Projecting Pakistan’s Narrative

Projecting Pakistan’s Narrative

Rehman Malik 2 | Musings from Narratives Magazine
Senator Rehman Malik
The writer is the Former Interior Minister of Pakistan, author of five books, Ex-Chairman Senate Standing Committee on Interior and Chairman Institute of Research & Reforms (IRR), Islamabad.

Pakistan came into being in 1947 as an independent and sovereign state — the result of unyielding endeavours by Muslims for a separate homeland under the two-nation theory. The founder of Pakistan, Quaid-e-Azam Mohammed Ali Jinnah, had visualised running the country based on the notions of ‘Unity, Faith and Discipline.’ Unfortunately, with his demise, the ruling elite forgot his vision and started serving their self-interests. The successive governments failed to provide even the essential amenities to the citizens or bring peace and stability. Pakistan remained under pressure right from the first day of its Independence. We could not grow as a disciplined nation because we failed to implement the rule of law — a pivotal factor to take the country forward. There are scores of reasons, which contributed to the weakness of the state, and the governments, but some of those can be summarised as under:

1. Lack of Education: The inequality and lack of education among the masses remain one key reason Pakistan failed to achieve its full potential and grow as a society. People with no access to education cannot contribute to the country’s development and are instead engaged in striving for survival on a day-to-day basis. Therefore, they have no say in the country’s governance and leave this task to the government — the minority elite — which has its interests to look after while in power in the majority of the cases.

2. Corruption: Although corruption is a relative term, it is rampant in every segment of society. The bureaucracy and politicians remain hands in gloves in corruption — financial and moral. Wherever corruption is rooted deeply in society, it harms the economy and damages the fabric of society, thus making a country weak.

3. Non-Democratic Norms: Since 1958, Pakistan experienced four Martial Law governments — from Gen. Ayub Khan to Gen. Pervez Musharraf. As a result, democratic institutions and attitudes could not be developed. Even the political government could not develop democratic institutions or inculcate democratic attitudes among politicians. The political governments always remained under the fear of their dismissal by the non-democratic forces. The vested interests were always ready to provide shoulders to these forces for their self-interests. Pakistan’s continued political instability made us a laughingstock in the international community.

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Pakistan must undo decades of western propaganda for the world to see its true, peace-oriented nature.

4. Failure to Ensure Rule of Law: The politicisation of the police and judicial activism has denied justice to the people. The police looked towards the signals of their masters while the judiciary partnered with the non-democratic forces. Both these institutions are equally responsible for the rule of law, but they have failed miserably. The result is that people have lost confidence in both these institutions, and some cases, they resort to violence to seek justice. There are also cases in which the judiciary releases culprits regardless of the overwhelming evidence against them. Lack of the rule of law in any country gives birth to simmering violence and even civil war. It is, therefore, high time for the government to ensure the rule of law in the country before it is too late.

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Pakistanis protest US drone attacks on their villages in Islamabad.

5.     Fiscal Policies: Only a strong economy guarantees stability and prosperity of a country. Pakistan’s economy has never been as strong as it should have been. One of the reasons remains that the economy has been chiefly handled unprofessionally and on an ad-hoc basis. The weak economy has, thus, rendered the country vulnerable to international vested interests. The government is hostage to the IMF and the World Bank and the mercy of friendly nations for loans and grants. The country is being dictated to meet the demands of the IMF in terms of raising taxes and increasing prices of basic amenities in return for loans. How long would we survive under these conditions?  The IMF is controlling Pakistan like a colony.

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Pakistani traders protest IMF-imposed tax hikes; Pakistan’s dependence on foreign agencies is draining the lifeblood of its economy.

6. Accumulation of foreign debts: As stated above, Pakistan is under heavy foreign obligation due to the poor state of the economy. The pilferage of national resources has contributed to the accumulation of foreign debts. Corruption is one of the contributory factors that has weakened the economy, forcing the state to seek more and more foreign loans to keep the country afloat and repay the old loans and the interest.

These factors have derailed the country, and our unwise decisions made us vulnerable to the pressure of the international powers. The West successfully took advantage of our weaknesses and used those to serve their motives. Our needs have made us almost subservient to them, and our internal and external policies depend on these masters, who provide loans and aid. In such a situation, how can we make the other countries give weight to Pakistan’s narrative?

There is a long list of events showing how the anti-Pakistan strategy was chalked out and implemented by the foreign powers and their local stooges. It started with the murder of Liaquat Ali Khan, supporting the dictatorial regime of Ayub Khan, then handing over power to Yahya khan, breaking off East Pakistan, toppling the government and judicial killing of Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, supporting the dictatorial regime of Gen Zia ul Haq, and lately the murder of Benazir. These are sequences of a well-planned anti-Pakistan strategy and the enemy has not yet finished its agenda. Now we are facing a hybrid war besides suffering in terms of economy and increased diplomatic isolation. We are the victims of an insurgency orchestrated by the international intelligence agencies.

The hostile intelligence operations have made Pakistan weaker day by day. The deliberate planting of Al-Qaeda in Afghanistan during the Afghan-Soviet War was one of the strategies of the West, especially the United States, to turn Pakistan into the turf for sectarian warfare. Without realising the consequence, Pakistan again became a tool in the hands of the United States by joining the so-called US-led war on terror.  Who suffered the most because of this war? Pakistan!

Again Pakistan was used, and we did not realise the in-built conspiracies against the country. It was unfortunate that instead of becoming a nation of independent thoughts adopting the natural course to drag the government out of the crises, we started projecting the narrative of the United States instead. Throughout our participation in the ‘war on terror and even after the abrupt withdrawal of the US and allied forces from Afghanistan, we have been trying to convince the world community that Pakistan was the actual victim of the ‘War on Terror.’ But Pakistan was still doubted for its intentions, and no country accepted and appreciated our immense sacrifices in terms of human lives and the economic cost.

The question is why the world does not believe Pakistan and its narrative despite losing thousands of precious lives, hosting millions of Afghan refugees without any external assistance and having a negative impact on our economy? To me, there are numerous reasons for our failure to sell our narrative to the world, including:

1. The United States designed the war on terror for its motives and not to bring peace in the region or in any way benefit Pakistan. The role of Pakistan was predetermined in terms of weakening and defaming the country by levelling allegations of supporting the Afghan Taliban and Al-Qaeda.  The testimony of this is the statement of Ms Hillary Clinton before the US Congress.

2. Pakistan failed to effectively and adequately frame its narrative to tell the world the real story and why it suffered despite standing with the United States during the war on terror. As part of its national interests, every country desires that its borders are secure and they have friendly neighbours. But unfortunately, Pakistan neither got secure borders nor friends in its neighbourhood. Why is Pakistan being denied its sovereign right to secure its borders?

3. The lack of resources and professionalism within the Foreign Office is another factor that affected the narrative of Pakistan vis-à-vis the Taliban and Afghanistan and other issues. Their help, professionalism, and ability to effectively lobby for the interests of Pakistan have to be upgraded. They need to be given a clear vision and policy to defend the cause of Pakistan at the international level.

Ironically, despite taking the brunt of an imposed war on terror, we are being dubbed as bad boys, and India is being projected as good boys. On record, India has been engaged in orchestrating terrorist activities in Pakistan, which is now internationally known. The arrest of an Indian spy, Kulbhushan Yadav, further confirmed India’s involvement in fomenting terrorism in Pakistan.

Irrespective of what the United States and other western countries do to defame Pakistan, we must also look inwardly. We have severe political polarisation, and politicians have taken their disagreement to the level of personal enmity. This state of affairs is hindering us from devising a unanimous policy to counter the United States’ and other hostile countries’ blame game. We have not yet drawn any plan to convince the world about our sacrifice or our role in bringing peace to our neighbouring country.

Failure to project Pakistan’s narrative to the world is a setback for our country, which was also used against us in the FATF. We have failed to assert our point-of-view in the world as a nuclear power state and get our due standing in the international community.

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Children being rescued from the Army Public School massacre in 2014; contrary to the Western narrative, no nation has sacrificed more to fighting terrorism than Pakistan.

Our narrative about our antiterrorism efforts and the peaceful use of nuclear technology has not been effectively communicated to the world. For an optimistic projection of Pakistan’s image, we have to emerge as a self-relying nation.  To achieve our actual standing in the world community as a sovereign nation, we need effective, legitimate international lobbyists to promote Pakistan’s image.  Therefore, a budgetary provision under the title ‘Narrative Promotion Initiative’ (NPI) should be created to cater to this need.

Our present government should take some of the above-proposed initiatives in great national interest. Media, including the state media, must play its role by hosting programmes in English to project Pakistan’s positive and soft image globally. The world needs to know that our policies, laws, and actions are antiterrorism oriented. We are against money laundering and remain a peace-loving nation.

We should demand that the world treat us as a victim of terrorism and not as its supporter, given that our country is still fighting terrorism. The West must acknowledge Pakistan as one of the biggest victims of the American war on terror. This authentic, factual story needs to be shared with the world in the best possible manner.

(These views are solely mine & and do not necessarily represent the views of my party.)

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