Speaking to the reporters on the rapidly evolving situation in Afghanistan, Vice President PPP and Chair of Foreign Affairs Committee in Senate, Senator Sherry Rehman said “There should be no doubt in anyone’s mind that this issue will impact Pakistan hard in more critical ways than one. Pakistan has the highest stakes in peace in Afghanistan, but the geo-politics of escalating violence next door indicates that peace may be much further than imagined. In this scenario, clear, focused policy-making at home will have far-reaching consequences for the security, stability and economic health of the country”. “Clarity and consensus are needed for any foreign policy to be successful, especially if policy agendas are focused on protecting a country’s interests and people, which involves managing competing interests and ideas. Why should Pakistan be different?” she asked, saying that “in times of crisis, leadership is crucial to policy formation as well as its smart articulation. Unfortunately, at key inflection points for the country, the Prime Minister, who should have the convening power, and accompanying goodwill, to craft unity and consensus via political parties and parliaments is absent. It’s as if he feels he can outsource vital decisions that will test Pakistan, to other cabinet members and the security community, who should not have to go it alone when trying to chart a way forward for the country in the institutional vacuum he has created in Pakistan. In war or peace, a country needs a leader who can speak with moderation and intellectual integrity with parliament in order to manage crisis or create new paths for development. Pakistan seems rudderless at the moment, with the PM only using his office to swing from one extreme position to another”. When asked what the PPP would do had it been in government, she said, “We would have to reinvent no wheel. We already have a framework in place through which the National Security Committee of both Houses of Parliament came into being as a result of consensus resolution to defeat violent extremism and terrorism in 2008. This resolution was framed as an outcome of the joint session of parliament which took place after a series of bombings, including the attack on Hotel Marriot, and this very resolution authorized the National Security Committee of Parliament to continue meetings, briefings, deliberations and decision-making which reflected the shared stakes of all parliament, which represents all of Pakistan”. “When confronted with a difficult policy choice, for instance of what to do with existing American bases leased out covertly in 2001, this Committee was able to draft a joint agreement for Pakistan to go forward with closing bases but opening the Ground Lines of Communication for NATO forces bringing equipment and arms out of Afghanistan, not allowing any into the country via Pakistan’s air or ground space. Because we were able to use our government’s convening power and across-the-aisle goodwill in Parliament, with all key ministries and President Zardari and PM Gilani playing key roles in tandem with other offices, the agreements were publicly acceptable in Pakistan, they were also accepted by the US and NATO entities as consensus agreements. Pakistan was able to not only launch anti-militancy operations in 2009 via the mandate of the Parliament Resolution of 2008, but also actually virtually eliminate Al Qaeda from its border regions by 2013, and come out of this tough period of sacrifice and national trauma by the ability of its leadership to work together and to carry the parliament and people with them,” she added. She said, “Foreign policy cannot be predicated on mood-swing statements, or the personal likes or dislikes of any individual. It is pure statecraft which must reflect the institutional expression of state interests as well as the political will of the people of Pakistan. Big decisions need big leaders who can sublimate their ego to public interests and institutional tradecraft, not just reach out to mass media via tweets and tv addresses. As Pakistan faces one of the worst emerging regional situations in decades, the first test of its foreign policy is to not lock itself into policy straitjackets, but to be able to navigate a fine balance between friends and frenemies”. “There is a tightening of the international community circle around Pakistan with reference to FATF, GSP plus benchmarks, among other multilateral exposure windows, and despite the volume of our messaging, India will not be put to the same standard. In a non-level global playing field, Pakistan will need maturity and political depth to manage best outcomes. We also need to utilize the CPEC opportunity better, and move forward with our all-weather friends with greater consistency and stability in our responses. No friend, no matter how supportive they are, should be taken for granted. The PPP knows all this, as its Chairman Bilawal often says, put our own house in order first. The rest will follow” concluded PPP Parliamentary Leader in the Senate, Senator Sherry Rehman.