When, when, when?

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When will we, as a nation and a state, stop being the world’s favourite whipping boy and rediscover our dignity and self-respect? Of course, the people are simply being plummeted down the path of servitude, to the world at large, by our leaders, while the nation cries out ‘when will this end?’

Some say when the national economy is strong; others say when corruption and nepotism end; but frankly servitude is a state of mind. Especially considering that economically weaker and physically smaller states like Cuba have asserted their self-respect and dignity across continents while being visibly threatened by an aggressive imperial United States of America – barely 100 miles away from its shores and occupying a piece of Cuban territory in the form of Guantanamo Bay. The struggle for independence in southern Africa received major support from Cuba – defying all pressures and threats.

Today, here we are in Pakistan being abused at will by the US; by our large neighbour India; by our weak and smaller neighbour Afghanistan; and being pressured by both Saudi Arabia and Iran as well as the EU and the ever shrinking UK. This was not always the case: in the early decades of our independence we had a resolute commitment and actively supported freedom struggles of the Muslim Ummah – with Algerian leader Ferhat Abbas and Tunisian leader Bourguiba using Pakistani passports and our embassy in Paris as they fought French colonisation.

We offered China an opening to the world when the West sought to isolate the Maoist revolution and the Sino-Soviet split put further pressure on the People’s Republic of China – to cite just two examples from our past when we had a vision and a commitment to our beliefs. We also defied the US and acquired our nuclear capability despite being the most sanctioned-against state. At the same time, we were one of the lead peacekeepers across the globe.

Yet, where are we today? We have lost thousands of our soldiers, law enforcers and civilians in the US-led misdirected ‘war on terror’ which so far has rendered the world more unsafe from Europe to Asia and Africa – especially the Muslim World to the West of us, which has been decimated from within.

Now, the US Congress has the gall to ask whether Pakistan is a friend or foe. Frankly, the Pakistani nation has by and large known for years that the US was never a friend, but our leaders continue to be in a state of denial. Even today some defensive mutterings have come from the Foreign Office and its tweedle-dee, tweedle-dum duo that heads it these days, but no clear-cut reciprocally assertive response, which should have been the order of the day. Thank God for Raza Rabbani and the Senate for showing some dignity.

When US drones moved from Fata to Balochistan, all Sartaj Aziz could say was that the US had crossed a “red line”! In other words, as long as drones were killing the people of Fata, it was acceptable to our servile leaders but moving beyond Fata was not. Shameful how our leaders feel the lives of the people in Fata are expendable to US drones.

Choose any front and the US has increased its hostility towards us while we display a growing pusillanimity. The issue of our membership to the Nuclear Suppliers’ Group being a glaring example. And Trump has yet to come to power!

What should we have done? At the very least ensured that the US embassy is reduced to a reciprocal size instead of becoming the largest CIA/military contractors’ base in the world; perhaps stopped giving access to every Congressman who lands up in Islamabad. There are many options that can be enunciated if parliament was taken on board.

As for Modi’s India, it has gone on a Pakistan-bashing agenda while the Sharif government has adopted appeasement of a kind not even witnessed at Munich by Britain’s Chamberlain. Had anyone in the Sharif government studied global history, they could have informed the PM of the costs of appeasement. Just as it took days for the government to respond to the drone attack in Balochistan, it has taken the government weeks to even begin framing a response to the brave struggle of the Kashmiris in Indian Occupied Kashmir, against Indian military repression and the use of lethal and non-lethal weapons to kill and maim innocent Kashmiris, including women and children.

The message has gone out loud and clear to the Modi government that the present state of Pakistan has an infinite capacity to tolerate hostility and abuse.

Even Kabul, with all its internal fissures, is flexing its muscles against Islamabad – with the protective shadow of the US and Nato over it – as Pakistan’s leadership tries for the first time to genuinely accommodate and appease the Afghans, including on the issue of refugees. Such is the irony on this front.

As for Saudi Arabia, it showed its displeasure when we stood our ground on Yemen by embracing India in a most teasing fashion. Our workers are treated shabbily by the Gulf States but our government is unable to protect them.

Iran too has been showing its irritation with us, especially when we asked about the possible activities of RAW agent Yadev’s set-up through Iran. Incidentally we have also gone into a strange silence over this spy issue. Another issue that we will soon have to confront is the new Saudi move of reaching out to Israel. We have seen no response to this development, which directly impacts a cornerstone of our foreign policy.

The EU and UK continue to pressure Pakistan on any number of issues while they deny visas to ordinary Pakistani tourists on one pretext or another – regardless of the authenticity of their intent. The UK leaders tell us how we should frame policies when they themselves are confronting a deeply divided polity. But we do not frame a reciprocal response.

Australia and Japan target our nuclear programme while encouraging India’s nuclear development and again we tolerate this hypocrisy with no protest.

All in all, we stand exposed as a country with no proactive foreign policy to further our national interests. All we can do is frame timid responses to the abuse being heaped on us from across the globe. Sadly even in the field of international peacekeeping we have gone down to being number four – behind states like Bangladesh.

Bangladesh brings up the sorry plight of our fellow citizens stranded in camps in that country – people who stood loyally by Pakistan and continue to pay the price for this with their lives. We can shelter Afghan refugees but refuse to bring back our stranded Pakistanis from Bangladesh.

So if we cannot protect the dignity and lives of our own citizens why would the world not abuse us? Herein lies the bitter truth of what our leaders have reduced the nation to. We have been shrouded in what ZAB so aptly described as the “myth of independence”. When will this end? Will it ever end? Therein lies the rub.

The writer is DG of SSII, a private think tank, and a PTI MNA. The views expressed are her own.