And how one overshadows the other
There have been much fervour and speculation about the four-day-long US visit of General Raheel Sharif. General Sharif’s visit came weeks after PM Nawaz Sharif’s three-day US visit where the tactical-nuclear-weapons talks were mostly avoided and downplayed. All that nuclear talk was restricted only to references to the Nuclear Security Summit in the US in March-April next year and strategic stability between the rival nuclear-armed Pakistan and India.
For a moment, let’s go back a few years. If we remember, there was a time when Pakistan was begging for a nuclear deal with the US on India-like terms with an eye towards an entry into the Nuclear Suppliers Group; however, the dynamics have been changed after ten years since the US-India nuclear deal. Although Pakistan still heavily relies on international financial markets and foreign companies, it has diversified its foreign policy reducing its dependence solely on the US and has struck a better chord with Beijing and Moscow. Hence Islamabad’s confidence and unflinching determination not to compromise its nuclear security. That was that. Now what did General Raheel’s visit entail?
Post Iran-nuclear-deal it is feared in some circles that Obama administration has nuclear-armed Pakistan next in the line. Before Hilary Clinton climbs up the ladder, Mr Obama knows that he has not much time left in the office now. So in order to leave a rich legacy behind, Mr Obama is keen to put a tab on Pakistan’s nuclear programme to have another feather in his cap.
About the nuclear restraint on Pakistan or any other nuclear deal with the US which The New York Times clamoured about, no matter which Sharif went to the US, Pakistan would have never compromised on its nuclear assets. The proliferation concerns are utterly baseless. And Taliban taking over the “loose nukes” could be nothing other than a shameless propaganda.
Anyhow in the recent US visit of General Sharif, largely, the agenda was dominated by the security situation in Afghanistan and the role of Pakistan in Afghan peace process. The US wants Pakistan to ‘do more’ again. It wants Pakistan to ensure that its soil is not used as ‘safe haven’ for terrorists. Also that Pakistan eliminates its own proxies and uses its influence over Afghan Taliban to convince them to come to the negotiating table again, especially after Mullah Mansoor Akhter at the helm. The peace dialogue was previously stalled after the death of Mullah Omar and infighting among Taliban factions.
US realises that for peace in Afghanistan, Pakistan can play a key role and no Sharif other than General Raheel Sharif can play the requisite role. There is also a realisation that he is the man calling shots in Pakistan who can broker an Afghan peace deal and can deliver on the promises.
On the domestic side of the things, General Sharif is said to have “clearly highlighted Pakistan’s perspective” in this trip as if post prime minister’s trip, military immediately realised there was something important left out and General Raheel “invited himself” to the US to finish up the remaining job or do the same but more ‘clearly’.
Prime Minister Sharif who had initially held the portfolios of foreign affairs and security almost for himself and was quite enthusiastic about good relations with India, has now virtually made peace with General Sharif in the driving seat. So much to the civilians reclaiming their space, recently civil-military equation has been further skewed dangerously in the favour of military wherein it asked the civilians to do their part of governance. On top of that, some leaders of MQM, PPP and ANP as well as media had an axe of their own to grind. Current government had to bear public bashing (which could have been private) over the poor implementation of the National Action Plan (NAP) as we near the anniversary of Peshawar school massacre on December 16.
However, at the end of it all, the sanity prevailed when the prime minister’s office issued a statement of its own saying that the implementation of NAP was a “shared responsibility” and that everyone should remain in the ambit of the constitution (especially article 243-245).
We see that General Raheel Sharif has acquired a centre stage in domestic and international circles. We see that the saga of civil-military tensions which had been put to rest after General Raheel Sharif clearly said a no to intervention after Imran Khan’s dharnahad made it so comfortable for him still eclipses our domestic as well as international affairs. What saddens the most is the role of naysayers on both civilian and military sides. There is no truth in democracy being at a “tipping point”. Let’s categorically put to rest whatever the naysayers say and bring home the point by revisiting the statement issued by the prime minister’s office because if fingers are being pointed at the “need for matching/complimentary governance initiatives”, equally forceful voice can be raised from the civilian side as well (just imagine the day when the need for a rigorous accountability and transparency becomes a household talk).