Democracy to Determine New Pakistan-U.S. Ties

The people’s mandate of February 18 has ushered Pakistan into a new era of democratic order, which demands a fresh look to establish a meaningful Pak-US relationship. However, we have to be mindful of some US scholars and opinion makers, such as Arnaud de Borchgrave, the editor of Washington Times and United Press who refuse to accept the changed politico-social realities in Pakistan. His article which recently appeared in our national daily, smacks of old prejudices and the mindset which has caused much damage to Pak-US relations.

A few extracts from his article, titled: Pak Forces align against US are interesting: “Washington’s Pakistan kibitzers will soon rue the day, they squeezed President Pervez Musharraf to restore democracy. ‘Democracy’ is what has now emerged, or an unholy alliance of long-time America haters. Acting as behind-the-scenes catalysts are two prominent America-haters, Gen Aslam Beg, former army chief of staff (1988-91) and Gen Hamid Gul. Both Beg and Gul are strongly opposed to military action, encouraged by the United States, against Taliban and Al-Qaeda safe heavens’ in the tribal areas along the Afghan border. What the United States and Britain describe as Taliban ‘terrorists’, according to the two generals, are the ‘freedom fighters’ of a ‘Muslim world facing unprecedented oppression and injustice’. The new behind-the-scenes godfather of this broad-based, anti-US coalition is Nawaz Sharif, chief of the Pakistan Muslim League. This also puts Kiyani in a quandary. Musharraf has handed over his military powers, along with a Rubik’s Cube.”

In fact, such moanings betray their utter disappointment and failure to bring-about the “regime change in Pakistan according to US plans.” In this regard, the first setback they suffered, when Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto rejected the deal with General Musharraf. She was then considered dispensable, hence removed from the scene. The second disappointment they faced; after the landmark judgment of February 18 by the Pakistani nation, which defeated ‘Musharraf’s Coalition’, hollow. And the final nail in the coffin was driven by the Murree Declaration of the grand coalition between Peoples Party and Muslim League. The credit being given to me and others for masterminding this coalition is rather surprising. I wish, it was true and we could repeat such mistakes again and again. Surprisingly the author is also skeptical about General Kiyani who kept the army away from the elections process, particularly the intelligence agencies, which made the real difference.

I have been branded as an American hater. Far from it. However, the fact cannot be denied that since 1979, 1 have opposed and disagreed, as a matter of faith and belief, with policies and plans, considered detrimental to Pakistan’s interests, such as:

In 1979, I was the only general who opposed the hanging of Bhutto in the Corps Commander Conference, because, it was unjust and at the behest of USA and a political disaster for Pakistan. In 1979, I opposed Gen Zia’s policy to support the Iraqi invasion of Iran, in a cabinet meeting, because it was not our war. Iran, our brotherly country needed our support but we did not come forward. In 1988, in a meeting with the president and the prime minister, I opposed the signing of the Geneva Accord, without determining the modalities for a peaceful transfer of power to the Afghan mujahideen.

The consequences of signing the accord, we continue to suffer. In 1991, in a cabinet meeting, I opposed Mr Nawaz Sharif’s policy of supporting US war on Iraq, because it was a direct assault on the heartland of the Muslim world and control of oil resources. Since 1999, I have continued to oppose the military take over and regime change at the behest of USA. Since 2001, I have no contact with General Musharraf, because, I opposed the government policy to join the American war against Afghanistan because, it was not our war. The so-called war on terror is ill-conceived and unjust against the people of Iraq and Afghanistan fighting for the liberation of their homeland. In all the cases mentioned above, I stand vindicated. The February 18 verdict by the people of Pakistan is an eloquent testimony to my contentions.

Unfortunately, scholars like Arnaud de Borchgrave, who have much influence on policy decision making in the United States, are responsible for the reverses suffered in Iraq and Afghanistan and now are trying to spoil the relations, when the real opportunity has emerged to carve out a new and meaningful relationship between Pakistan and USA. Pakistan is experiencing a peaceful transition to a democratic order. At this juncture, Pakistan definitely needs the support of United States, to tide-over the innumerable problems inherited from the past regime

Last year, after the deposition of the chief justice, countrywide agitation started led by the bar, the bench and the media, heralding the democratic revolution for change. That change has occurred now. A sovereign parliament has been sworn-in and an independent judiciary will soon be established to guarantee the supremacy of the constitution and rule of law. This change offers the opportunity to engage with the new leadership of Pakistan which is not anti-American.

The people of Pakistan are not anti-American, nor the armed forces of Pakistan are against development of best of relations with the United States. In fact they all desire relationship on the basis of mutual self-respect, national honour and dignity, which were so ruthlessly sacrificed on the altar of expediency by the previous regime. The day of reckoning has arrived to make a new beginning for the sake of a meaningful Pak-US relationship. Negroponte and Boucher are in town to witness the transition to democracy and the mood of the Pakistani nation, which has altogether rejected extremism and dictatorship and has created a sovereign parliament, as the guarantee for an independent judiciary and the rule of law. The ‘regime change’ has occurred, as an exclusive privilege of ours after a long period of trouble and turmoil – a status, which cannot be changed through manipulations or intrigues.

It is essential, that Henry Kissinger’s words of wisdom, are heeded to: “At this point, any attempt to manipulate the political process that we have urged is likely to backfire. A wise policy must recognise that the internal structure of Pakistani politics is essentially out of the control of American political decision-making. Construction of a centrist coalition is a commendable goal, but the conditions for it can only be nurtured by Pakistani political forces and in the absence of a centre, require patience over a period of time.”

He further opines: “A starting point is to reconcile ambivalent American attitudes at home is difficult as it may be during an election campaign. We do not have the choice between national security and democratic evolution. Both are important objectives but may be achievable only on different time scales.”

USA’s credibility hinges on the fact, how sincerely it views the culture of democracy, which indeed is very vital for Pakistan. Democracy has created the real stir and mobilises people towards new dynamism. Dictatorship only breeds apathy and cynicism. Late Zulfikar Ali Bhutto made an outstanding comment, as if endorsing the verdict of February 18, 2008: “The chaos of democracy presents in its tumult, greater inherent stability, than the mortal silence of our dictatorship.”

The writer is chairman FRIENDS

E-mail: fr786pak@isb pk

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