’s policy of long association with the ‘free world.’ This was no doubt a clear expression of our choice for freedom and for security. Our experience, however, did not match our expectations. The reason is, when it came to defending ourselves against India in 1965 and then again in 1971, we were left all alone, and in the process lost half the country. That was the worst that could happen to any independent country in contemporary history.
Once the war was over and the Soviets pulled out, the US just walked away, leaving Afghanistan and its people at the mercy of their fate. We were also left in the lurch, with a painful legacy in terms of a massive refugee influx and a culture of drugs and guns, commonly known as the “Kalashnikov” culture, which has almost torn apart our social and political fabric.
Furthermore, the events of 9/11 represented a critical threshold in Pakistan’s foreign policy. Gen Musharraf was among the first foreign leaders to have received a clarion call from Washington. “You’re either with us or against us,” was the message. Pakistan faced the worst dilemma of its life. It did not know which way to go, and which way not to. Its options were limited and bleak. Since then, Pakistan is once again a frontline state, and a pivotal partner of the United States in its war on terror. As a battleground of this war, Pakistan could not escape the fall out of the crisis in the form of a heavy toll on its already volatile socio-economic environment.
It is obvious that Pakistan’s post-9/11 ‘turnaround’ was not the result of any considered institutional policy review. There was no parliament in place at that time. There were no consultations at any level, nor did the military government make any visible effort to build a political or quasi-political consensus on abandoning its policy which for more than two decades had constituted the mainstay of its strategic end-game in the region.
Thus, the sum-total of Pakistan’s post-9/11 foreign policy is its new identity on the global radar screen as the ‘hotbed’ of religious. extremism and terrorism, and its frontline role as the ‘ground zero’ of the war on terror, which has not only made it the focus of world attention and anxiety but also forced it to make difficult choices in its perennial struggle for security and survival as an independent state.
JWT: What was the role of the Foreign office during Kargil crisis?
S A: I think, no Foreign Office in the world had a more challenging task to perform during that critical time. We did our utmost on the diplomatic front to counter the adverse reaction from the world community. The world saw it as a Pakistan-sponsored act of deliberate intrusion of the internationally acknowledged line of control. Major Powers, blamed us for the ‘intrusion’ and were getting restless over the prospect of a wider conflict in a nuclear environment. It was no longer an India-Pakistan affair. The major powers were worried and asked us to back off.
JWT: What would you say on the issue of reforms in the security council of United Nations?
S A: Well, the reform of Security Council is a complex issue and has been the subject of protracted discussions at the UN for over a decade. Now actually, the vast majority of the UN members would like to see the Security Council democratized through comprehensive reform encompassing its enlargement, process of decision-making including the question of the veto and the working methods of the council.
In fact, the UN Secretary General’s reform panel proposed two alternatives in this context both of which sought to expand the membership of the Security Council from fifteen to twenty four. One which involves six new permanent members without veto and three new non-permanent members, and the other one suggests eight new four-year-term renewable seats. However, a deadlock situation now prevails with a large number of UN member-states (including Pakistan) opposing any expansion in the permanent category while calling for increase only in non-permanent seats.
The present five permanent members known as P-5, with the exception of China, are not opposed to the creation of new permanent seats but are not ready to share their veto power.
JWT: To which extent complex equation of Civil-Military relations affects foreign policy of Pakistan.
S A: Well, for much of our history, Pakistan’s foreign policy agenda has been shaped by a ‘civil- military complex of power’ reflecting the preferences and interests of our ruling elite and special interest groups. The balance of power between the civil and military bureaucracy kept changing but it was they who invariably controlled our policies on such crucial issues as relations with India, China, US, the Gulf States and the nuclear issue.
Furthermore, on vital aspects of these issues, policy-formulation and management has by and large remained the concern of those who wield military power in the country. In many cases, non-institutional processes bypassing elected leaders and bodies were instrumental in laying down policies that did not stand the test of time, and had to be re-adjusted or reversed altogether. History alone will judge why and how we adopted those policies.
However, the Foreign Office on its part has been making its own professional contributions as an input in policy-formulation. It has also been providing the requisite professional expertise and diplomatic skills in its execution. In my view, our conventional diplomacy functioned well in the stable international environment and a period of relative internal calm and economic certainty but the world has changed and so have we.
But like the rest of the civil bureaucracy, the Foreign office too was sucked into the policy vacuum. It was a pity because it did have, and continues to have, outstanding professionals, and yet it became a faint voice in a political landscape crowded by personalities running autonomous and maverick foreign policy establishments sanctioned or unrestrained by politically weak governments.
In the ultimate analysis, our problems are not external. Our problems are domestic. Our foremost priority is to fix the fundamentals of our state. The country must return to genuine democracy rooted in the will of the people and based on constitutional supremacy, independence of judiciary, and the rule of law.
My vision of the future of Pakistan is one in which democracy, not dictatorship will endure. My vision for Pakistan is to make it strong and a responsible, peace loving country determined to live at peace with itself and with the rest of the world. No wars, no militancy under any name or on any pretext. We need a Pakistan in which economic growth and social justice reinforce each other, a Pakistan where hunger, disease, illiteracy, violence, obscurantism, crime and corruption are banished for ever.
Governance in the new Pakistan must be based on institutionalised decision-making, rule of law, justice, equality and property rights for all without regard to an individual’s family background, religious beliefs, official position or economic status; and safeguarding of contracts, economic transactions and property rights.
We, like most developing countries, are not fit for a parliamentary system. Britain struggled for centuries to reach its current parliamentary status. For us, it would be too long and too arduous a journey to be in definitely chasing illusory goals. Temperamentally, we are a ‘presidential’ nation. It is time we abandoned the system that we have never been able to practice, and explored an adult franchise-based ‘presidential system’ suitably designed for and tailored to Pakistan’s needs.
We also need restructuring of the federal system and basic changes in the country’s administrative infrastructure ensuring provincial harmony through redressal of systemic aberrations and removal of the underlying causes of injustice and inequality in terms of economic resources and political power.
We need many more sweeping changes in our privilege-based culture. Lavish spending in civil and military establishments must be curbed. The system of provision of official transport (vehicles of any type) at government expense to public officials at all levels and parliamentarians to be abolished by monetizing the facility in appropriate terms. The system of staff cars shall be rationalized to prevent abuse of this facility.
Governance of the country needs to be based on institutinalised decision-making, rule of law, justice, equality and property rights for all .There shall be zero tolerance for militancy under any name or on any pretext.
No piece of land in any part of the country shall be gifted or leased for any purpose to foreign rulers and countries. The sanctity of Pakistan’s territorial integrity shall be observed with no relaxation or exemption. No more ‘Shamsi Bases.
Also, our political parties need to be remade through mandatory democratization involving intra-party elections by secret ballot and elimination of hereditary succession of leadership, strict adherence to their constitutions and programs as well as observance of party discipline, codes of conduct, ethical standards and integrity.
Self-reliance, simplicity and austerity should be the cardinal principles. Loans are not capital; they are a liability. We must stop depending on this liability as a matter of state policy.
No one with foreign or dual nationality shall be eligible to hold elected or non-elected public office in Pakistan or seek election to elected assemblies and local councils or be appointed in the civil and military services of the country.
Gender equality and empowerment of women as well as employment opportunities for the country’s youth will be promoted as an essential means of combating poverty and stimulating sustainable development.