Pakistan’s founder Quaid-e-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah made it clear unequivocally soon after partition that religion shall have nothing to do with the business of the state in Pakistan. His was not just merely a reiteration of the fact that religion has to be a personal affair but it was more of a statement of far reaching consequences on the conduct of the affairs of the state on the whole. More so as British statesman Lord Palmerston observed: “Nations have no permanent friends or allies, they only have permanent interests.”
Every nation, irrespective of religion its people follow, conducts among other things, its foreign relations on the basis of the fact that there are no permanent friends, only permanent interests. Regretfully, the quixotic idea of states being established on the basis of religion is only heard in Pakistan raised by the bigoted.
Obviously the sound basis of a dynamic foreign policy can only be engineered by pragmatism, self interest of the nation and not individual whims. Our friends, who are custodians of the Holy Places, where this year on the occasion of Hajj no mention was made of the tragic state of affairs in the Indian occupied Kashmir--have lent credence to this fact that religion is secondary. Not that Pakistan is no more liked by them. Their growing relations with India have replaced their fraternal emotional impulses to realpolitik—a fundamental principle in all foreign policies.
Writing a piece when General Ziaul Haq was negotiating to be the front rank leader to pursue American geostrategic interests in the region, against erstwhile Soviet Union, I had forewarned that when two elephants fight, toads get crushed. Regretfully we continue to reap the bitter harvest of the seeds sowed then. And tragically in the process we have made Pakistan what President Obama says- a dysfunctional state.
As a student of international relations one often came across an observation that when a country’s writ ceases to operate on its borders, its ceases to be sovereign. And of course the most common principle learnt is a country’s external strength lies not only on its domestic prowess but how good its relations are with its neighbours. Lastly, old granny always said: as you sow so shall you reap. When we became a proxy for the United States in the eighties we could not visualise where it would us lead to be in the 21st century.
One could be more candid in calling a spade a spade rather than beat about the bush in between the lines. Succinctly put and with a heavy heart, Pakistan does not have a foreign policy. Its leadership is clueless and the country directionless. Everyone who matters—whether civilian or in uniform-thinks he or she is the last word. Martyred Benazir Bhutto in her last days firmly believed that Pakistan’s problems had become insurmountable and to grapple them need of the hour was collective wisdom of all who matter.
If it was true than, it is true now more than ever when the country is being described as dysfunctional as the internal chaos continues to grow. People at large look for hope behind individuals and not institutions—in the self-claimed intelligence of mavericks rather than collective wisdom. While the outgoing Army Chief is doing what he thinks is best in the national interest, regretfully the civilian leadership despite its electoral mandate, has either frittered it away in self-gains or abdicated its responsibility by rendering the country’s supreme body—the Parliament—infructuous.
It is late but never too late. Parliament needs to get in action, reassert itself, debate the foreign policy--whatever foreign policy that we-threadbare, and recast it according to its pragmatic needs on the basic principles stated above rather than rhetoric of Pakistan being citadel for the Islam or Ummah that is neither here nor there. No doubt corruption being a disease that is gnawing the country at its roots — should also be tackled by it on top priority—let Panama leaks be the starting point. A country indebted in trillions cannot afford ongoing mega corruption.
We must realise that notwithstanding what has been the input of the government media managers regarding the success achieved by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif in UNGA, the situation about Kashmir remains confounded. Indian army-like all occupationary forces--is crushing the voice for freedom, UN is silent witness to it and the world has other problems to bother.
Wajid Shamsul Hasan is former High Commissioner of Pakistan to UK and a veteran journalist