Pakistan’s Options

This is a Pakpotpourri Exclusive

By: Yasmeen Ali

Ever since 9/11 and the subsequent invasion of Afghanistan by USA, the world in Pakistan changed in many ways. Pakistan, USA’s ally in WOT , the biggest sufferer in this expedition was just slapped with Congress passing a bill imposing more conditions on aid to Pakistan, especially linking it to Islamabad’s cooperation in war on terror and its efforts in curbing terrorists, including Haqqani network.

Myra McDonald in her recent article states,” “The society which is being shaped by the Afghan war in ways which neither Pakistan’s neighbors, nor western powers, would choose.  The airstrikes, coming soon after the forced resignation of Pakistan’s ambassador to Washington Husain Haqqani for allegedly seeking American help to curb the power of the military, have added fresh oxygen to a combustible mix of anti-Americanism and religious nationalism enveloping Pakistan”.

Where should Pakistan go from here?

For starters, Pakistan must strategize. Whereas interests of both Pakistan and USA converge on many points, especially in Afghanistan, on many deeper, vital points, they do not. USA, understandably, wants a greater involvement of India in Afghanistan. This of course, is diametrically opposed to Pakistani interest. The problem in Afghanistan is neither the Haqqanis, nor anyone else. The problem in Afghanistan is foreign involvement. The presence of foreign forces. Pakistan lies ravaged, her economy destroyed owing to the deep involvement in WOT. Until and unless NATO troops withdraw, there will be no peace. With no peace, Pakistan continues on the path of destabilization. However, their departure does not seem imminent in near future. According to Ben Farmer of the British Telegraph, the Obama administration is now negotiating a “pact” with the government of Afghan President Hamid Karzai that could leave American military “trainers” — thousands of them — as well as special operations forces, and the U.S. Air Force settled into some of the enormous Afghan bases the Pentagon has built there until… 2024. 

Pakistan should strategize to hasten the departure of NATO forces from her neighborhood. If Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki in cooperation with Iran can outmaneuver Bush & US military leadership and convince USA to sign the US-Iraq Withdrawal Agreement, Pakistan too, can convince NATO that the presence of their forces in Afghanistan is self defeating in reconstruction and stabilization of post-conflict Afghanistan. Ahmed Rashid, in his article,” The Way Out of Afghanistan”, states,” None of the attempts at rebuilding the Afghan state over the past nine years have really worked. What assurance is there that they will work by 2014?”

Secondly, Pakistan must expand on her trade base on two levels; regional and international. On the first level, she must strengthen friendly relations with nations of South West Asia Region. Entering into trading contracts and other “soft” interaction with Turkey, Sri Lanka(According to Sri Lanka Customs statistics, value of total trade between both countries was $345 million in October, 2011 recording 4.5 percent average growth from $169 million in 2005), China, Iran. More especially with Nepal.

On the second level, Pakistan must press not for aid, but for market access to western countries. US has recently suspended some $800 million in aid to Pakistan. This may be set off by China, our largest trading partner, particularly in infra structure & mining, worth almost $9 billion last year! However, Pakistan must increase trade with other western countries. Removing eggs from the USA’s basket just to place it in Chinese one, can make for uncomfortable sleeping partners! The policy of restricting her major economic interactions has given USA immense leverage to call the shots where Pakistan is concerned. There are lessons to be learnt here. Political independence & sovereignty is the outcome of economic independence.

Is Pakistan ready to be finally politically independent?

(The writer is a lawyer & university professor based in Lahore,Pakistan.She can be reached at

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  • KVS Madaan  On December 18, 2011 at 2:09 pm

    Dear Mrs Yasmeen Aftab
    It is really good suggestion that Pakistan should try to engage many countries around the world on trade front, but at the same time exporting terrorism to India which shares a great amount of border and history with it (“hard interaction” with India vs “soft interaction” with Turkey, Sri Lanka and West Asia). What kind of stabilty it is looking for, only God knows better.
    I agree that India must stay out of Afghanistan provided Pakistan also sheds its policy of seeking strategic depth in its western neighbour. I really don’t know what was your reaction when Talibani elements destroyed Budha statues in Bamiyan almost a decade back.
    If USA policy had been wrong in Afghanistan then Pakistan was also equal equal in that for all these years. Pakistan has recently given proof that it is moving to become a failed state when its PM stated that President was admitted in a Dubai Hospital as he was not safe in his own country, how it can guarantee the safety of its common citizens. What we can say about the safety of its nukes?
    If India and Pakistan work together, they can atleast lessen some of the problems of their poor people, both suffering from high inflation and routine insecurities.
    with regards
    KVS Madaan

  • Ian Ombima  On December 18, 2011 at 10:17 pm

    Too True!

  • Ardeshir  On December 18, 2011 at 10:28 pm

    Hi Yasmeen,

    Thanks for the insightful article. Stay well.


    Sent from my iPod

  • Faisal Imam  On December 18, 2011 at 10:28 pm

    the pipeline to Iran will make us energy efficient for the next thirty years or so .
    no loadshedding;no cng lines;no problems in the kitchens,no problems in producing the much needed fertilizer.
    For Pakistan’s economic survival this line is essential .let us build it at any cost just it is important for Afghans and Americans to have transit facilities through Pakistan.

  • Peter Chamberlain  On December 18, 2011 at 10:29 pm

  • khan saheb  On December 18, 2011 at 10:48 pm


    Sorry, it could be my ignorance, but I really could not figure out the options that you were highlighting.

    I am intrigued by reading articles written by dozens of intelligent and sensible people, showing their intense anger on suspension of US aid, that too only $800 million, which is basically nothing. Why should US offer aid to PK on a platter (without conditions) and why should Pakistan on one side show its anger and anti-US sentiment and yet expect the aid to keep rolling in – without strings attached. Pakistanis must be living in a fool’s paradise to expect a free lunch from US.

    Secondly, and perhaps more importantly, is the other sign of living in that undesirable paradise – i.e. expecting NATO/US troops to leave Afghanistan. Fresh air strikes or not, nobody is leaving. Even the dones will be around, at some closeby air base or another. In fact, with the withdrawal in Iraq, many of the willing boys are coming back to this region after a short break for Christmas/New Year hols, now that they are used to the hardy climates/temps here and their allowances are very very decent. The process of transforming WOT to WMD started as soon as the dust settled down post-Abbotabad operation. (The new WMD is of course the PK and Iran nukes). Even if US wants to phase out, Israel will not let it go and one should not expect Mansoor Ijaz to tell us all that.

    Writing articles without factoring the above is nothing short of naivety.
    Siraj Khan
    PS. We have to be careful in using the name Haqqani these days. Its bad either way as the good and the bad have both changed into ugly. The element of Haq was not there anyway.

  • Khan Zubair Khalil  On December 18, 2011 at 10:51 pm

    a superb effort. thanks

    have a look at this also.
    Hopefully Pak Army Chief will have the wisdom to read “Writing on the Wall”

    Zubair Khan

    This fact needs no emphasis that from the very outset, current People Party Government was asked to perform its duties in accordance with the tight compartment of rules and regulations set off by the GHQ. Go and no go areas were clearly demarked by Cief of Army Staff for the civil set up. In spite of all these restrictions, President Zardari and his comrades, intermittently, remain involved in acts paving the way to jump out of the compartment of “game rules” set off by GHQ. Unfortunately up till now no such attempt has met with success. As compared to other political parties, probably, it is somewhat in the blood of PP to keep on striving for absolute authority to run the affairs of the country. In the past ZA Bhutto, once visiting Staff College Quetta, gossiped in a circle that he will ensure to keep the Generals of Pakistan Army in their limits. Later the whole nation saw the limits of these generals and Bhutto was hanged. However encouraging aspect is that in spite of having concrete knowledge of unlimited powers of Pak Army Generals, “Jialaz” of PP keep on taking the chances to revolt against the untouchable military brass.

    Due to strategic location and being an important country of the region, USA, UK and few Gulf countries since long have an effective role in formulation of governments in Pakistan. This fact is known to all the political parties as well to military top brass of Pakistan. Resultantly continuous efforts are made by political parties and military brass to have very cordial and close relations with these potential power centers. On the eve of OBL operation in Abbotabad, appreciating article by President Zardari, praising comments by PM Gilani, initiation of famous Mansoor Ejaz Memo and secret meeting of DG ISI with heads of concerned Gulf countries, to have their assessment for replacement of Mr Zardari, support abovementioned both viewpoints eg; continuous effort of PP to revolt against military brass and close relation of each state actor with potential power centers.

    In currently ongoing tussle between civil and military state actors, in spite of sacrifice of Mr Haqqani, sudden exit of President Zardari from Pakistan clearly indicated the dissatisfaction of Gen Kiani. In ongoing matter he wanted the resignation of President also. However as stated earlier, “Jialas” of PP also have potentials to shake the atmosphere as such very amicably Baber Awan, through Bushra Gohar, and Raza Abidi were launched to counter attack. One took the military brass and asked the action against DG ISI, who, without legitimate authority, met with head of Gulf countries to get their assessment in proposed replacement of President Zardari. Similarly his London meeting with Masnoor Ejaz without prior permission of Supreme Commander of Armed forces was also challenged. On second front Abidi blasted at Chief Justice of supreme court and termed all higher courts as Chaudhry Courts with sole aim of slaughtering the PP leadership. These timely tactics of PP paid the dividends. COAS immediately organized three hours long meeting with PM and also made telephonic contacts with the President to ensure his safe passage back home. CJ will also now think many times prior to his decision about memo and OBL cases. It is expected that within couple of days working relations will again be in place among the Triangle of powerful state actors.

    On internal front where powerful state actors are fighting with each other to prove ones supremacy, international actors on external fronts are playing entirely different game to further strangulate the life saving tubes providing some oxygen to deteriorating body of Pakistan. After having been totally disappointed with military and civil elite of Pakistan, USA, UK and Gulf countries have consented to attach their regional allegiance with India. Home ministry of India suddenly has become extremely active to share its new responsibilities of internal security in the region with special reference to homeland security of Afghanistan. Simultaneously details have deliberately been leaked to media about the new strategy of USA for the area. According to these leaked reports American lawmakers have said due to a dead end of relationship with Pakistan, there is a sense among congressmen/parliament members that time has come to “side” with India to “cut off the ISI”. Few senators/parliament members said at a discussion forum by prestigious Washington-based think tank, Foreign Policy Initiative that a US-India tie-up was ISI’s “horror story” but time has come for it to evolve.

    These lawmakers further commented “you know, Yogi Bear said when you reach a fork in the road, take it. We think we hit the fork in the road in August and September between the United States and Pakistan. We saw a large truck bomb assembled, lit off next to a US base, 77 US casualties,” senators/lawmakers said. In recent times US’ ties with Pakistan, a key ally in the region, have plunged to an all-time low following a series of incidents over the year, including the killing of two people by a CIA contractor, the Abbottabad raid, and finally the NATO airstrike that killed 24 Pakistani soldiers. “Our sense of the Senate and probably the House are we’re ready to take that fork in the road. We’re ready to side with India, to cut off the ISI,” the senators/lawmakers said. “It appears to us the Pakistani horror story of us siding with India should now evolve. Pakistan has decided we’re leaving. Pakistan has decided that they can cripple the civilian government. The United States, senators/lawmakers said, needs a stable party in the region who has a status quo pro-civilian anti-terror interest, which is India. “Get in with the Indian Intelligence Service, the Indian Chief of Staff, bring Indian, not just economic but military assistance on line, and build some long relationships so that in the mid-presidential term next time, the 2014 time frame, you have a steady partner with new money coming on the table that can send an important signal to Afghanistan,” senators and lawmakers said. Such are the startling revelations, currently coming from USA.

    Being a true Pakistan when one analysis the ongoing internal and external affairs and how our civil and military leaders are dealing both the matters, a bold worded writing on the wall appears explicitly stating a very dangerous scenario for Pakistan. And this clear cut writing on the wall only adds to existing sadness and frustration of each Pakistani. It is a known fact that now for many years military, basing on his self conceived threat strategy, is actually ruling the country, which was and still contrary to the fact that people of Pakistan always gave this mandate to their elected representatives. What outcome military rule has brought to the nation needs no repetition. At every tragic occasion civil elite has always blamed military brass for the tragedy. Partition of country in 1971 was the height of it. Each aspect of national phenomenon demands a limit. Probably now the phenomenon of military rule has also reached its limits. One can hear very loud and clear voices condemning the unlimited military power in the national affairs and all are demanding end to this trend and practice. With very heavy heart and keeping in mind the deepest sympathy for the mother land, COAS of Pakistan Army is very humbly requested to please consider it as, “enough is enough” and let the elected representative of nation to deal with the state affairs. Let civil elite to make an appraisal of security threats and please give freedom to civil government to formulate security and foreign policies of Pakistan. Please be wise enough to read “Writing on the Wall” least history may include your name also being a general in whose era Pakistan was further damaged.

  • Mohammad Chaudhry  On December 18, 2011 at 10:51 pm

    Building a strategy in complex and complicated sitiation,involving a host of elements and covert and overt interests of so many parties with conflicting objectives,is not such a simple exercise.It calls for a leadership with exceptional traits,a well trained team of competent,effecient and committed implementers of the strategy with a high degree of self-denial. Is Pakistan lucky enough to have all this at this juncture? Unfortunately not,so the rest is all day dreaming and wishful thinking. The only hope is galvanization of all the fora and civil bodies headed by conscientious-minded people to work for this end as early as possible to ensure future of next generations of Pakistanis.

    • Minhaj  On December 18, 2011 at 10:52 pm

      I agree to some extent with MSC. However, who will tie the bell around cat’s neck? What we are looking for, is a catalyst agent cum leader who can put this derailed country on to track. Unfortunately, there is abundance of Mir Sadi’s and Jafar’s in the country, which has led to this chaotic situation. Imran Khan appears to be the best bet at the moment however, the questions need to be answered:
      Can he do it?
      Can he come into power?
      Will he be allowed to do it?
      Can he counter the game plan of the opposing forces-both nationally and internationally?

      • Syed Wajahat  On December 18, 2011 at 11:02 pm

        The bell around the cats neck can only be tied by people like you and I. Once we add action
        to all the writing I see on this blog.

        Tighten your belts gentlemen and start to speak in real world. Blogs are just for people who can read
        and write. The 99% of the population is poor and will do any thing for a few extra cash.

        It is the sacrifice we do not wish to make, but has to be made in order to achieve the ultimate goal.

        Syed W. Hussain

  • Syed Wajahat  On December 18, 2011 at 11:01 pm

    It is worth thinking outside the box here. It is the carrot that is being hung on top of salivating corrupt individuals
    that have traditionally lived off the aid from the US. The idea is to frustrate such greedy people to a point
    that they will act in favor of making US agenda a reality.

    Perhaps the time has come to consider the carrot as a rotted piece of vegetable and move on.
    Which is a feat that requires the nation to ween itself from the addiction to easy money.
    Not an easy task but doable. The first step is to shift the target of all acts as the welfare of the nation
    from that of fulfilling our selfish desires to accumulate wealth the easy way.

    Allah Mian only helps those who help themselves. There is no way around that.

    Syed W Hussain.

  • Jamil Zaidi  On December 19, 2011 at 12:13 am

    US has started taking Pakistan for granted in the proxy wherein
    Pakistan is losing its men and material. This silly decision of
    partnership with US has not only destroyed Pakistan’s economy, butr
    has superimposed India in Afghanistan——a situation which hadn’t
    arisen to date.

    Unfortunately Pakistan’s political leadership is neither patriotic ,
    not intellectually capable of dealing with the challenges that have
    emerged during the last sixty years.

    As regards solution, I don’t see any .

    Jameel Zaidi

    • Yasmeen Ali  On December 19, 2011 at 12:14 am

      Maybe when the decision was originally taken, it was the best strategy.However, these things have to be managed & supervised,not allowed to grow like a wild berry bush.

  • Murali Mahidhara  On December 19, 2011 at 3:42 am

    As long as you portray India as a mortal enemy, Pakistan always will have dictatorships. To keep Pakistan safe you need stratagic depth. So you need to control Afghanistan. You need more nuclear weapons. Sell them to Iran and N.Korea in exchange for oil and rockets. You need mullahs to train teen age sucide bombers. You don’t want trade with India. (Trade promotes peace.) You bed with Haqanis, alqueada so they train terrorists. This makes USA give “aid” to contain terrorism. 20 billion aid buys Genarals that run the country. Since the time Iskinder Mirza took over, four wars were fought. Initiated by Pakistan (by its own admission.) Elected primisters 1. Julfikar Ali Bhutto 2. Mrs.Bhutto 3. PML.Nawaz Sherif were killed or driven away from the country.
    Pakistan’s option is not too different from India’s option. Democracy, equal opportunity for all citizens, removal of corruption in the country (like Lok Pal in India), control madrassas and mullahs. treat minorities with dignity,(Baluchistan especially), treat Afghanistan as equal. Don’t export nuclear technology,These are just a few common sense ideas that gives credibility to Pakistan. I can assure you that this will not happen any time soon. You look for enemies all around. India has 9% GDP, growth. It doesn’t need (or want) a war with Pakistan or China. Generals don’t want to hear that. They need a Devil across the border to keep them in power. Yasmeen, you are beating around the bush. Generals are your enemy. Let any one in Pakistan say that and be alive?

    • Yasmeen Ali  On December 19, 2011 at 3:43 am

      You need to read history-and that too recent one to understand where India stands.Look,I do not where you come from,& God knows I’m no India hater.However,I am very wary of this typical propaganda you are churning out too.
      Actions need to be seen,evaluated to realize whether India is a friend always,an enemy always,or a little bit of both.Life usually is not black & white. It’s gray!
      Get it?

    • Munir Varraich  On December 21, 2011 at 1:32 am

      Mohan Ji,

      Whenever I see the map of India I notice two parts – Pakistan on the western side and Bangladesh on the eastern side – which are blank. If these two parts were a part of India, the shape of the Indian Subcontinent would look beautiful, like the face of a lamb.

      But then the people of Indian Subcontinent remained inflexible at an important juncture of History.

      Surely there are many in India who think the way I think, which include many of the political and military leaders in India. I do not blame them. They want to get that “face of the lamb” back, so that Mother India starts looking beautiful once again.

      The beauty of the subcontinent come back, not geographical merger but by changing the attitudes, which did not change over the last 64 years.

      Under the circumstances, Pakistan has to cater for this mindset in India and has to remain prepared accordingly.

      As for the system of government in Pakistan, “western democracy” does not suit the psyche of Pakistanis, We like to be different from the west and the east. Our “system” is what we brand as the “Pakistani system”. It suits our temperaments.


  • Syaddayein  On December 19, 2011 at 3:50 am

    Woh jo bainchtey they dawaa e dard e ishq: Dukaan apni barha gayei” Ghalib

    The doors of options closed by themselves long ago.

  • Naveed Aziz  On December 19, 2011 at 3:57 am

    Excellent … But the question is …will our leaders and bureaucracy allow us to be independent politically…that is the people who are running the show.

    Naveed Aziz

  • AK  On December 19, 2011 at 7:51 am

    Good ideas, Yasmeen. I think it has been fairly clear what needs to be done, the question is who will do it? With this regime I am at loss to say as to who is in charge and to whom are they accountable?

    USA, India, Afghanistan, I think there was never any confusion as to what their real agendas have been or currently are and understandably so. For me the real mystery is the Govt of Pakistan and what they have been saying and doing.

    Another question, I have is where exactly has the US aid been spent, what impact has it had on the areas or sectors for which it was allocated? For me this applies to all aid monies but especially US aid, I wish an investigative journalist would closely look at that.

    Moreover, why was UK and EU quiet about NATO atrocity on our border area? There is something “rotten in Denmark” as the saying goes.

    I think the first thing we as Pakistanis need to deal with is public sector corruption. No ONE is going to save us, we have to do it ourselves!

  • Prof. Dr. Abdul Aziz  On December 19, 2011 at 9:20 am

    Dear Ms. Yasmeen Ali

    Thank you for writing a wonderful article. Write some guiding article for Supreme Court to take strict action against current government at Islamabad.

    Yours sincerely

    Prof. Dr. Abdul Aziz
    Pak-Aims, Lahore.

  • AQQ  On December 19, 2011 at 9:26 am

    I strongly second your opinion on this foreign issue.


  • Admiral Sirohey  On December 19, 2011 at 10:32 am

    I totally agree.


  • TARIQ FAZAL  On December 19, 2011 at 10:33 am

    I totally agree with you that political independence & sovereignty stems from economic independence. Does it not call for a reappraisal of our defense policy. Can we hope to gain economic independence when our failing economy is burdened by heavy expenditure on defense. Taking a cue from the Chinese policy towards Taiwan we may have normal relationship with India while adhering to our principled stance on the issue of Kashmir. The policy of achieving our aim through military means has failed in the past and it is even more unlikely to succeed in the present scenario. So a rethinking is urgently needed for course correction with the aim of strengthening our economic front.

  • Yasmeen Ali  On December 19, 2011 at 10:46 am

    Tariq Sahib,
    Thank you for sharing your views.
    Here is my take on your questions:
    1- The question of burdening the fragile economy with a heavy defense expenditure is a delicate one. I believe the core issue of Kashmir must be resolved before relations can return to normalcy. India’s making of dams(62 as we write) , over waters flowing from Kashmir,violating the Indus Water Treaty, RAW involvement in Baluchistan & support of separatist movements, etc etc etc do not point to a friend.
    2-Yes I do think we need to revisit our foreign policy & neutralize India based on our friendly “soft” & trade relations with countries of the region & internationally.
    3-We should file the case of Kashmir in the International Court of Law. I think Kashmiris should decide whether they want to align with India,Pakistan.Or Independent.

  • Mohammad Chaudhry  On December 22, 2011 at 4:01 pm

    A very thoughtful brief,based on objective evaluatiopn of ground realities.However the question is who made Pakistan dependent on America or American aid to be specefic? Isn’t it a bunch of Machiavellian characters, thrown in the corridors of power with covert and overt backing of America itself since the death of the founder,M.A.Jinnah. The current lot is the scum of that bread. How can they opt or act for independent Pakistan . The only way to materialize that dream is to take the path of Arab Spring. Are we ready for it or how can we prepare ourselves for that, a food for thought for conscientious-minded Pakistanis.

    • Munir Varraich  On December 22, 2011 at 11:30 pm

      This is for Mr. Chaudhry:

      Pakistan was made dependant on the US and the American aid after 1953, when the religious political parties wanted to make Pakistan an “Islamic State” instead of Jinnah’s progressive Pakistan. This has been discussed on this forum time and again.

      To understand the whys and hows of this American game in this region, one must understand that the ruling civilization will try its utmost to kill the “Free Minds” of the civilization which it had conquered. And it so happened that soon after the partition in 1947, first Jinnah and then his Foreign Minister Zafarullah became the spokesman of all the liberation movements – Plaetsinians, Kashmiris, Algeria, and the rest of the Arab world. As if that was not enough, Zafarullah dared to intorduce an Islamic tradition in the United Nation functions. It is soon after that incident that another type of religious wave swept Pakistan. Zafarullah was ousted, thanks to Daultana and his party which was supported by the religious parties. Politicians invited the religious parties to interfere in the politics of Pakistan.

      And that is where they fell into the lap of the US and the US aid. Thereafter, it has been smooth sailing for one and all. 1953 became 1974 and then ofcourse came 1984, and the story continues.


  • Shaikh Mohammad  On December 23, 2011 at 2:16 am

    An excellent analysis, Jasmine. Take care.

  • CNU  On December 23, 2011 at 2:17 am

    Zabardast This is really great. Congrats YA You gave a balanced Pakistani view.

  • Azzam  On December 23, 2011 at 2:37 am




    Best Regards;

    “Allah would never bring disgrace upon you for you maintain ties of kinship, bear people’s burdens, help the destitute, give hospitality to your guests, and help those who have been afflicted by calamities.” KhadijaRAA

  • klick  On January 6, 2012 at 6:12 pm

    Too many cooks spoil the broth. hier

  • Wiley Elko  On January 8, 2012 at 1:06 pm

    I like this web site very much so much wonderful information.


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