Pakistan’s Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar is a passionately noble man. But he clearly embodies a nationalistic soul, which cries out every now and then, albeit only to self-inflict unnecessary wounds. Listen to how he reacted to the death sentence awarded to Bangladesh’s Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) chief, Motiur Rahman Nizami: “It is highly unfortunate that almost 45 years after those tragic chain of events, the Bangladeshi government still seems to be living in the past and totally ignoring the time-tested virtue of forgive and forget.”
Earlier in November 2013, the minister had thundered at the US when a drone took out TTP chief Hakimullah Mehsud. Nisar’s condemnation of the drone attack left us virtually defenseless, when curious foreigners kept asking whether he was the country’s interior minister fighting terrorists or was he their spokesman. Now, Nisar claims to have been “deeply saddened to receive this shocking news” and even ventured to accuse the Bangladeshi government of “misusing the process of law as a political tool against the JI leader”.
This is quite bizarre because this accusation comes from the minister of a country, which still owes an official apology for the events that led to the creation of Bangladesh. The issue remains a sticking point in bilateral relations. Wouldn’t Bangladeshis turn around and ask the honorable minister as to what is happening in Pakistan itself, and what are the consequences of such an irrationally ballistic attitude?
Does the minister realize that our reckless attitude has relegated Pakistan almost to the status of Somalia and Afghanistan when it comes to terrorism, extremism, terrible governance, irresponsible leadership, organized crime syndicates, and the prevalence of polio? What about illegal disappearances, targeted killings and discrimination against minorities?
With a heavy heart, I am compelled to draw on my latest experience at a recent conference held in Shanghai, where the entire conversation centered on the aforementioned issues. When discussing recommendations for the future, Chinese and Indian academics hardly mentioned Pakistan. When underscoring the need for multilateral engagement, a Chinese professor spoke of three groups of countries, which are leading the ongoing dialogue on security and development. He spoke of the major powers such as the US, the European Union and Japan. These were followed by the emerging countries/economies: Brazil, Russia, India and China. He then went on to identify the Middle Powers that are being increasingly engaged by the major and emerging powers, i.e., Saudi Arabia, Iran, Egypt, Malaysia, Indonesia and Turkey.
During the two-day discussion, Pakistan figured only in the context of being ‘part of the problem’. Behind the scenes as well as publicly, Chinese officials and intelligentsia are extremely caring and concerned about Pakistan’s current crises and eager to help in whatever way possible. Yet, one can clearly discern what underlies their anxiety about Pakistan: whether the leadership in Islamabad/Rawalpindi is at all cognizant of the challenges staring the country and which require infusion of innovative, forward-looking, pragmatic thinking?
Outsiders are perplexed over the rhetorical commitment of Pakistani leaders to ‘fight terrorism of all shades’ and lofty claims on strategies to deal with them. One of them questioned me about what exactly the National Internal Security Policy (NISP) was? The interior minister had announced the NISP with great fanfare in February. During international conferences on terrorism and security, Pakistanis often endure embarrassment when asked about its fate because we ourselves don’t know what actually has happened to it.
Instead of being myopic and unreasonably nationalistic, Pakistan’s rulers need to focus on their primary job: diagnosing the causes of the internal security situation and the abysmal governance crisis. Only visionary, non-parochial, forward-looking thinking can recreate Pakistan’s relevance to international dialogue on trade, development and security.
The writer heads the independent Center for Research and Security Studies, Islamabad.
This article was first published in The Express Tribune, a leading newspaper of Pakistan. Click here to go to the original.