Policy reset

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The events of the past year indicate that Pakistan is finding it difficult to maintain a geopolitical equilibrium. The strategic compulsions coupled with dire economic woes have allowed a certain amount of instability to creep in the cumulative thought-process of the policy and decision makers. This was expected as it is indeed difficult to keep up a delicate balancing act for very long. Moreover, the fast-moving world does not wait for an entity to indefinitely delay reforming itself. Pakistan has proved very slow in changing itself and though it is unraveling now but still lacks a silhouette of its future shape.

The pressures of global and regional forces have far outstripped the capability of the chameleon-like, status-quo oriented entitled class to get away with perfunctory measures at reforming the system and it looks more interested in pursuing its cherished agenda. The increasing worry is that its goals are becoming diametrically opposed to the real requirements of the country. The policy makers of this class have failed to realise that the country does not possess a multiplicity of options to keep on tentatively balance their perceived notions. The class has repeatedly shown that it is acutely insensitive to the desires of the populace and views matters from its particular angle.

The current difficulties faced by the country clearly reflect that its working relationship with all bilateral and multilateral associates has come under serious apprehensions. The problem has been exacerbated by the simple fact that they are not prepared to extend the grace period anymore in wake of broken promises and half-hearted attempt at improvement. They have gone past the frustration stage and are actively working to destabilise their erstwhile partner. It is an accepted reality that nothing is more risky than the resentment of a friend scorned particularly when Pakistan has been marked for its weakness to stand on its own feet.

The result is that Pakistan’s efforts to go back to its friends are in serious jeopardy and since there is only one international system, it is not possible to alter the presence of the associates, however, bitter they become. The policy-makers never appreciated that there is something called a full cycle and that it does not swing back as there are no reverse mechanisms in it. They also failed to realise that conduct of a nation is measured in totality and there is hardly any bearing on it of shifting personalities or changing executive orientations. Relying on jugglery as the prime instrument of statecraft has its limitations and it cannot hoodwink all the time.

The position has come to the pass where highly-propagated deep friendships are no more looking reliable as was evident by the recent reluctance shown by China that, instead of abruptly vetoing a US-sponsored resolution in the UN recommending banning a particular proxy fighting group, asked for time expressing intention to try to sort the matter out on bilateral basis with Pakistan. Another instance is of the UAE backing-off from an avowed commitment to supply Pakistan with oil on deferred payment. These are glaring examples of the decades-long policy coming unstuck pointing out towards their urgent reappraisal.

Unfortunately, the entitled class goes on playing its games being fully aware that things are slowly getting out of its control. It probably is confident that it can tackle the internal and external troubles although the portents are that it may not be able to do so for long. For the first time, the internal dissent is spearheaded by political elements that have completed the full cycle similar to the one experienced by Pakistan’s international associates. It is getting cumbersome by the day to play internal and external factors against each other or to bring one to sidetrack the other. Ironically the shifting sands of time have provided chance to other forces to arrive at a distinct destination.

The policy makers of Pakistan require a profound and lasting reset of the policies they devise and pursue. They should begin to believe that it is not the economy alone that has pushed Pakistan to a restricted geopolitical position but also the aggressive covert policies pursued by its entitled class both internally and externally. It should be appreciated that internal security and economic challenges notwithstanding, international compulsions and obligations are also bearing upon Pakistan’s policy responses and are required to be rationalised.

More than any time in its existence Pakistan needs to set out national priorities with a view to ensure that its relationship with one nation does not come at the cost of its relationship with another. It should be borne in mind that the forces of change cannot be bottled up indefinitely and it is always healthy to let the change dictate the future. TW

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