Islamabad [Pakistan]: Events taking place over the past couple of days suggest that all is not well within the Pakistan Foreign Office (FO) or with the foreign policy initiatives of Islamabad.
Former Pakistan High Commissioner to India Abdul Basit‘s acerbic open letter to that country’s former foreign secretary and now Ambassador to the United States Aizaz Ahmad Chaudhry, describing him as one of the worst persons to have headed Pakistan’s foreign service and as the sole person responsible for compromising Islamabad’s national interests globally, has opened a can of worms so to speak, as well as led opinion makers, analysts and observers, both domestic and foreign, into believing that the “Deep State” in Pakistan has had a behind-the-scenes role to play in this latest verbal fracas between two very senior diplomats.
It is a well acknowledged fact that Ambassador Basit has always been and seen as a loyalist of this “Deep State” and in all probability wrote this controversial letter to Chaudhry at their behest.
It can be assumed as well that through this letter, Ambassador Basit may have vented out his frustration at being deliberately overlooked by the Sharif administration for the coveted post of foreign secretary – once in 2013, when Chaudhry was made the foreign secretary, and the second time this year, when Sharif chose Tehmina Janjua to be Pakistan’s first woman foreign secretary, and nudged Basit towards opting for premature retirement (Basit was to superannuate next year).
The “Deep State” which is identified with the pro-Army, pro- ISI and pro-Islamic element in Pakistan, it seems, had always wanted Basit to be the nation’s foreign secretary, and according to sources, were upset when Prime Minister Sharif chose Tehmina Janjua in place of him.
They were also apparently upset with Chaudhry, as they clearly saw him as a Sharif loyalist facilitating his efforts to normalise relations with India.
The fact that Ambassador Basit squarely blames Chaudhry for failing to project a better image of Pakistan before the Trump Administration that led to the censuring of Islamabad as a haven for terrorists through a nation-wide broadcast from the White House, and that he was responsible for setbacks Pakistan had suffered diplomatically through the Ufa Joint Statement and the ‘humiliating defeat’ at the UN Human Rights Council with regard to the situation in Balochistan, Gilgit-Baltistan and Pakistan-administered Kashmir is a pointer to the “Deep State” thought process.
It would not be far-fetched to assume that the “Deep State‘s” next target after Chaudhry will be Tehmina Janjua, and the indication of this is the reference in Basit’s letter to Pakistan’s failure at the UN Human Rights Council, when she was her country’s envoy in Geneva before assuming charge as foreign secretary.
A recent seminar of eminent British and American academics held in London that focused on the omnipresent “Deep State” syndrome in Pakistan majorly concluded that Pakistan is a “sham democracy”.
The theme of the seminar organized by The Royal Commonwealth Society (RCS) at London University was entitled “The decline of democracy in Pakistan and the role of the Deep State”.
Farzana Shaikh, a Pakistani-origin associate fellow at Chatham House, described Pakistan as a “bonsai democracy” or a state restricted by its environment, and pointed out that the summary dismissal of a duly-elected civilian government and Nawaz Sharif from the office of Prime Minister by the Supreme Court of Pakistan, established this fact more than ever.
Christine C. Fair, Associate Professor at the Washington-based Georgetown University, said Sharif’s ouster was simply put an “army-cum-judicial coup”.
“The judiciary in Pakistan was not an independent actor, but a part of a new condominium emerging between the country’s army and the Supreme Court. The army had to develop new tools to keep pruning the grass of democracy to prevent it from taking root in Pakistan,” she claimed.
Professor Lawrence Sez, Professor of Political Economy in Asia at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) in London, said Sharif’s disqualification though initially correct has given room for increased unaccountability in Pakistan.
Burzine Waghmar, a senior teaching fellow at the SOAS, highlighted the complicity of the “Deep State” with the “pick up and dump” routine and suppressing the freedom struggle in the Baluchistan province.
“Democracy does not seem to be the system of choice among the young in Pakistan and there is a tendency towards a pro-order and/or pro-army view, especially among the more educated youth,” said Professor Marie Carine-Lall, chair of education and South Asian studies at London University’s Institute of Education.
Some in the Pakistani diplomatic community are of the view that discrediting Chaudhry might complicate matters for Islamabad in terms of projecting a better image of itself before Washington.
Basit should not have circulated the letter, most say, as Pakistan is confronted with critical foreign policy challenges at this juncture, be it with the United States or the immediate neighbourhood. (ANI)