Our moment of truth


As the danger of Gulf War-II, looms large in the Middle East, many believe, rightly, it would be an unjust and unnecessary war. Nevertheless, to US it is unstoppable and now only it is ‘the question of when and how’. Corporate America sees to it as part of ‘opportunity of the century’ to expand neo-imperialism. Governments around the world are worried either about the US arrogance or the fallout of war.

However, the dilemma faced by Pakistan, in regard to our equation with US, is unique: at official level we are ‘close ally’, but in the mainstream American media we are projected as a prime suspect for proliferation of ‘nukes’ and terrorism. The Opposition flays the government for her ‘slavish’ attitude. While the regime’s concern is to avoid the heat after Iraq. In such emotionally charged environment, public discourse goes on in terms of ‘defiance’ or ‘compliance’, to the American wishes. While most commentators agree that Pakistan is facing the worst ever crisis of her existence, both internally and externally. Should not we reappraise our foreign policy and its undercurrents?

Certain features of contemporary world must be recognized: the line between domestic and international affairs has become too blurred, a nation state has to match her wish list with its capabilities. Both assertions imply that sovereignty and equality of state are theoretical concepts, not reality of anarchical world order. Men are equal, is widely accepted principle, yet everybody understands the fact that some are more equal than others are. Capabilities determine influence of men and likewise of states over others. Whether one likes or dislikes, politics remains about power. Certainly, there are violations of rights and injustice, largely committed by powerful. Can we change the world just by noble wishes? No. It needs sustained collective effort to make the world a better place. Nevertheless, we can only do something meaningful in our part of the globe–this is our ‘sphere of action’. The rest might be our ‘sphere of concern’; still we can do little in this regard. It doesn’t suggest isolation. The emphasis should be the nucleus of our activities. Being a member of world community, we are naturally concerned about the happenings all around. We must do what ever we can to stop injustice and crimes against humanity. Our area of action is our homeland, where our efforts to promote such noble causes can surely bring some tangible improvement. We cannot change the world but ourselves. However, we must be mindful of the fact that we are not in the position to impose our worldview. Capacity to influence the world affairs is positively linked to the power of an actor. Besides military power, a country needs to develop human resources, economy, participatory political system, national character, and credibility, to live with honour and clout. Here lies our ‘sphere of action’ –where we can translate our ideas of justice, democracy, and human rights into concrete reality. Without analyzing our performance, just talking about the lofty principles makes little sense.

So far, we have shown a little seriousness in our own nation building. Moving from crisis to crisis without learning any lesson, is our collective national history. We explain our failures through ‘conspiracy theories’ or scapegoating. A combination of false pride and virtual impotence keeps us deaf and dump to resounding realities around us.

In regards to external environment, we need to understand the dynamics of international politics, how does it work? What are the sources of relative strength and weakness of nations, and above all, where do we stand in this hierarchy of power?

Let us for the moment set a side the greedy designs of the US–to capture oil and gas fields of Iraq and might be beyond it too. Mere passing a value judgment could not deter America as no empire has ever been deterred in past, only by invoking morality and principles.

From Khilafat movement to Jihad with the Taliban, and from Gibraltar to Kargil, betray our poor sense of currents of history. We lost half of our country without asking why and how? Rather we interpreted the dismemberment of Pakistan by blaming ‘external and internal conspirators’. A former federal secretary Hasan Zaheer in his commendable work titled ‘Separation of East Pakistan’ has done a great service to us. Nevertheless, we have no patience for such logical and scientific analysis. Conspiracy theories and blame games serve our purposes well – to feed easy explanations and to escape hard work. This is how we always absolve ourselves of responsibility and accountability for our own failures.

When, aftershocks of September 11 brought to us our moment of truth. We were forced to make a fateful choice: whether we follow an enlightened and progressive course as per vision of Jinnah or to continue a retrogressive way leading to self-destruction. Had we taken a wise course we would have not been exposed to question like: whether you are with us or against us’. This situation was the direct fall out of our obsession with the romantic notions related to our self-identity, ideology, and role in the world.

What is in the store for us after Iraq? We are being ‘reminded’ of our ‘unfulfilled pledges’ by the US State Department. As a self-respecting nation, we should not have to be reminded by others about ‘the right path’. However, I am afraid we might be forced yet again to ‘rediscover’ Jinnah’s progressive and liberal vision–as a ‘refuge’. Let us make our own choice: whether we want ‘Talibanism’ or vision of founding fathers. It’s better to come out with clear conscience than being perceived as ‘taking U-turn’ under the external pressure. Courage to face realities is greater than raising hollow slogans. We can only build a stronger Pakistan from within.