Article on Trump's tirade against Pakistan 21st August 2017

21st August 2017
by Javed Jabbar

One way to treat the speech on 21st August 2017 by President Trump that ups the ante against Pakistan is to add it to the long list of falsehoods and half-truths which he produces at high frequency. The Washington Post has identified, as of 5th August 2017 , over 1057 false or misleading statements in the first 200 days , and their repetitions by the American Head of State. That is a new world record of ignominy. This apalling disregard for facts , combined with wilfull ignorance and bias pose new dangers for Pakistan .

The recent BRICS statement --- to which our ever-lasting, truthful friend China is also a signatory --- includes a reference to three violent extremist organizations alleged to have bases in this country . It comes shortly after the American President's fulminations . So new doubts and unease follow fast behind the new dangers . The Pakistani Foreign Minister's visit to Beijing and the reiteration by his Chinese counter-part of his country's steadfast appreciation and support for us only partly assuage the disquiet . Despite rightly feeling wronged and let down , the speech and the statement should become catalysts for invigoration and affirmation of a new dynamism in both internal and external policies .

True lies :
Prospects of dangers are not because what Trump said is truthful. But precisely because it is not truthful. For when Governments, particularly American ,say things and take actions on the basis of falsehoods and ignorance, the fall-out from such aberrations is worse than what it would be if the presumptions proved to be wholly correct .

A downward spiral traps all -- the accuser, the aggressor and the aggrieved . The falsehoods proclaimed by the USA about the alleged, non-existent Weapons of Mass Destruction in Iraq directly led to the black hole of the American invasion in which un-counted Iraqis are still dying in 2017 . Pakistan will not become a new option for the devastating expressions of America's periodic inability to comprehend reality .

Pakistan has a fundamental national interest in facing the facts and acknowledging them frankly , unflinchingly . We need to do this not because others, or Trump or BRICS ask us to do so. We owe this to ourselves, to our people, to our country's vital security interests . After we shift away the half-truths and whole lies propounded by Trump , and the mis-perceptions in BRIC , we are still left with some irreducible truths .

First, the good facts .The Pakistani state and people continue to confront extremism and terrorism by paying a high price, paralleled wholly or partially only by Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria,, Libya and Somalia .

Tough core :
So tough is the core of our people and our state and so strong-willed are our Armed Forces that , unlike each of the above other ountries, Pakistan's territory is not occupied and split into different sovereignties . There is insurgency in some southern parts of Balochistan and in some border areas in KP. There is bad governance aplenty .But the Pakistani state remains singular and solidly in place. Nuclear weapon capacity is an indirect deterrent against the disintegration which others are suffering. But that is not the direct source of our strength . . The people, the state , the Armed Forces and our blind faith in the future of Pakistan cement the stability of our territorial entity .

Yet it is also true that religious extremism is permitted to flourish . Armed with brazenly displayed weapons , and marked by their tragic use against unarmed persons such as the four Hazara Shias gunned down in Quetta on 10th September 2017, both publicly known elements and covert operatives are able to implement their banal agendas of violence .

Though the intelligence agencies of India and Afghanistan may well be provoking such actions by their own considerable activities on our soil , and some extremists may be wreaking simple retaliation , the hard fact is that such elements have enormously damaged Pakistan's national interests. They have deeply worsened perceptions about Pakistan around the world . Rather than continue asking for the world's sympathy about our numerous sacrifices, we need to invest far greater resources, energy and time to target and diminish internal extremism, verbal as well as violent, explicit as well as that which masquerades under new names and causes.

Psy-war :
To raise misgivings and distrust about Pakistan's intelligence agencies and our Army's role is a primary aim of the psychological warfare strategy of hostile forces, specially our Indian and Afghan neighbours, and whenever it suits them, our American distant-neighbours as well .

So one should tread carefully in this minefield planted with unprovable inflexions and presumptive insinuations. One thing is clear : in some aspects of our reality, there are enough mixed signals , thick smoke and noise which makes the world at large focus mostly on the visibility and consequences of violent extremism and its tendency to transcend state frontiers .

Self-critique :
Candid internal self-criticism is an essential part of formulating a purposeful policy . We must recognize that there is limited space for us to make radical re-alignments .There is no scope for clean breaks or even for only grievance-based complaints . The next phase of our relations with the USA and BRICS in particular should be duly cognizant of our geo-strategic location, our phenomenal potential in natural and in human resources, our significant national strengths, our obvious weaknesses and vulnerabilities . The last of these have to be addressed , to fulfill the desire of the vast majority of our people's to shape a better , more peaceful world .

The Trump speech of August 2017 and the BRICS statement have to be viewed in relation to several speeches ,statements and actions by others . The immediate outrage in Pakistan . Debates and condemnatory resolutions in Pakistan's Parliament . The convening of a consultation with Pakistan's overseas envoys in major countries. The call for a " re-set " in our foreign policy .The fortunately measured official responses .
Pakistan 's postponements of pre-scheduled visits by US delegations .Clarifications by the US Ambassador to Pakistan during meetings with the political and military leaderships in Pakistan . Prime Minister Abbasi's meetings with Vice President Pence and the fleeting exchange with President Trump at a reception. The Pakistani PM's balanced speech at the UN General Assembly. The vicious speeches by the Indian Foreign Minister and an official at the UNGA . Pakistan's UN envoy Maleeha Laodhi's strong rebuttal. Afghan President Ashraf Ghani's meeting with Trump -- but not with Abbasi .

Quadrilateral hostility :
This larger, later context should not blur the hard fact that Pakistan faces quadrilateral hostility . The USA , India and Afghanistan represent the first three of the quadrant . The fourth element is not a single country . It is the extremely negative global image of Pakistan . In news media, academia, civil society, political spheres and in general public opinion , particularly in the USA and in NATO member-countries, only our warts and our flaws shape perceptions about our identity .Cumulatively, whether in one sector in one country, or in all sectors in most countries, the association of the name of Pakistan with the evils of terrorism , extremism and violence become a source of passive but powerful influences on the policies and actions vis a vis Pakistan conducted by the three hostile countries in particular .

Five-fold implications :
The implications for Pakistan are potentially, though not inevitably , five-fold. Economic, diplomatic, military, perceptual, and internal stability . The response by Pakistan has to be comprehensive and multi-dimensional , and not just confined to the Foreign Office or the military .There has to be an across-the-board ownership within the Federal Government and all of its 59 ...! ... Cabinet Members of the significance of this alignment . In a bitterly polarized political sphere, there has to be a consensus on solidarity, not point-scoring and petty partisanship. All four Provinces , legislatures and Governments, the business sector, civil society, media , academia : an authentic consensus on acknowledging the reality of this threat and the need for an effective response in all five respects .

And to do so while continuing with respective positions on dissent with official policies and actions. With the icing on the cake being the friction and tension generated by the ruling party at the centre against judicial verdicts --- with the law amended to enable a disqualified individual to re-enter the political domain at the highest level. But even the sour icing has yet another layer : the preparatory humphing and hawing for the next elections set for May-June 2018 with all the related uncertainties and the schismatic pursuit of votes .

Is a miracle possible ? ! :
Given the above requirements and conditions ,will it be possible, or is it reasonable to expect a coherent, dynamic , co-ordinated response by Pakistan to the challenges posed by the new animus against Pakistan from 21st August 2017 to date in end-September 2017 ? Even countries with less issues than our own would see the quadrilateral alignment as a formidable , almost insurmountable task . But Pakistan has curious , mysterious , unexplainable capacities to produce the unexpected and the extraordinary . If the people at large, the country's citizens transmit their collective determination to defend national stability and security , if they are willing to make the necessary sacrifices of life and limb (which they have done for so long ) , as also sacrifice of material needs and comforts , if they transmit this signal of energy to both the political and military leaderships , which ,while maintaining their respective divergent or shared viewpoints , can together act as a singular truly conjoined force , then Pakistan can face down imminent dangers . Pakistan can begin the long-haul work to transform our relationships with the the four quadrilateral elements from hostility to an incremental building of mutual respect and trust . It is going to be long, tough and difficult .But it can be done !

( The writer is a former Senator and Federal Minister . Member, Senate Forum for Policy Research )