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Pakistan is a country led by political lemmings. Driven by some primeval instinct to commit suicide, periodically they rush towards the precipice where common sense ends, and then hurl themselves into the abyss. There is no scientific explanation for their behaviour. It appears to be a neo-genetic disorder, peculiar to Islamabad.

The latest collective surge, led by the PTI alliance in government and a motley gang in opposition, has resulted in an absurd situation. As one wag put it, to avoid being thrown out of power through a No-confidence motion, PM Imran Khan had his dentist assistant dissolve the National Assembly. The Opposition has approached the Supreme Court to have the NA restored so that they could finish the job constitutionally.

The red rag (or rather the red, white and blue rag) that has provoked this crisis is an internal communication sent from Washington on 3 March by our then ambassador Dr. Asad Majeed Khan after a meeting with Mr. Donald Lu, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs. In it, Lu is said to have conveyed U.S.’s threat to topple (in collusion with the opposition parties) PM Imran Khan through a no-confidence motion. Over three weeks later, PM Imran Khan disclosed the existence of this communication and then acted upon it, convening a high-powered National Security Council to support his outrage.


Certain questions cannot be repressed.  Why should the U.S. have used seasoned diplomats like Mr. D. Lu and Amb. A. Khan as low-level conduits of such a provocative message?

President Joe Biden knows Pakistan. He visited it in February 2008 to witness the general elections, and in October 2008 received from President Asif Ali Zardari the Hilal-i-Pakistan for his ‘consistent support for Pakistan’. He came again as VP in January 2011. Assistant Secy. Lu worked in Peshawar (1992-94). Amb. Khan, after his next posting as Ambassador to Brussels and the EU, is tipped to be our next Foreign Secretary. 

Was the internal memo genuine? Minutes of all such meetings are recorded by each side and intended to remain confidential unless some imperative forces disclosure. Two such instances of deliberate release come to mind. Both relate to 1999.

The first occurred after HC Ashraf Qazi sent a confidential report to the FO on a speech made by Mr. Najam Sethi in New Delhi on 30 April 1999. In it, Mr. Sethi described Pakistan as a ‘failing state [,] in the throes of multiple crises, including a breakdown of law and order, civil society, national security and identity.’ That internal report was released by PM Nawaz Sharif. Mr. Sethi was accused of undermining the ‘safety, security and sovereignty’ of Pakistan, and arrested for committing ‘the most contemptible treachery’ on ‘enemy soil.’

The second happened after July 1999, when President Bill Clinton ordered the release of the minutes prepared by Bruce Reidel of their meeting with PM Nawaz Sharif on 4 July regarding Kargil. Returning to Pakistan, PM Sharif tried to renege on his undertaking to withdraw. An infuriated Clinton ordered the minutes to be released, exposing Sharif’s attempted duplicity.

Why did the PM need to wait three weeks before revealing the U.S. threat to his position?  A confidential démarche could have been issued by the Foreign Office without further damage to U.S.-Pak relations (already at an all-time low).

Why did the COAS, after participating in the NSC meeting on 31 March denigrating the U.S., re-emphasise two days later in the Islamabad Security Dialogue 2022, that Pakistan shares a “long history of excellent and strategic relationship” with the United States, which remains our largest export market. He added that the conflict in Ukraine ‘gave hope to smaller countries that they could still defend their territory with smaller but agile forces against aggression by a bigger country.’ This could not have gone unnoticed in Moscow.

Why did PM Imran Khan not have the National Assembly dissolved before the No-Confidence motion he knew was being fomented against him?

These and other such questions disturb thinking Pakistanis.

This year is the 75th anniversary of our independence. Next year will be the 50th anniversary of our 1973 Constitution. It has been perforated by so many violations since then, that it has become a mere filigree of intent, a mere ‘scrap of paper’.  

Former COAS General Raheel Sharif ignored it when accepting a sinecure from the Saudis. The NA Speaker and his Deputy have desecrated it. The former CJP, approached to be the caretaker prime minister, demeans it by accepting the nomination despite the rules. PM Imran Khan flouts it by ignoring parliament and instead gauging his majority in the streets.  

The Quaid bequeathed us a nation. It is bereft of leaders.  Instead, we have suicidal lemmings with feet of clay and minds of mud.



[DAWN, 7 April 2022]


07 April 2022
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