Sometimes even the most well thought out and careful deliberations turn out to be the major faux pas as has been the case with the recently issued statement by Prime Minister’s senior aide Sartaj Aziz. The “confession” that Pakistan has been providing refuge to Taliban leadership. While Pakistan is quite actively playing the role of a facilitator in the Afghan peace process, demonstrating utmost commitment and dedication to the restoration of peace and stability in the region, at the same time it is trying its best to utilise this opportunity to convince the world of its “zero-tolerance” against terrorism and its abettors. The previously maintained policy of “denial” against the presence of Afghan Taliban on Pakistani soil has been part of Pakistan’s well known and often reiterated “Afghan Taliban policy”. This particular stance also makes up for an important component of state’s national security since it helped Pakistan garner some level of trust and confidence regarding its genuine intentions to snuff out all terrorist elements and insurgent groups. However, it will not be incorrect to say that this policy almost faced a jarring setback owing to the recent “public admittance” by Sartaj Aziz about the presence of Afghan Taliban leadership in Pakistan where they have been “officially” provided “safe haven” by the government inclusive of necessary emergency and medical facilities.
One can’t help but feel a sense of shock and confusion as to why there was a need for such rhetoric and what made a high profile serving official to issue such a statement at a time when the odds against the success of ongoing Afghan peace process are already quite high. It is believed that rhetoric of any kind, be it a verbal or a written statement, is central to politics. Even in the time of physical engagement, combat or war between the states, a parallel course of rhetoric is always a useful technique to ensure and fortify one’s own position. In fact, “rhetorical manoeuvering” is considered critical for the success in political disputes. Therefore, diplomatic policies in form of verbal and written statements are an essential activity that states are constantly engaged with since it is a never ending process. The major purpose behind indulging in this act at the state level is to ascertain the national security objectives, hence it should always be in line and consistent with the state’s national security. These are the basic guidelines and the usual practice known to all in the policy making echelons and it is expected of them that they adopt a careful disposition in speech and action, which unfortunately was lacking in this particular case.
One is left to wonder if that was an effort to make Pakistan appear “in control” of the peace process. If so, what kind of influence or control does Pakistan have over Taliban leaders where the political process has more often been in favor of Afghan Taliban who seem to be in control and have been using their influence against Pakistan in full advantage, most of the time sabotaging the peace efforts. It also makes one contemplate as to why thus far Pakistan has not been able to neutralise the Afghan Taliban insurgents despite having the capability to do so as per Sartaj Aziz.
Also it is to be kept in mind that there are rifts within the Taliban leadership and there is a big number which is either opposing or not ready to be part of the peace process. It is that particular faction within Taliban leadership which Pakistan needs to have some control over otherwise it does not merit a bragging. Pakistan is already an unfortunate victim of malevolent propaganda having been accused of and tagged as “Taliban sympathiser” by the ill meaning neighbouring and Western states. Unfortunately, the government’s response to all this has largely remained ineffective. There is a need for a strong rhetorical rebuttal rather than the meek admittance of these accusations just for the sake of coming across as “influential”.
Despite claiming to have influence over a key actor in the Afghan peace process, the progression has been facing major hiccups. This could very well even prove to be counterproductive raising valid suspicions about the government’s sincerity to the peace process. Hence the policy makers need to be extra cautious when issuing any statement be it a fact or otherwise, keeping in mind that it should never be made at the cost of hurting Pakistan’s repute. There must have gone lot of thinking before this statement was finally issue but it further pressed for the dire need for a language focused mechanism aimed at effective political influence, without which any political or diplomatic efforts would only be accoutered.