Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and President Barack Obama have their mutual “challenges” cut out for them because they are miles apart on strategic issues.
Both want an end to terrorism. Mr Obama says he seeks to “reduce terrorism in Pakistan” by means of drone strikes that target key terrorist leaders and combatants in FATA. But Mr Sharif says that drone strikes are actually fuelling terrorism because they kill innocent civilians and provide grist for the mills of the Taliban. Mr Obama wants concrete punitive action against the Lashkar-e-Tayba and Jamaat-ul-Dawa for sponsoring the 2008 terrorist attack on Mumbai. But Mr Sharif doesn’t have the will or ability to deliver on this front.
Mr Sharif wants to distinguish between the Afghan Taliban and Pakistani Taliban and fashion separate policies on how to deal with them. The Afghan Taliban are to be facilitated to carve out a significant stake in Afghanistan while the Pakistani Taliban are to be neutralised via “peace talks” predicated on an end to drone strikes. But Mr Obama thinks all Taliban are anti-American partners with Al-Qaeda and must be degraded and destroyed.
Mr Sharif insists that Shakil Afridi is a CIA-sponsored criminal who should be punished for breaking Pakistani laws. But Mr Obama views him as an American hero who helped the US track down and kill the number one terrorist on America’s most wanted hit list. The former wants Afridi to languish in a wretched Pakistani prison while the latter is seeking to rehabilitate him with honours in the promised land.
Mr Sharif sees Dr Afia Siddiqui as a brave Pakistani citizen wrongly accused of terrorism and unfairly sentenced to life imprisonment in America. He wants to bring her home as a national heroine. But Mr Obama judges her as an Al-Qaeda agent who has admitted guilt and been rightly put into prison. A “swap” is not likely to be considered until an extradition treaty is signed and sealed.
Mr Sharif wants America to give greater market access to Pakistani textiles. But Mr Obama is not pushed enough to displease his southern constituents who benefit from current trade practices.
Mr Sharif wants America to nudge India to help resolve Kashmir and other disputes with Pakistan. But Mr Obama is steering clear of any third-party mediation.
Mr Sharif wants America to acknowledge and promote Pakistan’s key role and interest in a “stable, peaceful and united Afghanistan” after the bulk of US forces withdraw from the country next year. But Mr Obama has strongly signaled US interest in helping India, and not Pakistan, play such a role.
Mr Sharif wants to build the Iran-Pakistan gas pipeline to secure his country’s economy. But Mr Obama is determined to block Iranian oil and gas exports until it abandons its nuclear program, and will sanction any country or corporation that does such business with Iran.
The root of the problem is that the Pakistani “national security establishment” (GHQ and ISI) and media have become “anti-America” and America’s “national security establishment” (Pentagon and CIA) and media have become “anti-Pakistan” and both elected political leaders are being held hostage by their powerful establishments. Each has developed a visceral distrust of the other since the end of the cold war between the US and USSR in 1989 eroded the raison d’etre of their anti-communist partnership/alliance and progressively pitted the old concerns of Pakistan (India, Kashmir, strategic depth) with the new interests of America (containing China and expanding markets via strategic and economic investment in India).
But both retain a mutual interest in a working relationship. The US has a short-term interest in, and a long-term concern about, Pakistan. In the short term it wants Pakistan’s cooperation in withdrawing from Afghanistan in an orderly manner. This encompasses two dimensions: securing NATO weapons via the overland Pakistan route; and helping America get a degree of cooperation from the Taliban in ending civil war in post-America Afghanistan. In the longer term, the US is concerned about the spread of terrorism and extremism in the Af-Pak region that could endanger Pakistan’s nukes and India’s security. Pakistan also has immediate and longer-term requirements via a vis the US. It seeks swift US financial reimbursement for the Coalition Support Fund and US backing for a multi-billion IMF bail-out package. In the longer term, Pakistan wants to retain US support and influence to leverage its economic and military security in the region.
But if the challenge is formidable for both estranged partners, the outlook is not necessarily grim. The main architects of misplaced and wrong national security policy in both countries – Generals Pervez Musharraf, Ashfaq Kayani and Ahmed Shuja Pasha in Pakistan, and President George Bush, General David Petreaus and Admiral Mike Mullen in the USA – have retired, opening up the possibility of gainful review by both sides. The most hopeful sign of all is the arrival of Nawaz Sharif, a pragmatic leader determined not to be a prisoner of past national security establishment paradigms.
We have all heard and seen PM Nawaz Sharif speak. We have also seen actions/reactions on the ground in South Asia. How then, Mr. Sethi heralding the arrival of Mr. Sharif as something optimistic, is something hard to comprehend. The rot in Pakistan runs deep. Mere change of characters in the form of a Gen. Musharraf or Gen. Kayani is not going to make an iota of a difference. It wouldn’t be wrong to say that Pakistani security establishment has become blinded by its hate for India and its fixation with Kashmir. When such a scenario envelops an institution as a whole, the result is usually an unmitigated disaster. The last time this situation arose, it resulted in Pakistan being split into two. And there was someone of the caliber of ZAB to pick up the pieces. Unfortunately this time, the pieces might just be too many to pick up and there is no ZAB on the horizon either.
IF we know it correctly, Nawaz was elected to rule by people’s verdict, and not by taliban’ s support. No indication that people of pakistan are madly in love with terrorists who have killed them in hundreds. Rest of the world will be more happy and comfortable if taliban is neutralized. why then Nawaz wants to be its spokesmen. will he lose his job if taliban is silenced. other than IMRAN who wants to tango with taliban in Pakistan. Unable to understand. The entire nation is against taliban, except for Nawaz and Imran. the rulers are more keen to please taliban than to protect its poor scared people who cannot walk freely anywhere without fear of being blasted. who is compelling him to surrender to evil forces. this may please be explored and explained. A snake is a snake. a taliban is a taliban. why he is losing TIME and energy in misleading the poor people.
how can India shake hands when he shields the murderers . This editorial would have clarified the minds of policy makers in india. we will be careful. we will keep our distance. We cannot trust him. He is not having clear vision regarding what is good for his people. how can he be good for his neighbors. our Hope shattered.
Are you sure that Nawaz Sharif can go all the way to face and counter the dominant narrative that has painstakingly propagated and now have protagonists in millions and above all the backing and support of security establishment. The political power and economic interests of the reinvigorated religious establishment is completely dependent on this warped ideology. Do you really believe that Nawaz Sharif can pull his muscles and courage together and challenge- which he must- these two establishments head on? So far the omens are not that promising.
brilliant analysis! spot on and god speed nawaz sharif!
What a superficial analysis on the ability of Nawaz Sharif who is completlely devoid of any strategic thinking plus having a very corrupt legacy the whole world aware of.
I would not set my hopes very high from Nawaz Sharief. It is not his fault either! In my opinion Pakistan’s troubles stem from Pakistan’s policies . Policies that have their basis in the creation of Pakistan itself. Basically if friendship and normalization of relations with India are pursued , it may benefit people of Pakistan immensely but will erode the concept of Pakistan faster. The “establishment” understands this and hence no matter who comes in or goes out of power, they will have to continue with the “security state”. Till such time when history decides one way or the other.
The picture presented by Mr. Sethi in his article in respect of Pak America relationship seems correct but the question is that how to bridge this gulf which exist between countries. It is the obligation of both the leaders of two countries to carve out a plan to bridge this gulf and remove despair. Mr. Sharif has to curb taliban phenomena. If he does do so, he will loose support of the public rapidly which has elected him to get their problem resolved. His inaction towards taliban is already spreading despondency amongst the people.
Today what mayhem we are facing in Pakistan is because of policies of establishment. Now the confusion at societal and state level is very deep and it has assumed responses of cowardice and apologies on questions of existential threats to country. Nawaz Sharif is not as daring and pragmatic as Benazir but he is among the very few politicians who have comparatively a better understanding of country. The foremost precondition to any national issue is change of India centric syndrome. For army as an institution it is very difficult to unlearn what it has been propagating since 47.
Yes Nawaz Sharif is an excellent understanding of Punjab only & that is what only he wants to understand. All the major geo poiltical players also know it very well and that is why Pakistan is in a big mess & will remain so.
Why our leaders do not understand that our problems and challenges are of our own making and that only we can solve these by internal corrections. Help from out side is the least critical part of remedy. The only way others in the world will find worth their while to be interested in us, or even bother to listen to us, is when we are seen as sane, sensible, just and functional society in line with our time and an asset to community of humans on earth. Just a few examples of failings that all can see.
1. If we do not want the Taliban types to rule, or be a party to governance, in our country, why we are not against such type of thing happening in any other country?
2. Why don’t we match our hunger for imported things to our ability to export? (The increase in export has to come first. Increase in imports should only come later.)
3. Why do we accept a situation of one of the lowest tax to GDP ratio in the world and still aspire for a functional modern nation state?
4. Why do we forget that Rida wars were also about important observation of mandatory taxation when we talk about ethos of early state at Medina.
4.Why our state revenues do not have the type of direct and indirect blend that most reasonably just societies have? With such a glaring advertisement of economic injustice why do we hope for respect and empathy from more just societies?
5. Why we have become acutely “Internally Colonized” country? Why, when from our economy the net capital formation (Profit from business — (Taxed as well Untaxed ) and tax free loot of corruption) is being flown and parked abroad by our own citizens, we are spending time and money to attract inflow of capital from foreigners?
6. Why don’t we realize that foreign investment is like taking expensive perpetual loan and nations only welcome these for being medium of inducting know and technology? The core development only arises from internal savings and foreign investments only flow in to take advantage of better yields in an already growing economy. When capital formed from economy by our own people is flowing out of country no genuine foreign investment will flow in.
7. Why do we have ghost schools, ghost health clinics, ghost health visitors, ghost food and hygiene inspectors, etc., etc. when the state establishment is fully manned for preventing such things? One even suspects that net quality production of our public funded schools is lower than when the British left.
7. Why our Railways and Irrigation networks, leave alone expansion and modernization, could not be remain at least at the same state of functionality as the British had left these when each had also inherited from the British its own revenue generation base?
8. Why our judicial system suffer from “non-deliverance” disease, of more acute variety than any other organ of state? Does this also need foreign exchange? And, why the system can not even make “officers of the court”, the lawyers, law abiding, law supporting, honest tax paying individuals? (It can not even think of asking for mandatory affidavit NTN and amount of legal fee charged from the lawyers with each “wakaltnama” for a case, and so most officers of the court that appear before the courts, with unclean hands, to argue point of law, constitutionality, equity, morality and ethics.)
9. Why our civil law enforcement system has become so perverted that innocent citizens are scared of it and criminals have become bolder?
10. Why do we allow people who had ever associated themselves with dictators to play “democracy democracy” game in parliaments under democracy? Democratic systems only allows politician without any visible blemish. Observing it should not be a problem in our high population growth country.
11. Why do we indirectly legitimize past dictatorships by not “single stroke annulment” of all insertions and validations in our Constitution and the statute placed on law books of past dictators? (Any vacuum by such gesture of final burial could be filled by fresh legislation by parliament not polluted by shadow of democracy.)
12. Why our legislatures are more seized with disputes about share in fruits of power and not abuzz with legislation that seeks to implement other contents of constitution (Education, Justice, Equality, Etc., Etc.) and to remedy our national ills at fast track?
13. Why our prevailing “narratives” are bent upon to create mind sets as if we were a Middle Eastern country, while actually we are a part of Subcontinent of India (Or, Hind) located on top of Indian tectonic plate of the earth crust.
One can list hundreds of simple acts of organizing, thrust of action and control that do not need foreign aid, or loans or expert advise to put our house in order to make us functional and forward moving country. All that is required is clarity, will to act and courage not to compromise. Once we do that, we will be surprised how well other treat us and how willingly they will help us.
List of whys and whys. why because …… jinna died soon without training second line of leaders. Liquat ali was murdered . Ambitious Ayup usurped without ability, knowledge, wisdom and skill. blundered in the choice of young, arrogant maveric Bhutto who buried Ayup 100 feet deep.
yaya trusted Tikka . Tikka boiled Bengalis . Mujib was harassed. urudu was forced. Bhutto was jealous of Mujib . Refused to accept him as PM . Conspired with generals. banana was split into two.
greatest tragedy. zia swallowed half of banana. brainwashed uneducated poor mass with religious massacre with blasphemy laws . hung the potential revenge taker. crashed to the relief of the nation and the world. for once almighty was kind.
Nawaj committed the blunder. made a wrong choice. enjoyed the hospitality of saudi . the commando wanted the world to believe he is the only commando in the world. kargil showed his true worth. failed to protect the hope of the nation Benazir
zardari mastered trouble free work free, result free, progress free, improvement free happy go lucky presidential palace life while taliban was eating the nation bit by bit like cancer
Nawaz came again. busy in forming committees after committees . visiting obama begging , pl stop the drones sir, my friend Imran is annoyed.
we are against taliban. but we are friendly too as they are our own kith and kins. yes hundreds are killed. but there is enough population. they will be given office, govt cars, phones etc. we will accept their demands. we will stop schools for girls. they will learn on line. Malala will excuse . not to worry.
this is what pakistan in the last 67 years.
pl pin point one administrator who planned for progressive pakistan.
these may be the answers to whys and whys