VIEW: Welcome to a raucous, multi-polar but democratic Pakistan —: Dr Moeed Pirzada

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Moeed Pirzada | Daily Times |

 

It is time to take a step back and find new solutions, solutions beyond carrot and stick diplomacy. Let’s not turn the Raymond Davis affair into the murder of Archduke Ferdinand of Austria. Despite its many failings, US-Pakistan relations are a splendid construct of mutual dependence and have great potential for peace, growth and stability in this region. Senator John Kerry is arriving; he is flying in straight to Lahore, where among other meetings to assess the situation, he will also speak to the Pakistani media. Kerry, the custodian of the Kerry-Lugar Bill, is often introduced as a friend of Pakistan. I think this chairman of the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee represents that American school of thought that is a marriage between Wilson’s idealism and Kissinger’s realism. We in Pakistan will expect him to find an out-of-the-box solution, something different from the usual carrot and stick, but does he have one?

In my last column I had used the term “RoboCop” for Raymond Davis. Since then, novelist Mohsin Hamid has described him as a “predator”. Will Hamid’s pen turn him into a character in his next novel? I do not know. But I wonder if Mr Davis’s mother would have believed the soothsayer who told her that little Raymond in the 37th year of his life will become an important chapter in US-Pakistan history.Because I have little doubt that soon the students of US-Pakistan relations will find the ‘Raymond Davis Affair’ as part of their textbooks.

For they will read that Pakistan’s then foreign minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi was also devoured by the ‘Raymond Davis Affair’.Unfortunately, the damage is still continuing and much of this is happening because the governing elite in Pakistan and the decision-makers in Washington have failed to appreciate that a new Pakistan has emerged. And this despite the fact that they including people like Kerry and Biden have been advocating the ideas that have shaped this new Pakistan.

When after Tunisia, Egypt started to rock with shouts of “revolution”, an important western embassy in Pakistan ordered an immediate “risk assessment” to determine if Pakistan could be “next”. The ambassador was told: “Don’t you worry, for while Pakistan presents all factors ripe for revolution, sadly it does not have any leadership to lead this.” This is certainly true, but it is only part of the explanation. I would have told him: “Excellency! Relax and welcome to a multi-polar, raucous but democratic Pakistan.”

This is precisely what many in Islamabad and certainly Washington have not realised not so far. When some of us were naively whispering in worried American ears: “Sir, we will fix it up in a day”, they did not realise that the country has changed; today it has many centres of political authority, dozens of TV channels all trying to outwit Fox, hundreds of chirpy radio stations and countless racy publications. And precisely because of this multi-polar and multi-media situation, our courts have found the space to assert themselves as independent entities and they in turn add to the depth of a rough, volatile and fragile mix that despite its many failings is the new democratic dispensation in which no one is all-powerful, no one, not even the good old GHQ has total control. If they are creating impressions of ‘control’, they too are bluffing.

This is why Shah Mehmood Qureshi found it difficult to overwhelm and order the Foreign Office (FO) chaps to issue a note of immunity when they were adamant that immunity does not exist. It is not that the bureaucrats and financial wizards have lost their calculators or marbles and are not telling Prime Minister Gilani of the consequences of a US financial squeeze or that Zardari is any less worried for losing his date with Obama or that the Sharif brothers are taking revenge for all the nice things Anne Patterson wrote about them in her memos to dear darling Julian Assange. The reality is: none of them today has the kind of power their predecessors used to have in the past.

Pakistan has changed but many in Washington are still searching for the old traditional levers of control, the one-window operation of the Musharraf era, and when they do not find one, they get furious. And with every new fit of fury, they do more arm-twisting with Zardari and Rehman Malik. They must stop. Any more pressure will only backfire. Almost all thinking minds between Lahore and Islamabad are focused on how to send Raymond back. What is needed is a solution that can be neatly packaged and sold to the public and absorbed by the collective consciousness as the product of a process.

Today we need a solution. But we do not find those on the horizon who can create solutions through ‘out-of-the-box thinking’. We do not see any tall characters who could have joined heads behind the scenes to work upon some new innovative ideas, some De Bono-style lateral thinking, rather than endlessly insisting on the Vienna Convention, section this and that. When there is a deadlock, one needs to look sideways and move laterally to discover something new. This is why many in Islamabad are now mourning the absence of Holbrooke, for despite allegations of tough talk, he was a ‘solution finder’. And this needless removal of ex-foreign minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi from the scene at a time when his energies, his accumulated understanding, his contacts of the last three years were most needed, is a classic example of decisions made under stress.

It is time to take a step back and find new solutions, solutions beyond carrot and stick diplomacy. Let’s not turn the Raymond Davis affair into the murder of Archduke Ferdinand of Austria. Despite its many failings, US-Pakistan relations are a splendid construct of mutual dependence and have great potential for peace, growth and stability in this region. For the last few years all of us, including Senator Kerry, have been talking of ‘strategic dialogue’ and enduring partnership. If all this could be quickly sacrificed at the altar of one “RoboCop” and his seven bullets, it will mean that our dreams had flowed from a fractured flawed imagination. I am sure Senator Kerry will help find a solution that can be sold in Lahore, Islamabad, Washington and to the people of Pakistan. Amen!

 

The writer is an anchorperson and Director World Affairs with Dunya News TV. He can be reached at director@media-policy.com

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