ANALYSIS: APC: civil façade of foreign policy —Farhat Taj
Saturday, October 01, 2011
Both Nawaz Sharif and Mahmood Achakzai deserve credit for making their views heard to the APC participants dominated by pro-establishment political parties. Their voices, although not part of the 'unanimous' resolution, were echoed by the media
Since the recent attack on the US embassy in Kabul by the Haqqani network Taliban, Pakistan came under immense US pressure, including veiled threats of attack, for its links with the Haqqani Taliban with bases in Pakistan. Pakistan's military, which runs the country's foreign policy on Afghanistan, rejected all the statements from the US but still needed the country's civil political leadership to stand by it to offset US pressure. Hence an All-Parties Conference (APC) was held by the PPP-led government to create a façade of civil ownership of the military-run policy in Afghanistan.
The text of the 13-point 'unanimously' approved resolution of all parties' heads seems hardly anything more than a script from the ISPR. The text is mostly rhetorical without referring to the terror sanctuaries in Pakistan pointed out not only by the US but many people within Pakistan. The text, as expected, rejects US allegations about the ISI's links with the Haqqani network.
A striking statement in the text is this: "Pakistan must initiate dialogue with a view to negotiating peace with our own people in the tribal areas [FATA] and a proper mechanism for this be put in place." This is also the oft-repeated position of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) leader Imran Khan, who always projects the Taliban as synonymous with the Pakhtuns. What is the justification of giving such a prominent mention in the resolution to the position of the unrepresentative PTI while totally ignoring the scepticism of the twice elected prime minster of Pakistan and leader of an elected PML-N, Mr Nawaz Sharif? Mr Sharif asked the military leaders present in the conference that there must be a 'reason' why the whole world is holding Pakistan responsible for terrorism, a direct reference to the generals' links with terrorist organisations.
Moreover, it is immensely surprising that the PTI's position was recorded in the resolution but there is nothing in the text that reflects the view of Mahmood Khan Achakzai, leader of the Pakhtun nationalist party, Pakhtunkhwa Milli Awami Party (PkMAP), who reportedly told the ISI chief at the APC that "there will be peace in Afghanistan within a month, provided the ISI stopped exporting terrorism into that country". PkMAP, unlike PTI, has a representation in the Senate of Pakistan and has a longstanding firmly held position whereby it asserts that the ISI is responsible for terrorism in Afghanistan and FATA. It is remarkable to note that the 'unanimously' passed resolution does not accommodate the point of view of this party that has lost several political workers, who were anti-Taliban, in targeted killings in FATA. The party leaders hold the ISI responsible for their killings.
Both Nawaz Sharif and Mahmood Achakzai deserve credit for making their views heard to the APC participants dominated by pro-establishment political parties. Their voices, although not part of the 'unanimous' resolution, were echoed by the media, putting a question mark on the 'unanimous' status of the resolution.
A strange position not concurring with the longstanding position on Pakistan's Afghan policy of the other Pakhtun nationalist party, the Awami National Party (ANP), was adopted by its leader, Asfandyar Wali, in the APC. It is pertinent to mention that the ANP issued an official statement on September 23, 2011 in the context of the growing tension between Pakistan and the US. The statement, while expressing concerns over US threats to Pakistan, "calls for an all out effort by the government (of Pakistan) to root out such (terrorist) groups, their supply lines and infrastructure (on Pakistani soil)". The statement declares such effort as "an inescapable and urgent need of evolving a clear strategy for dealing with terror outfits (in Pakistan)". The statement was totally ignored by the Pakistan media in line with its track record of suppressing the Pakhtun nationalist standpoint.
A few days later, ANP's provincial leader, Afrasiab Khattak, expressed a similar view as in the official statement in a TV interview, also referred to in Dr Taqi's column, 'US-Pakistan relations: a rocky road ahead' (Daily Times, September 29, 2011). By taking almost a U-turn a few days later the ANP-led Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Assembly passed a unanimous resolution condemning US threats without any reference to the terror sanctuaries, including the Haqqani network, in Pakistan. A couple of days later, Asfandyar Wali Khan participated in the APC without making his party's longstanding position on the Afghan policy heard and quietly toeing the establishment's line.
This leaves one to wonder what the real position of the ANP is on the current US-Pakistan tension on the Haqqani Taliban. The ANP, which has sacrificed the blood of hundreds of its workers for the party's anti-Taliban stance, must show the courage to publicly explain which of the two texts — the APC resolution or the party official statement — really represent the real party position.
In the current political scenario in Pakistan, it looks like the ANP position is oscillating between blackmailing the military establishment of Pakistan with the party's nationalist position on Afghanistan and collaboration with the establishment provided it accommodated the party in the ruling alliance of Pakistan as a junior partner. Even under the leadership of Begum Nasim Wali Khan — many believe the party organisation suffered under her leadership — the ANP never compromised in publicly asserting its longstanding position on the Afghan policy of Pakistan, the position that asserts that the establishment's strategic depth policy is responsible for the violence and instability in Afghanistan. The ANP today seem to be suffering from such a compromised leadership that the party has never seen in the past.
Notwithstanding Achakzai's straightforward comment to the ISI chief, both he and Asfandyar Wali have to explain how they can accept the point in the resolution mentioned earlier in this column. Do the two leaders not know that the militants in FATA are the Punjabi Taliban and international terrorists linked with al Qaeda, who have committed atrocities on the tribal people, including the tribal political workers of the ANP and PkMAP? Do they not know that the ISI, not the tribal people, brought these terrorists to FATA? Do they not know that local communities in FATA view the local Pakhtun Taliban, a fringe element of the tribal society, as murderers and anti-social elements who need to face justice?
The two nationalist leaders should have boycotted the APC for inclusion of such a misguiding statement in the resolution. One must appreciate the Baloch nationalist leaders for boycotting the APC in response to the state crimes against the Baloch people. Alas the Pakhtun leadership is too compromised to take such a courageous stance on their people.
The writer is the author of Taliban and Anti-Taliban