IN the field of bilateral relations, Pakistan’s relationship with the US is indeed amongst its most complex, and most important. Complex because despite being allies the two states often do not see eye to eye on a number of subjects. And important because despite all its internal crises, the US remains the world’s most powerful country, one Pakistan cannot afford to ignore.
Whenever a new administration enters the White House, there is much speculation about the shape the relationship will take over the next four years. Over the last decade or so, both the Obama and Trump eras were lukewarm at best, with little positivity and plenty of tense moments between both capitals. Now, with Joe Biden occupying the Oval Office, the guessing game has begun again over how bilateral ties will develop.
To ensure that the relationship with the Biden White House is a mutually beneficial one, Islamabad will have to be proactive in projecting Pakistan’s interests and clearly communicating this country’s point of view to those that matter in Washington. Afghanistan is an area of common interest as both Islamabad and Washington desire peace in that country. The foreign minister stated as much in Multan on Sunday. However, members of Mr Biden’s team have said they are going to “review” the Trump-era peace pact signed with the Afghan Taliban.
There is of course a need to handle this file with care, and build on the progress achieved so far, rather than taking any steps which may imperil the peace process. Moreover, while there has been mild criticism of India from Team Biden vis-à-vis New Delhi’s actions in India-held Kashmir, Pakistan must remain vigilant and realistic, as the new American administration is unlikely to take India to task for its brutal treatment of Kashmiris. Also, it should be remembered that Donald Trump had offered to help resolve the Kashmir issue; this offer did not succeed primarily due to Indian stubbornness over the issue.
In other areas, the Democrats are seen to be prioritising human rights issues in foreign policy. That is why Pakistan must ensure that no situations emerge domestically that can be used against this country. Overall, efforts are required to make the relationship less transactional, with Washington broadening its perspective where Pakistan is concerned and looking beyond the so-called Afghan lens. This country should push for more trade as opposed to aid and try and invite American investment. To think that a fruitful relationship will be built over weeks or months is naive.
Genuine efforts are required from both sides to further develop positions on points where both sides have a common viewpoint, and handle differences carefully through diplomatic channels. A peaceful, prosperous South Asia is in the interest of all and is the reason why the US should keep Pakistan’s concerns in mind while developing regional policies.
NAB not impartial
NAB CHAIRMAN retired justice Javed Iqbal has claimed that his organisation is an unbiased anti white-collar-crime agency and maintains a balance between cases involving the government and the opposition. He mentioned the money-laundering cases involving members of the opposition and the sugar and wheat crises linked to the government as proof of his organisation’s even-handedness. The chairman may have been prompted to issue such a statement in an effort to dispel the impression that NAB has become a tool for the government to persecute the opposition. This perception, unfortunately, reflects the unmistakable reality prevailing in the country. The key problem manifests itself in the genesis of NAB. The organisation was birthed by the former military ruler Gen Pervez Musharraf to go after the opposition with the primary aim of discrediting them in front of the population. If ever NAB had any pretensions about being a genuine anti white-collar-crime agency, they were put to rest when it stopped pursuing those politicians who were needed to support the Musharraf government. With its foundation weakened by expediency and flawed by compromise, NAB was fated to fall short of its mandate. Through the years therefore, NAB could never shed this image of being a convenient handmaiden for the government of the day.
The Broadsheet scandal has erased any doubts, if ever they existed, that NAB suffers not just from a compromised DNA, but also an incompetent one. The shoddy drafting of the Broadsheet contract, the shady hiring of a dubious company and the inept handling of the legal contest with this company, all reflect very poorly on NAB. In the last few years, the organisation’s imbalance has become even more acute. The way that NAB has gone after opposition leaders while ignoring the shady doings inside the government has contributed tremendously towards further tarnishing the image and credibility of the organisation. At the same time, its performance record also stays true to its DNA, with weak investigation and prosecution becoming its hallmark. Even the Supreme Court of Pakistan has admonished NAB for its unenviable track record. So the NAB chairman is on a weak wicket when he claims that his organisation is impartial. No, it is not. NAB is a deeply flawed entity functioning on the basis of an equally flawed law. The only way to reform it is to review its entire legal and political mandate and cleanse not just its body, but its soul.