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Lack Of Public Confidence And Uniformity A Perennial Policy Issue In Pakistan: Hina Rabbani

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Govt lacks ‘cogent, strategic vision’ and there is confusion on ‘who is running the country’, said former Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar in Naya Daur TV program, Khabar Say Aagay with Raza Rumi and Murtaza Solangi. There is no uniformity in agenda and policy of the incumbent government which is compromising the credibility of the state, she lamented.

The government has repeatedly shown the lack of confidence. Instead, it’s merely “passing on the buck” according to Raza Rumi. Rabbani believes that the issue of expulsion of French ambassador did not belong to the domain of the parliament, which was also witnessed to be in disarray the other day.

The gaps in governance are covered by PM’s moral policing of the youth and projecting of his image as ‘self righteous’ in ‘social media wars’. Are you trying to just put up the show to fool Pakistanis, or to convince Pakistanis! I don’t know [what the govt is trying to achieve], Rabbani asked.

Speaking on foreign policy, Rabbani says that it has been a perennial issue of Pakistan that the people are not taken into confidence.

Is peace with India possible?

The back-channel diplomacy with India and what it has achieved is in the dark and we need evidence based approach. It ‘takes two to tango’, said Rabbani referring to PM Modi’s undeterred position on Kashmir annexation and answering to Solangi on whether Pakistan would move forward with India forgetting Article 370.

At this stage, it is pretty obvious that India will not backtrack from annexation of Kashmir. Former FM recalled how former Indian premier Manmohan Singh was significantly concerned with domestic conditions and aspirations of people despite showing willingness to resolve Siachen issue forever. Moreover, India also enjoys economic stability, which has sort of solidified its international and regional relevance. According to Rabbani, the US tilt has emboldened it into becoming ‘a rogue state in the region, being at odds with neighbours’. Part of the reason why India continues violations of human rights is, it knows it can ‘get away with it’, says Rabbani. In absence of international pressure, it is highly unlikely that India will get over its historical stubborn attitude.

How should the foreign policy of Pakistan be? Clear and transparent, balanced and people centric. 

Solangi and Rabbani say that Pakistan should first focus on political stability and economic progress, apparently endorsing General Bajwa’s statement that we need to put our own house in order. Pakistan should give ‘internal’ dimension to its foreign policy, which should be based on the progress and uplift of the people. Moreover, in today’s world, the categorizing of countries as friends or foes is not productive but fine tuned ‘balancing of relations’ is, Rabbani believes. However, we should be cautioned whether the public opinion is laced with disinformation.

While Pakistan has been failing to create international space to extract favours and support, India has become a strategic need for the US foreign policy goal, i.e. containment of China. The US refrains from naming and shaming India on religious freedom, in contrast to Pakistan, or Bangladesh, despite state heavy handedness being evident in many cases; protests on citizenship laws, farmers issue, and suppressing of organizations like Amnesty International. Similarly, UK included Pakistan in red list due to coronavirus cases, despite the situation in India being hundred times worse. At the moment, Pakistan is on the trajectory of international isolation, getting ‘pushed to corner’, says Raza Rumi. 

The vision for foreign policy is preoccupied with geopolitics, and that needs a fundamental shift. Raza also noted that Pakistan was failing lately, to successfully capitalize on the geostrategic front given the ‘stalled progress on CPEC’. The ‘CPEC activism’ is fading, and China seems to be looking to another country.

Either being dictated or be appeasing in foreign policy matrix is neither in the ‘interests of the people’ or the State of Pakistan. Given America’s overt anti-China posture, we should not be concerning ourselves on whether to join the US camp or be under China’s wings [as to respond to India being in QUAD] but “Pakistan camp“, Rabbani reiterated, adding the people centric, progressive strategic vision should be the defining principle for the foreign policy. Broadly, the policy process should be imbued with clarity and transparency, and uniformity.

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