A constant malaise

The need to customise policies to suit the personal needs of the ruler and the delegation of foreign policy formulation to the military brass has not allowed the foreign office to evolve and function

Policy formulation or the creation of a roadmap for the nation is a serious and complex business requiring foresight, vision, a thorough understanding of the realities, an adherence to its principles and clarity of purpose that points to the chosen direction of the nation. Unfortunately, such a thorough exercise was never deemed necessary by Pakistan’s successive, inept rulers. Mr Jinnah’s speeches provide more than a glimpse of such policies but we lost him and nobody else bothered thereafter.

Pakistan was created to provide a homeland for Muslims in the subcontinent to ensure freedom and opportunities of all kinds including religious freedom and the healthy, unfettered development of its people. Regardless of all the hair raising interpretations and controversies created since about its aims, one thing is quite clear from all the discernible facts that the founders were not in favour of a theocratic state. They were firmly of the belief that Pakistan should be a state that provides equal opportunity and rights to all its citizens regardless of caste, creed, colour or religion without discrimination. Countless speeches by the Quaid are proof of this philosophy. The mess that we have created is the result of our weaknesses, opportunism, inability to maintain direction and failure to grasp the fundamentals of a nation state. 

Our foreign policy has not been aligned to our needs and aspirations nor has it been true to Jinnah’s vision of close relations with our neighbours and friendship with all nations — an independent foreign policy is what he called for. In the early fifties we went and became members of military pacts with western powers in SEATO and CENTO. Thus began the poisonous addiction of our armed forces to the US and our politicians to the doling out of greenbacks. The enslavement of Pakistan had begun. We were told then by our leaders and generals that the US would come to our defence as a result of these pacts in the eventuality of an Indian attack. When the Indians attacked us in 1965, the US was nowhere to be seen. My late father, Mr A K Sumar, was a witness to General Ayub’s disappointment in those early days of September. Even thereafter we did not learn any lessons; the US has kept leaving us in the lurch after every major sacrifice we have made to serve their interests, namely the deadly baggage of filth they left behind in 1989 after the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan and the present destruction of our country solely to serve their interests.

Mian Nawaz Sharif has recently made a statement on foreign policy, which, at best, is the product of an enslaved mind and far from the Prime Minister (PM) of a sovereign nation. In connection with the drone protests, and probably referring to the US, he says, “Our effort is to transform the existing friendly ties into mutually beneficial partnerships...no one can afford isolation at any level.” Now, when a country is violating our sovereignty, killing our innocent civilians repeatedly and insists it will continue to do so at will, how does the PM say that they have “friendly ties” with us? Are we to be fearful of being ‘isolated’ by our tormentor? Why then did Vietnam and Iran stand up to their tormentor? A self-respecting PM cannot utter such heresy except if he or she is a slave! Would he allow any other nation, say India or Iran, to take such liberties of desecrating our sovereignty? As usual, Islam or Jinnah are used most frequently to support all kinds of half-truths by politicians. The PM misrepresented the Quaid when he said he was following the Quaid’s policies. Sir, Jinnah’s policy of friendship with all cannot be pursued while we sit bound and gagged in Obama’s pocket!

Our foreign policy has not been independent as we have not followed any predetermined direction; we have not based it on certain principles. There has been no consensus building process in continued undemocratic dispensations. The need to customise policies to suit the personal needs of the ruler and the delegation of foreign policy formulation to the military brass has not allowed the foreign office to evolve and function. The result is a dependent and emasculated foreign policy, which has caused us incalculable harm domestically as its ill-effects have torn us asunder and severely compromised our economic development — in the comity of nations we have lost our position.

The same lack of purpose is evident in our domestic malaise. The vacuum caused by the absence of a constitution for the first 26 years left us directionless, unaccountable and without institutions. Nineteen years of military rule, in spite of a constitution, further solidified the dereliction of the nation. Feudalism and the feudal mindset, corruption, crime and protection of criminals are state functions. Law and order is non-existent and terrorism is rampant. The main reason is that, since inception, petty politicians and their personal needs did not allow the development of democracy and democratic institutions, which would provide debate and consensus building for evolution of national policies. In the absence of an electoral process and the continuation of a feudal system, the creation of a breed of accountable politicians from the rank and file was not possible. Instead, a system of self-centred horse trading, frequent party changing and a power-hungry political charade has been played out quite shamelessly. As a result, the impoverished and insecure people of a hollowed nation suffer.

It is these same opportunist, feudal-dominated and unprincipled policies that led to the formation of Bangladesh in 1971 as the military rulers and the feudals, led by Mr Bhutto, refused to hand over power to the majority party of Sheikh Mujib. The feudals and Punjabi ruling class sought their elimination from power and thus fought back through the army. Similar designs of hegemony have left Baluchistan’s demands of autonomy at bay for decades and now we face a separatist movement that is again being mishandled by force.

During the PML-N’s previous two stints, its blatant tilt towards Punjab was quite evident but it looks as if it is becoming an unabashed policy in this third term. Numerous deals and MOUs are being signed with foreign corporations in Punjab and security forces for the already secure province. The killing of nine persons in Rawalpindi becomes a ‘tragedy’ for the whole nation and the army is deployed immediately while in Karachi, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Quetta dozens can die daily without any reaction! Again, the Nawaz government is displaying pettiness in its politics, misusing its mandate of a national government and showing complete lack of vision as the pursuit of such hegemonic policies can only lead to further disparity and breakup of the country.

The writing is on the wall but the problem is that even after 66 years of misrule, our civil and military rulers are unwilling to read as the holy Quran says, “Verily, it is not the eyes that grow blind, but it is the hearts, which are in the breasts that grow blind” — Quran (22:46).

by Farooq Sumar
The writer is a businessman and a former chairman of the National Textile Foundation.