By: Shahzaib Hassan
It is true that Pakistan is a sovereign country. It can take its own decisions, make policies and secure its political, social and cultural interests domestically as well as internationally. But it does mean that Pakistan is sovereign in every sense of this word. Perhaps, no country is fully sovereign as all countries face a certain kind of domestic as well as international pressure through various actors. Pakistan is no exception. Sovereignty is a theoretical conception of a state, but in realpolitik there is always give and take based on circumstances.
Give and take is a way of solving problems. It is the process through which states cooperate and work towards their mutual goals. Cooperation always comes at the cost of a compromised posture of a state which does not mean that the state that is compromising for cooperation is not sovereign in its will and power. But given Imran Khan’s depiction of Pakistan’s relation with the USA, it apparently feels that we have really become a slave state which is in fact a naive commentary as Pakistan’s has benefited as well as suffered loses whenever it cooperated with the USA. Take the example of the 1980s, when Pakistan assisted the USA in the Afghan war against the USSR and gained huge military equipment and aid though at a big cost of human lives and infrastructure. Had Pakistan not cooperated with the USA, it would not have been able to nuclearize itself. So, cooperation between states on mutual interest comes with benefits and losses. Thus, simplifying Pak-US relations is wrong as it lacks the depth of understanding of the self-help system of international relations.
Some analysts even today say that Pakistan made a big mistake in jumping to the US war in Afghanistan. They ignored the fact that it was not only a US war, it was equally Pakistan’s war for we did not want a communist imperial power to subsequently invade Pakistan just as it invaded Afghanistan, to get access to warm waters.
Imran Khan needs to understand that with Pakistan we exist, without it we are nothing. Along with this, Khan has to admit that Pakistan has pursued what it felt right with regard to India and the USA in Afghanistan, thereby acting as a sovereign country.
Given this historical perspective, it is thus wrong on the part of Khan to say that we have become a slave country and sold our sovereignty to USA. This perception is also wrong historically for the fact that Pakistan did not deter from its foreign policy goals such as obtaining nuclear power despite massive pressure and sanctions from the USA through the Pressler Amendment, thereby meaning that Pakistan remained steadfast in the 1990s and achieved nuclear power.
The story does not end with Pakistan becoming a nuclear state with respect to India. After 9/11 Pakistan was once again forced to assist the USA to kill the culprits behind the attack. Though Pakistan was not at all in favour of such an abrupt military venture by the USA; however, due to pressure, Pakistan stealthily agreed to start operation against different terror groups.
Having done so, once again, Pakistan got military aid as well as economic and development funds from the USA. But amid this all, Pakistan didn’t give in to pressure as it continued to have its strategic assets around the Pak-Afghan border. That’s why after 2010, the USA started to ask it to “do more”, meaning that Pakistan never really gave up on pursuing its own agenda in Afghanistan as it could not leave Afghanistan to India and the USA. This reflects that Pakistan is sovereign and independent in its pursuance of its national interest. Any claim to the contrary, especially by Imran Khan, is nothing more than a political statement to mobilize the people of Pakistan.
Moreover, Khan has accused the USA of having conspired against him and subsequently dislodged his government with the assistance of conspirators of the Pakistan Democratic Alliance (PDM). In referring to his being ousted through a vote of no-confidence, he implies the sovereignty of Pakistan has been challenged since the USA is behind his ouster.
It is again a bad political move by Khan for he has sacrificed the strategic relationship for mere domestic political gains. In pursuance of his ignorant wishes, he is trying to exploit anti-American sentiment of Pakistanis. It is thus not at all an issue of sovereignty. Rather, it is an issue of political expediency for Khan. It is regrettable that Khan has become blind to the national interests of the country for his political survival.
Having been dismissed from power, Khan has shown himself as a reckless megalomaniac who does not care about the national interest of Pakistan for he is pandering to his “absolutely not” narrative which is again based on a fabricated story of air bases that the US had asked for counterterrorism surveillance in Afghanistan after its withdrawal from the region. Based on such lies, Khan has established his political mansion and lured the masses amid claiming that we are a compromised sovereign state.
Whether it is Khan’s “absolutely-not” or “foreign conspiracy” narrative, both are based on lies, half-filled truths. Khan, as a populist leader, cannot accept his political defeat. That is why he is desperate in his sloganeering so that he could lure masses with a narrative like foreign conspiracy. If not for Pakistan, Khan at least should care for the country’s international standing before spewing venom against its strategic relations. For mere domestic gains, only a mentally deranged person can go to such a lengths.
Before long, Khan needs to understand that with Pakistan we exist, without it we are nothing. Along with this, Khan has to admit that Pakistan has pursued what it felt right with regard to India and the USA in Afghanistan, thereby acting as a sovereign country.
The writer is a freelance columnist