By Agha Iqrar Haroon
The members of the US Senate Select Committee on Intelligence and the Senate Armed Services Committee are here in Pakistan while Open/Closed hearings to find out the failure of US Military and Intelligence are going on in the United States.
US Senate members, former and sitting Military leadership are cursing Pakistan for the failures and disasters they left in Afghanistan. Important issues covered by US Senate Committees are reasons for failures of US Military, Intelligence, and diplomacy in Afghanistan where the US had to leave their base-camp Bagram Air Base in the middle of the night.
Senators Angus King, Richard Burr, John Cornyn, and Benjamin Sasse are members of US Committees investigating the role of Pakistan in US failure, and their presence in Pakistan is obviously linked with their investigation. They are meeting everybody who is on their list. Though Pakistan Foreign Office is considering their visit as part of the US-Pakistan historic diplomatic relationship and alignment to deal with the regional issues. Facts can be different than what is being placed in media.
There is a saying about Diplomatic Theatre that “those who know, don’t talk and those you don’t know they talk”.
Senators are almost at the same time when Prime Minister of Pakistan Imran Khan regretted attending the Democracy Summit held by US President Biden. His regret boosted the reputation of PM Khan domestically and he is becoming popular as the only leader who is not ready to take dictation from abroad. Pakistan’s Foreign Office does not give any tangible or concrete reasons and indicates since Pakistan had strong Democracy and good relations, therefore, there was no need to attend it. “We remain in contact with the US on a range of issues and believe that we can engage on this subject at an opportune time in the future,” the Pakistani Foreign Ministry said while regretting to attend “The Summit for Democracy”.
One of the reasons for refusing to attend the Democracy Summit can be linked with Sino-Pak excellent relations and since China was not invited so Pakistan in protest did not attend the event. State aligned writers and International Relations experts promote the idea that fears of China surpassing the USA as the world’s largest economy have caused stress and anxiety among US policymakers irrespective of whether the Democrats or Republicans are in power and the latest attempt to isolate China was by announcing the so-called Democracy Summit which Taiwan was also supposed to attend. Among other countries invited was the Philippines, which has the third-lowest index rank of 15 countries in the East Asia & Pacific region for democratic freedom, just above Myanmar. The Democracy Summit was therefore just a political gimmick aimed at rallying friendly countries to speak against China’s human rights record and it was the perfect decision of Pakistan not to attend and be a part of such a Forum.
Another possible reason for avoidance can be a strongly worded letter of National Endowment for Democracy, questioning the state of Democracy in Pakistan. The letter written by Brian Joseph Vice President, Programs to US Embassy Islamabad claims that there is no Democracy in Pakistan and everything is staged and controlled and Pakistan is going through a phase of hybrid Democracy formation. Among the US Think Tanks, Brian is considered as an important critic and an expert of the democratic system of Pakistan as he served as the Senior Director for Asia and Global Programs at the Endowment before assuming charge as Vice-President. He had been speaking widely and written about Burma, Pakistan, Thailand, human rights in Asia, and democracy promotion in closed societies. Brian has testified before the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations Subcommittee on East Asia and Pacific Affairs, the Congressional Human Rights Caucus, and the Canadian Senate Committee on Foreign Affairs and International trade, providing high-level briefings for State Department officials, and also delivers lectures at the Foreign Service Institute. His claims could be part of possible questions President Biden could ask Prime Minister Imran Khan throughout their virtual meeting on states of Democracy in Pakistan during the Democracy Summit.
I believe that avoiding “Democracy Summit” was not a wise decision when US Senate Committees are busy scrutinizing serious issues in Closed/Open Hearings on security in Afghanistan and in the regions of South and Central Asia, military operations in Afghanistan, and plans for future counterterrorism operations and the role of states and non-state actors to ensure the failure of US military and intelligence in Afghanistan.
Pakistan must not give opportunities to anti-Pakistan lobbies to make Pakistan scapegoat by using the “Afghanistan Counterterrorism, Oversight and Accountability Act” that was introduced by Senator Jim Risch, a ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. This Act was tabled after the meeting of Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi on September 24, 2021, with Republican Senator James Risch on the sidelines of his United Nations-related engagements in New York. Moving the Act to the House after this meeting was a clear indication that US Senators did not buy Pakistan’s viewpoint and had decided to punish Pakistan for the US failures.
The Legislation says that not later than 180 days after the date of the enactment of this Act, and not less frequently than annually thereafter, the Secretary of State, in consultation with the Secretary of Defense and the Director of National Intelligence, shall submit to the appropriate congressional committees a report on entities providing support to the Taliban. The Legislation wants a detailed report about the 20-year scene of Afghanistan from the day Operation Enduring Freedom started and ended at mid-night chaotic withdrawal of US-allied forces from Afghanistan. The Legislation wants:
- an assessment of support by state and non-state actors, including the Government of Pakistan, for the Taliban between 2001 and 2020, including the provision of sanctuary space, financial support, intelligence support, logistics, and medical support, training, equipping, and tactical, operational, or strategic direction;
- an assessment of support by state and non-state actors, including the Government of Pakistan, for the 2021 offensive of the Taliban that toppled the Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, including the provision of sanctuary space, Financial support, intelligence support, logistics, and medical support, training, equipping, and tactical, operational, or strategic direction;
- an assessment of support by state and non-state actors, including the Government of Pakistan, for the September 2021 offensive of the Taliban against the Panjshir Valley and the Afghan resistance; and a detailed description of United States diplomatic and military activities undertaken to curtail support for the 2021 offensive of the Taliban that toppled the Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan.
Senators Angus King, Richard Burr, John Cornyn, and Benjamin Sasse on December 11, 2021, held a meeting with prime minister Imran Khan and Prime Minister Office in its statement said that recalling the collective struggles of Pakistan and the US over the decades in promoting peace and security globally, the Senators deeply appreciated Pakistan’s recent contribution in the evacuation of the American nationals and others from Afghanistan post-15 August.
I believe what the PM office says, I also believe what Foreign Office says that all is well and I too believe that Pakistan and US have learned to live together with mistrust and would remain living together. However, one should comprehend that the threats do not lie in what kind of relations Pakistan and the United had in past rather what would be an outcome of hearings of Senate Committees and what would be observations of visiting senators when they would appear in the US Committees. The threat also lies in how Democracy in Pakistan is portrayed in forthcoming reports of US Think Tanks, US Senate Committees, and in statements of the US Department of States because these are realities that steer US business concessions, funding, influence over World Bank, IMF and the issue of FATF. A number of Federal Ministers including Foreign Ministers Shah Mahmood Qurashi had been challenging the credibility of FATF and its dealing with Pakistan’s status of the grey list.
The desire of Pakistan to play the role of bridging the gaps between the nations is at sight as a circle around Prime Minister Imran Khan promotes the idea that he can bridge gaps between the USA and China as he offered to Saudi Arabia and Iran in the past. The successful “Go-between” of the late 60s and early 70s for “Ping Pong Diplomacy” may not be possible now because now US stakes are very high and Washington looks towards Beijing not as a political foe rather as an economic and military threat.
One must appreciate the level of confidence of the government of Pakistan that is fighting for its chosen rules at several international borders with less than one percent growth rate at home and constant melting down of its economy. At this juncture of point all the 220 million population must stand with Prime Minister Imran Khan to boost his morale because if he fails, the entire State would face the consequences.
Note: The writer is a senior social scientist working in national and international media since 1988. His area of work includes Afghanistan, Central Asia, South Asia, and Eastern European regions. He is also Chief Editor of DND News Agency.
The views and opinions expressed in this article/Opinion/Comment are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the DND Thought Center and Dispatch News Desk (DND). Assumptions made within the analysis are not reflective of the position of the DND Thought Center and Dispatch News Desk News Agency.