Gul Bukhari: The Sovererignty Hysteria

By Gul Bukhari
This article appeared in Dawn on October 10, 2009

Critics of the Kerry-Lugar bill must answer a humiliating question: the preservation of whose sovereignty are they referring to? Is it of a country that has accepted drone attacks in the tribal areas? The hysterical reaction to the Kerry-Lugar bill by formerly rational TV anchors, analysts and politicians is painful to watch. True, one does not expect any better from those who only oppose and criticise for the sake of doing so, but to hear saner voices in the mad din is distressing.

 In Shakespeare’s words,

[They] have no spur

To prick the sides of [their] intent, but only

Vaulting [patriotism] ambition, which o’erleaps itself,

And falls on th’other…


In his soliloquy, Macbeth argued with himself against the murder of King Duncan, who was not only his relative but also a pious and good king. In recognising that he had ‘no spur to prick the sides of his intent, but only vaulting ambition’ he admitted that his only justification for contemplating the murder of his cousin, the king, was his ambition, and he describes it in terms of a rider who jumps too high and as a consequence ‘o’erleaps’ to fall on the other side of the steed.


I cannot help seeing slow-motion images of these rider-critics, once again, in their shining suits of patriotism o’erleaping and falling on th’other (the last time was after the Mumbai carnage). These otherwise reasonable, intelligent and sensible persons all admit to the factual nature of Pakistan’s transgressions in the past, based on which the bill places restrictions upon the country.


None deny Pakistan’s past role in nuclear proliferation; none deny Pakistan’s past misuse of American aid towards aiding and consolidating Al Qaeda and Taliban operatives; none now deny the involvement of Pakistanis in the Mumbai attack; and none deny the presence of the Taliban in south Punjab. Moreover, none disagree that today Pakistan is on a precipice, gazing down into a void due to these very reasons.


Yet an unreasonable emotion, which they probably identify as patriotism, prompts these detractors to aggressively attack every ‘string’ attached to the proposed non-military aid bill that aims to shoot down the very causes they themselves recognise as being at the root of many of Pakistan’s troubles. So hateful are the ‘strings’ to them that they would rather have no aid than have their state be forced to quit fomenting extremism and terrorism. Admirable patriotism!


I ask them to sincerely examine their emotions and try to discern whether it is truly patriotism they feel, or pain, humiliation and anger at a spade being called a spade, and being told to become a proper cudgel. Love for one’s country should not plunge one into blind denial and a fit of tantrums. ‘Yes! These may be valid concerns, but who is the US to tell us so? We would rather eat grass….’ To those who speak these words, it has become an issue of preserving sovereignty.


First, critics of the bill must answer a humiliating question: the preservation of whose sovereignty are they referring to? Is it of the same country whose armed forces were forced to fight the Taliban in Swat because of American threats of on-the-ground forces and aerial attacks, Afghan-occupation style? Or is it of a country that has accepted drone attacks in the tribal areas, launched by foreign forces to take out entrenched Al Qaeda and Taliban elements?


With mixed feelings of pain and relief, I must remind all that had the country in question actually been sovereign, and had the US not successfully arm-twisted Islamabad and GHQ into action this year, we would quite possibly have been the proud citizens of the Islamic Emirate of Pakistan, ruled by the benevolent Emir Mullah Omar today.


Second, how are American attempts to stop nuclear proliferation by a state that demonstrated rogue behaviour in the past a sovereignty issue? The bill is clear in its aims of stopping Pakistan from pursuing self-destruction. Is there anyone who denies that our adventures in Kashmir and Afghanistan have landed us in the fine mess we are in today? Or that the world is a safer place with countries like Iran on the brink of going nuclear?


Sensible patriotism might have entailed insistence on the insertion of clauses of transparency in the processes involved, not throwing tantrums at the principles contained within the bill. The objectives and principles contained in it are actually constructive from the Pakistani people’s point of view. But if a cool-minded analysis of the bill reveals any modalities that might put the national interest at risk, then those ought to be negotiated.


For example, opinion-makers might want to ask our parliament to negotiate provisions in the bill whereby, for example, a transparent legal process within Pakistan would precede any decision on the fate of suspected nuclear proliferators, to safeguard against any perceived threats from unjustified future demands from the US.


Should the US whimsically decide to accuse Pakistan of atrocities carried out in neighbouring countries at some future date, instead of raising spurious objections like those of a PML-N parliamentarian pertaining to the possibility of sudden stoppage of the construction of hospitals from aid funds, a more honest and wise approach would be required.


It would be infinitely more mature for our politicians to be appreciative of the US making aid contingent on a stop to the military’s extra-curricular activities, as well as the state’s refraining from promoting extremism and terrorism. They can then set about proposing safeguards against potential threats to national interests contained within the bill.


Can anyone disagree that much of the extremism in Pakistan today was sponsored by the state for a long time?

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One Response to “Gul Bukhari: The Sovererignty Hysteria”

  1. Shahab Riazi Says:

    This is the first time that the US seems to be making an open investment in Pakistan’s people and not in the “most stable institution in Pakistan,” the stability of which is questionable in the sense that it keeps veering away from its objective of serving Pakistan’s interest and onto serving what can only be referred to as its own. Let me give you an example which may explain why we have such a problem with Kerry-Lugar and not with other initiatives in the past that have been deflected to line up more Pakistani pockets than anything else. China has been helping Pakistan in one way or another for the past several decades. Granted, that is also for its own interest but nonetheless help has been there. And it has been there not just in terms of Military assistance but also assistance to civilian projects. But there is a fundamental difference. China is not interested in marketing its aid. That is not their cultural or institutional disposition. American government, on the other hand, is all about marketing. Hollywood good guys just can’t stay away from strutting their stuff on world stage. An argument may be that this being a democracy, they can’t shush stuff up, can they? Well, its not as if they have never done that before. Bear in mind, I am not arguing that they should have concealed this aid but I think there was a miscalculation on the part of the American government on how this would get translated in Pakistan. I believe, our good Amb. Haqqani should have helped prepare the ground better for when the rubber attempted to meet the road. I heard his protestations on TV about how Pakistani government had nothing to do with a bill passed in the American congress and almost rolled over laughing. I would like to know what exactly is his job description if not just that of serving the state of Pakistan’s interest in the US.

    Now, Pakistan, since its inception, has lined up with the Arab states idealogically and thanks to the dictatorial rules of our men in uniform, politically. If we had better relations with India, it may not have turned out that way but fantasy land is fantasy land and we can’t all affort to live there. American government, in the perception of the Pakistani people, has always lined up against these Arab states and their other “Islamic Interests” even though the only thing Islamic about Arab interests is that they concern the people in a land we consider holy, by nothing more than siding with Israel. This explains how, even though, we have no fight with Israel, we consider them enemies so much so that our crazies (Zaid Hamid and ilk) always refer to India and Israel together when they spout off their latest conspiracy theories. So America has always been viewed as lining up with Israel and it hurts the Pakistani sensibility that we have to take such marketable aid from someone whom we consider on the other side of the divide, even though we have been taking aid from the US government on the sly or on paper for the past 50 years, soveriegnty or no soveriegnty.

    Internally, this is basically a food fight between the powers in Pakistan that are in control aka the Army and the powers who think they are in control aka zardari and company. This food fight can only end when the power supplying the food (Kerry-Lugar) stop trying to make it a marketing excercize and get on with the job and Richard H. makes a trip to the GHQ and tells Kiyani to shut his trap about affairs of state between the American government and the Pakistani government. That statement from GHQ about Kerry-Lugar bill was irresponsible and a crock of bull.

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