The Glass Half Full

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obama-gilani-protest-Iftikhar_chaudhryMuch is happening in Pakistan—not all of it is good. While a lot is said and written about all that is wrong the good – little as it is – is mostly ignored.

For the first time Pakistan is going about setting the US-Pakistan relationship on some sort of even keel. Usually we have been at the receiving end and have always buckled under US pressure or given in to their demands. Today Pakistan is asserting itself and pointing out to the US that its policy towards Pakistan is wrong and that Pakistan’s concerns and its public opinion do matter. This is happening under a democratic dispensation largely tilted towards the US. The stakes are high – Pakistan faces international isolation, continued economic decline and US-India-Afghanistan collusion in its internal destabilization. Pakistan needs to stay the course regardless of the sacrifices required because an expedient acquiescence to pressure can harm it enormously in the long run. There is light at the end of the tunnel—nobody would want Pakistan to be left with the single option of aligning with the Taliban and extremists, Pakistan can significantly contribute to regional stability and Afghan stability beyond 2014. Pakistan needs to delink the demand for cash compensation and the opening of the GLOC by emphasizing the importance of GLOC for US/NATO withdrawal. The US needs to pledge that it will support infrastructure development in Pakistan especially the damaged route from Karachi to Torkham and Chaman. The US at a senior level needs to regret the Salala incident and apologise for the loss of lives—-this should have happened in any case because it was the right thing to do considering that it was US action that led to Pakistani loss of lives.

Pakistan is also focusing on its bilateral relations with neighbors and the bigger regional powers. It is emphasizing trade and for the first time the economy is center stage in foreign policy and not security. Pakistan has made overtures for improved relations with India and Afghanistan. These will be pursued if there is reciprocity. Pakistan is confronting its internal instability and coming to terms with all the factors that are destabilizing it internally. It is developing capacity to meet its internal challenges. Pakistanis now understand that an elected government and democracy does not mean regime survival and tenure completion but that the elected government has to deliver on governance, on energy, on economy, on human security, on development and poverty alleviation. This will be what the next elections will be all about.

Pakistan’s institutions are making themselves sustainable and achieving balance. The judiciary after its independence and a period of assertion is now reconciling with the executive and stepping in to resolve issues that could cause long term damage if left to fester. The executive after trying to brow beat the judiciary now understands the limit of its powers. The military is concentrating on its own job and is no longer interventionist except when its help in course correction can strengthen the government. The media is learning the hard way that fragmentation and biased reporting under duress or temptation can be horribly damaging and can lay it open to exploitation and make it a laughing stock. Financial institutions are slowly improving but have a long way to go before they become models of excellence. The need to deliver on health care, education and security is more pronounced than ever before. Above all Pakistanis want to move away from extremism and all the violence that past policies have engendered.

Not much is actually happening but the fact that the drivers behind future trends are clearly discernible is important. The next government will either deliver or suffer—-and whoever wants to form the next government must start demonstrating a capacity to do what is required.

Spearhead analyses are a collaborative effort and not attributable to a single individual).

Spearhead Research Analysis

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November 2015
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