Chand Raat Meela in USA 2011

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Pak-US relationship signifies a troubled marriage

To say that Pakistan and United States have a conflict-ridden relationship would be an understatement. It is much like a troubled marriage where both partners remain estranged all the time without really going as far as filing for a divorce because of one limitation or the other.

The conflicts are too many and too complex. It is an often-repeated cliché that both countries have a trust deficit but one wonders if the trust was there at any point in the first place. Trust builds through selflessness and this has seldom been a selfless relationship. It’s rather one that is driven by compulsions and forced compromises.

One of the major points of contention at present is counter-terrorism and counter-insurgency in Pakistani tribal belt as well as Afghanistan and how both countries differ in approach vis-à-vis the future of this war-ravaged country. Steps like ordering the CIA trainers out of the country, withholding visa requests and imposing restrictions on travel of diplomats have aggravated the situation even further.

In the aftermath of Osama Bin Laden’s killing in Abbottabad, Pakistan has made its displeasure very clear by taking steps that suggest a confrontational approach and has understandably not made the US administration very happy.

The US, on the other hand, has also been quite vocal of its disapproval of what Pakistan is trying to convey. The decision to withhold $800 million security assistance and the recent reports that certain benchmarks have been conveyed to Pakistan to tie-up all military assistance with performance-objectives are a clear indication of the prevailing mindset at capitol hill.

If the US had any thoughts of getting the Pakistani leadership, particularly the military establishment, to do the needful with these pressure tactics, the retaliation shown by Pakistan with successive steps (some of which have been outlined above) are anything but a reflection of that.

The US has to realize that Pakistanis, be the ordinary people or the ruling elite, have an inflated ego despite all the problems the country is currently having to encounter. Any move supposedly aimed at arm-twisting to achieve the desired results is likely to be counter-productive to say the least.

Pakistan fully realizes its geo-political importance and does not shy away from exploiting it to suit its interests in the region. The US insistence that Pakistan should put its differences with India on the backburner and cap its nuclear programme is also something that will always incite Pakistanis.

Some of these misunderstandings do originate from the history of this bilateral relationship though. Every time an American policy-maker makes a point about the relationship with Pakistan being in national security interest of US, the post soviet-war syndrome comes to haunt the Pakistani establishment, because the message conveyed is that the day American interest is over, they can take a step back and Pakistan will be left to fend for itself again.

The American administration, albeit acknowledging the sacrifices of Pakistan in the war on terror over the last decade, is not prepared to give any concessions this time and is looking for concrete steps on the given demands. The gulf is increasing with each passing day and the aggressive statements in the media from both sides have only fuelled the tensions.

Given this background, it comes as a surprise that there is no apparent attempt at sitting across the table and trying to find a middle ground between US expectations and Pakistani limitations. If this continues to happen the way it is at the moment, the results would be in nobody’s interests.

It is time for both partners to take a rational approach before the opportunity to save the marriage is lost. Both know that their inter-dependence is too much to let go and neither of them will survive the pitfalls of a forced separation. This, in itself, is enough of an incentive to give rapprochement a serious chance before it is too late to even show remorse.

Land of the “Pure”

Independence Day of any country is certainly a moment to rejoice; to savour the feeling of being a free nation and having a country of your own where you are a first-rate citizen; but it is also a time to reflect and do some soul-searching.

Are we really looking inwards as a nation to find out what exactly have we achieved over the last 64 years and where do we stand on the map of the world? An honest answer is NO; and that indeed is sad because the singing and dancing on national songs while forgetting everything else going around is like burying your head in the sand in trying to escape from reality.

We are a nation living in the ‘hope’ for a good time for the last six decades and one wonders if this is really ‘hoping against hope’? Our political system, notwithstanding the often-repeated rhetoric in praise of restoration of democracy, is in abyss and is designed in a way to perpetuate corruption, nepotism and status-quo.

The economy has been in shambles for ages and successive regimes have relied on providing it oxygen with loans acquired from financial institutions and donor countries without really thinking about the implications in the future.

The industrial sector is fast starting to look offshore in search of proper utilities and safe environment while the agriculture produce per acre is shrinking with each passing year. Our exports and revue targets are fudged and still we continue to believe that we can survive.

Our foreign policy has failed us inexplicably and consequently almost all the neighbours are hostile towards us while the friends, like Saudi Arabia and China, have also taken a step back. One wonders if those responsible for it are prepared to learn any lessons even now?

Law and order is at its worst. Leaving the perils of war-on-terror aside, which indeed has pegged the country’s progress back by several decades, are we really concerned about taking care of other issues? Whatever is happening in Karachi for the last several months now is anybody’s guess. It is simply brazen, indigenous power-struggle by our political parties at the cost of ordinary people.

We are a fastest growing population anywhere in the world with a bulging youth but there’s hardly any plan to cater to this challenge. Most of them are living for the day in the absence of any guiding force. This population bomb is going to explode some day and the results, given the scarcity of resources, could be frightening to say the least.

The brain drain is at an all-time high. Every other Pakistani, whether young or old, is looking to move out of the country without really thinking what they aim to achieve from it. Gone are the days when people used to venture abroad for greener pastures; it is “peace of mind’ that they are looking for now but they don’t know that even this dream has a price of its own in an alien country.

Hope is good because it keeps you motivated but it can also be self-defeating at times. Hope and false promises, without backing them with concrete actions, can be a very dangerous prospect and that is exactly what the power-brokers have been doing with ordinary Pakistanis. The problem is that those who matter are hardly pushed and there’s no leadership in sight to correct these wrongs.

Sixty-four years are not a long time in a nation’s history to achieve something, as we are always told, but it indeed is enough of a timespan to find a direction and the right set of priorities. Without doing so, the people in the “land of the pure” will continue to grope in the dark (God forbid) for another 64 years!