The APC And After

The patriotic politicians met at the All Parties Conference (APC), held at the Prime Minister’s residence, to deal with the American challenge to Pakistan.

The proposal for the conference emanated from the GHQ. Kayani and two other key generals attended the meeting. It was preceded by a special consultation of the Corps Commanders, last Sunday.

Marked absentees were PPP Co-Chairman Asif Ali Zardari, the Baloch leaders and Mumtaz Bhutto – (the latter two were not invited).

The draft resolution prepared by the ruling party was rejected. However, the revised resolution, which was approved unanimously, has much to do with the tough talk that came from Nawaz Sharif, Imran Khan and Chaudhry Nisar. Let us look at the text of the resolution. The major points are:

i There has to be a new direction and policy with a focus on peace and reconciliation. “Give peace a chance” must be the guiding principle henceforth. Pakistan must initiate dialogue with a view to negotiate peace with our own people in the tribal areas and a proper mechanism for this should be put in place.

i National interests are supreme and shall guide Pakistan’s policy and response to all challenges at all times (this includes defence of the country’s sovereignty and territorial integrity).

i APC rejected the recent assertions and baseless allegations made against Pakistan. Such assertions are without substance and derogatory to a partnership approach. Also, that Pakistani nation affirms its full solidarity and support for the armed forces in defeating any threat to national security.

i A Parliamentary Committee be formed to oversee the implementation of earlier (parliamentary) resolutions, as well as this resolution and progress on it be made public on a monthly basis.

(Interesting to see that there is no reference either to the US or the Haqqani group in the resolution.)

The resolution – as worded – is a clear reversal of the existing policy of carrying on military operations. It reflects squarely the thinking and approach of Imran Khan and, to a considerable extent, the PML-N.

The past record of the ruling party and its top leadership, however, leaves little doubt that the commitments made in the resolution would be fulfilled. Recall the Co-Chairman’s solemn promises to restore the Supreme Court judges and how the PML-N kept pursuing him without any success. What made the PPP Chief yield were the Long March and a nod from the Army Chief.

Again look at the parliamentary resolutions of 2009 and 2011, and how a mockery has been made of the solemn pledges and how the Joint Parliamentary Committee on National Security has been virtually reduced to a farce.

We all know where the power really lies. There is nothing in the resolution to establish that the armed forces specifically are bound to strictly adhere to the change in policy and consequent implementation of the new approach.

Apart from the ruling party’s past record of deviation from the committed course of action and GHQ’s predominant position, there is the widespread acceptance at the international level of Pakistan’s alleged complicity with terrorist groups. Whatever be our thinking or feeling, the rest of the world (egged on by anti-Pakistan countries and elements) considers that Pakistan is the “epicentre” of international terrorism. Admiral Mullen’s latest remarks in an interview on Wednesday with the National Public Radio merit notice. Said Mullen, he “phrased it (his Senate statement) the way I wanted it to be phrased” and would change “not a word”. He reiterated the charge of ISI supporting the “Haqqani network” financially and logistically, a group which is “intently focused right now on killing the Americans.”

While Nawaz Sharif was alert enough at the APC to seek the truth about ISI’s relationship with Haqqani, GHQ’s denial needs clarification. We have to have convincing evidence and clearly spelt out facts, both for ourselves and the world at large.

Because of the attendant compelling context and circumstances, both the USA and Pakistan cannot afford open hostilities. The stand taken by the politicians in favour of Pakistan’s army has persuaded the White House to play down Mullen’s diatribe. It is, however, very much in our own interest, if we come clean about our strategies and linkages with the actors in the field in Pakistan and Afghanistan. To come out with the truth about our interests and policy, we have to come to terms with our economic and governance weaknesses and vulnerabilities. All this tall talk of “self-reliance”, curbing, corruption and not bothering about aid and strings attached to it, will remain meaningless, unless we honestly and seriously begin to put our owm house in order. For that we need to have, inter alia, a straightforward electoral setup that can provide a robust assurance of free and fair elections.

It will help if a joint government and opposition high-level group is established, including the PM, Finance and Foreign Ministers, PML-N and ANP senior leaders, Imran Khan and Maulana Fazalur Rehman, which may hold meetings with the top brass and develop a viable brief for discussions with Washington and Kabul. Thereafter, the group members should visit Afghanistan, UK, Turkey, China and USA with a view to holding an extended dialogue with Congressmen and US administration’s senior functionaries. This initiative should be accompanied by ‘public diplomacy’ involving the media, intellectuals and civil society luminaries. They should meet the makers and shapers of US policy and, in particular, think-tanks, influential university professors and leading columnists. Funds should also be earmarked for buying time on popular TV channels in USA and UK.

As stated earlier, we must know the truth, clearly identify our interests, realise where we stand, take stock of our strength and weaknesses, and formulate short- and long-term policies and plans. And using these facts and factors to formulate our agenda and brief for discussing issues with foreign powers.

Unless steps are taken to ensure the realisation of the letter and spirit of the APC resolution and some of the suggestions made above, they will remain an empty rhetoric. Can Nawaz Sharif and Imran Khan pin the PPP and the GHQ down to faithfully implement fully the APC resolution?!