At the beginning of 2019, Pakistan’s politics was characterised by cautious optimism among those who supported PTI’s historic 2018 electoral victory. There was once a palpable sense of enthusiasm for the new government’s plans to revitalise the economy by courting sustainable investment, reaching agreements to receive loans from key partners including China, Saudi Arabia and the UAE and planning the long term conversion of a corrupt and partly neo-feudal economy to that of a forward looking Islamic welfare state. In terms of foreign policy, Imran Khan was seen successfully courting the Presidents of Turkey and China, the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, the Emirs of Abu Dhabi and Qatar and the Prime Minister of Malaysia.
Then in February of this year, the Army and ISPR scored both a tactical and more importantly a psychological/soft power victory against an Indian government whose hysterical reaction to the Pulwama incident resulted in Pakistan embarrassing New Delhi throughout the world (except of course on Indian media where the full story has yet to be told).
But then things began to take a turn for the worse as I previously described:
“First there was news that Pakistan had banned peaceful rallies for Sikh democracy – aka the Khalistan movement. The same international Sikh grass roots activists that had rallied to Pakistan’s defence after Pulwama were prohibited from engaging in a peaceful pro-democracy demonstration whose essence was fraternal in spirit to Pakistan.
Shortly after this, Pakistan caved into pressure from the failed Kabul regime and cancelled a meeting that was scheduled between Afghan Taliban representatives and Prime Minister Imran Khan. This betrayed any sense of logic as American, Russian, Iranian and Chinese officials have met with Taliban officials in pursuit of bringing some sense of normalcy to Afghanistan. It is ludicrous that as Pakistan stands to gain more from a placid Afghanistan than America, Russia, China or even Iran, the Pakistan government caved into pressure from a regime that does not even control much (if not most) of its own territory. This of course came at a time when the wider world including many in Washington openly admit that Pakistan has a vital role to play in the all-parties peace process.
More recently, the same PTM that the civilian government had been walking on egg shells to appease has been exposed as an anti-state organisation that recently conducted a violent attack against the Army. Whilst ISPR has revealed PTM’s foreign links to the world, the civilian authorities have yet to designate the group as a terrorist organisation. This is both dangerous and dangerously embarrassing.
Now, after having insulted the Taliban, the only Pashtun faction in Afghanistan that is not explicitly anti-Pakistan, Imran Khan is set to host Kabul regime leader Ashraf Ghani, a man who is no longer even taken seriously by his American patrons, yet a man who still refuses to recognise Pakistan’s borders in spite of not even controlling those of his own nation.
When taken as a whole, this means that Pakistan’s government is in disarray and self-evidently the “opposition” parties are vastly worse. Due to the fact that Pakistan remains at war (however much liberals in Lahore, Karachi and Islamabad may pretend otherwise) it is high time to reconsider not only Pakistan’s methodological but infrastructural approach to foreign policy and security matters”
To put it succinctly, the spirit of Naya Pakistan seems to have devolved into one where a lethargic government remains totally unresponsive to a new generation of familiar internationally sponsored hybrid terror that is currently targeting state institutions and innocent civilians in both western Balochistan and in north Waziristan. Between terrorists in KPK loyal to the Kabul regime and BLA terrorists seeking to kill both Pakistani, Chinese and other foreign civilians, the country is facing a problem that ought to be dealt with using both iron rhetoric and an iron fist.
Whilst the two main “opposition parties” continue to undermine any sense of unity in the face of terrorism (as could have and should have been expected), the government sits like an ostrich whose head is buried deeply in the sand but not so deep that it cannot occasionally emerge to make a western hippy style speech about “peace and love”.
In a previous piece, I detailed one of many specific solutions to the problem of PTI’s malaise in the face of radical threats to the integrity of the Pakistani state. But moreover, it is time to collectively ask: “What has happened to Naya Pakistan”?
It was the phrase proudly on the tongue of millions of Pakistanis and of those who wish Pakistan well. Yet now the phase Naya Pakistan seems to have evaporated along with the optimism and patriotism that defined the early months of PTI in power. It is wise to remember that unlike the dynastic parties, PTI campaigned for power for over 20 years and throughout that period the message of patriotism, economic renewal and global non-alignment resonated in every province of Pakistan.
Now that PTI is in government, it has not become like the outlandish and systematically corrupt “opposition” but it has become so soft on the major issues of national security so as to transform from a party that once championed peace with Pakistanis characteristics, to one that now champions the rhetoric of peace at the cost of peace itself.
As Pakistan is still at war on multiple fronts, it beggars belief that the government acts as though peace has been achieved where in reality, peace is slowly slipping away because the government seems petrified of its duty to name, shame, restrain and neutralise those posing a threat to Pakistan and its people.
Naya Pakistan must be revived but the first step that must be taken in order to do so is to admit that the old has become the new.