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Do we have any foreign policy?

Foreign policy at present is nobody's baby. Pakistan's nuclear policy is also a double track game. Visits by Central Asian heads of State to Pakistan are unlikely to yield any real advance unless there is solid commitment in regard to fundamentalism.

In changing world of today Pakistan appears to be drifting aimlessly in regard to foreign policy. No one knows what is our stand on Kashmir. Has it changed? Or are we harping on the old tunes. Do we want independent Kashmir or right of self-determination for Kashmiris. Similarly what is our Afghan policy. Has it any relevance to the present day world.

Whether you accept it or not, it is a fact that Pakistan has made a fundamental shift in the Kashmir policy. It is no use telling one thing at one place and another at other place. For instance Mr. Nawaz Sharif in a BBC recorded interview admitted that Pakistan may opt for an independent Kashmir. However, the next day a rebuttal came that he was wrongly reported. The fact is that the idea of independent Kashmir is making rounds in the power corridors of Islamabad for the past two years. Europe and USA also support this idea. JKLF is now upholding the idea of independent Kashmir. Pakistan's Kashmir policy since the creation of Pakistan has been directed towards the alignment of occupied Jammu and Kashmir with Pakistan. In the changed circumstances, why the struggle for an independent Kashmir should not be seen as a struggle for an independent Kashmir and it Mr. Nawaz Sharif has said so he should uphold it. He should not remain a hostage of Jamaat's blackmail on foreign policy matters.

Pakistan's Afghan Policy has also changed fundamentally. Lt. General (Retd) Hameed Gul who was considered the main architect of Afghan policy has been retired. His policy brought heroin and Klashnikov culture in this country. Pakistan has now endorsed fully the UN peace plan for Afghanistan and favoured an all Afghan assembly to meet under UN auspices as quickly as possible. However, the President and the Prime Minister are repeating off and on that Pakistan has not changed its Afghan policy. Such statements merely create confusion and nothing else. Pakistan is now busy formulating a new policy giving in to the pressure for a political rather than military solution to this more than a decade old crisis. There is now an international consensus on achieving peace in Afghanistan through the UN. The UN peace effort has been led by the UN Secretary General's Special Representative to Afghanistan Benson Seven, who is based in Islamabad and is now scuttling around in the region.

No need to tell that the two super powers have lost interest in Afghanistan. Soviet Union has been disintegrated while Americans are no longer interested in prolonging the crisis. Central Asian Republics that border Afghanistan are the most concerned for an end to the conflict. Moreover, these states are not eager to see any brand of fundamentalism, take root in their neighbourhood. This was made clear to the Pakistan delegation who visited these republics lately. Radicals in Pakistan are now actively promoting the spread of Islamic radicalism to Central Asia thereby undercutting the government's policy of establishing trade and economic and cultural ties with the region. Visits by Central Asian heads of state to Pakistan are unlikely to yield any real advance unless there is solid commitment from the government to stop such activities.

Pakistan's nuclear policy is also a double track policy. Slogan of self-reliance for home consumption while following the dictates of Americans in the outside world. It continued intense diplomatic relations with the US on the one hand to resolve the issue and raised off and on the slogan of self reliance to placate domestic public opinion on the other. This policy has not helped. It is now increasingly felt that slogan of self reliance could not bail us out. The stoppage of US military equipment and spare parts has now resulted in grounding of two of the US supplied F-16 squadrons. According to experts if embargo was not lifted the PAF's operational capability would be seriously undermined in six to eight months time. Mirage deal is an attempt to diversify sources of military supplies.

According to State Department Pakistan had produced some quantity of highly enriched uranium over and above what it had prior to October 1989. Accepted, Pakistan had no nuclear device but highly enriched uranium in certain quantity and weapons cores even if held separately also constituted a nuclear device for the purpose of application of the Pressler Law. US therefore insisted that Pakistan must roll back its nuclear programme to the pre-October 1989 level. It is reported that Washington is sending signals that some sort of a roll back commitment might help them tackling the Pressler Amendment. In the wake of recession, manufacturers of F-16s want to meet their commitments. Only problem is to agree with the roll back. Pakistan appears to have agreed to the roll back programme thus throwing overboard all the tall claim of honour and self respect which remained the hallmark of IJI government. Nuclear policy is not a hide and seek game. Let there be national consensus on such vital issues.

The confusion in the matters of foreign policy is due to the fact that we do not have any full fledged foreign minister since the departure of Sahibzadah Yaqoob Khan. Foreign policy at present is now nobody's baby. Contradictory statements are being issued from every side including President Ghulam Ishaq Khan, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, Secretary General Akram Zaki and State Minister for Foreign Affairs Mr. Siddiq Kanju. Referring to Prime Minister's reported remarks about third option on Kashmir Mr. Hasan A. Shaikh said "This is not the proper way to run the government. Instead of running the country like, Ittefaq Foundry, the Prime Minister should call a party, meeting to discuss vital issues."

There was also a hint that the IJI Government was contemplating establishing relations with Israel. Benazir Bhutto lashed out at the Government on this point and warned that any such move by Pakistan will have serious consequences for our relations with Middle Eastern countries. Unless the whole Middle East problem is sorted out and the Palestine question is resolved we should not think of establishing relations with Israel.

Pakistan's relations with Asian, African and Arab countries are being strained due to the presence of Muslim radicals operating in and around Peshawar who range from Philippines, Indonesia to Arab world and Morocco. China has forcibly warned both President Ghulam Ishaq Khan and the Prime Minister that the training of Muslim radicals from Xinkiang, had been going on with the connivance of Pakistani political parties. China already highly perturbed by the rise of fundamentalism sees this interference as a direct threat to its national integrity. Philippines government has also raised objections against the training of the Moro National Liberation Front with Jamaat and Hizbe Islami in Afghanistan. According to report published in Herald there are now some 10,000 foreigners including Arabs, North Africans, Muslims from China and Central Asia, Burma, Malaysia and the Far East, who are either training with or fighting for the Mujahideen. Nobody knows who exactly controls them but Pakistan has made no effort to either stop them or control their entry into the country. No wonder Pakistan has been branded as a terrorist state by US and it is being considered that matter would be referred to the United Nations for sanctions as was done in the case of Iraq.

One vital issue which is rupturing the foreign relations apart is FSC ruling on riba. This has created major problems with Western Banks and could affect trade with all Pakistan's trading partners. Sardar Assef Ahmed Ali, Minister for Economic Affairs has boldly criticised the FSC verdict and asserted that foreign donors and financial institutions have expressed fears about future investments in Pakistan and may even start pulling out. The 1.2 billion dollar Hub Power Project has already bogged down over the issue of riba. The Ulema including Senator Qazi Hussain Ahmed and the Minister of Religious Affairs have asked the Government and even private persons, banks and other organisations not to move a petition against it. There is nothing sacrosanct about this verdict. Federal Shariat Courts were constituted by General Ziaul Haq and the judges of these courts held office at his pleasure. Two of the judges of these courts were removed because certain verdicts given by them were not acceptable to those in power. Zia sought legitimacy for his autocratic rule from them.

Ever since then, these courts have functioned as instruments of executive authority. Unlike, the other courts where the President can't so freely remove a judge - a prerogative of the Supreme Judicial Council, the Shariat Courts were made dependent on the discretion of the President. This made a mockery of the entire process of Islamic justice. Mr. Yahya Bakhtiar has reportedly submitted a constitutional Amendment Bill to be introduced in the Senate. It pertains to the jurisdiction of the Federal Shariat Court in the matter of striking down a law or laying down legislative rules which is primarily the function of the elected representatives of the people. This power was given to the Shariat Courts during the Martial Law of Gen. Ziaul Haq when there were no assemblies of the elected representatives of the people in existence and out of necessity the task was entrusted to Judges and Jurists of the Federal Shariat Court and the Appellate Shariat Bench of the Supreme Court. After the elected assemblies came into being in 1985, are the Shariat Courts still empowered to |legislate|? These are all matters which do require elucidation either through review by Federal Shariat Court itself or in appeal by the Supreme Courts Shariat Appellate Bench.
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Title Annotation:Pakistan's foreign policy
Author:Haidari, Iqbal
Publication:Economic Review
Date:Feb 1, 1992
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