Paradigm shift in the Foreign Policy?
Setting aside the criticism from almost every segment of society, including those opposition parties which were instrumental in formulation of 40-point set of proposals for redefining of the terms of engagement with NATO and United States, there is a marked shift in the foreign policy formulation apparatus and Parliament for the first time in the history of the country is in driving seat.
Political analysts termed it a paradigm shift with the matter relating to the formulation of the country’s foreign policy landed in the Parliament for the first time in history for complete and permanent oversight, pushing the Foreign Office and ‘Establishment’ on the backburner, which used to be in full command of the things so far.
Though there is no constitutionally defined role of ‘Establishment’ in foreign policy formulation but there had always been the covert guideline of ‘Establishment’ in foreign policy formulation, particularly the country’s relations with neighbouring states and United States.
The role of establishment in the foreign policy matters increased during the successive Martial Laws in the country particularly during Gen. Zia era when the Soviet Union had invaded neighbouring Afghanistan and the whole affair and its related foreign policy matters virtually landed in the domain of the Military Establishment. In those days the people sitting in the Foreign Ministry were just taking dictation from Military Establishment and in most of the cases they were not even taken on board.
The Establishment’s role enhanced enormously following the United States attack on Afghanistan after Nine-Eleven when the then Military dictator Gen. Pervez Musharraf was directly dealing with the Americans and most of the cases the Foreign Ministry had been by-passed.
This practice continued until recently and the Establishment was seen hovering over the Foreign Office be it the matter of issuance of visas to the Americans or the passage of the Kerry-Lugar Bill from the Parliament or granting of MFN Status to India.
In this backdrop the political observers saw the overall foreign policy review by the Joint Sitting of the Parliament in the light of the recommendations given by the Parliamentary Committee on National Security a big achievement and could rightly be termed as the major policy shift with change of ‘old guards’ with the ‘new ones’, which used to be a common practice in the world democracies.
Now it would be up to the Parliamentarians how they would handle this new responsibility, which the Establishment has willfully doled out to the Parliament mainly to get out from the mounting pressure coming from United States for restoration of the NATO supply routes and continuity in the ongoing terms of engagements in the war on terror mainly agreed upon both in shape of written and verbal agreements during the Gen. Pervez Musharraf’s era.
The Parliamentary Committee on Constitutional Reforms had diligently formulated the set of 40-point proposals for the redefinition of the country’s foreign policy with specific reference to the relations with United States and role in the ongoing war on terror.
Heads of opposition parties in the Parliament had held a couple of meetings to evolve strategy on their line of action in the Parliament and it is expected that senior Parliamentarians like Leader of Opposition in the National Assembly Ch. Nisar Ali Khan, JUI-F President Moulana Fazlur Rehman, PPP-S President Aftab Ahmad Khan Sherpao and even people like Raza Rabbani, Syed Khurshid Shah, Asfandyar Wali Khan and many more on the treasury benches should rise above the party politics would come up with formidable suggestions to spruce up the Parliamentary Committee on National Security’s recommendations and would provide a very strong base for the overall foreign policy revisit.
It is also time for the political leadership to bring the institutions back in their constitutionally defined ambit and would also apply the same rule on them by fully adhering to the law of the land.
The government side was trying to reach some understanding with opposition on the parameters of debate in the Joint Sitting of the Parliament before setting the ball rolling in the Joint Sitting of the Parliament on the revisit to the overall foreign policy with specific reference to the relations with United States and NATO supply restoration.
On the other hand the Parliamentarians would have to keep in mind the pressure coming from United States and the NATO member states for restoration of the supply routes via Pakistan and in this connection United States was implying all tactics to mount pressure on Pakistan to bow to their demands.
The Pentagon spokesman had recently said that if the land routes for NATO supply via Pakistan were not restored the NATO troops withdrawal schedule from Afghanistan could delay. Similarly they were also mounting pressure on Pakistan through some other NATO member states including Turkey, which has deep-rooted brotherly relations with Pakistan.
The Parliamentarians should keep in mind all these things and should have to focus their abilities and energies for carving best bargain for the country out of this extremely difficult situation and it would only be possible when they would rise above their party affiliation and work in unison.
In this way they would not only prove their political mettle but would also give a very strong and powerful message across the globe that now the things in Pakistan have totally changed and the political leadership is in full command of the things and it is no more military-tailored quasi-democracy. It is the only way to earn respect and due status for Pakistan, it truly deserves, in the comity of nations.