Hillary Rodham Clinton went back a very wise person after having interacted with the real Pakistan that the USA had so far ignored. That real Pakistan powered by a vibrant civil society backed by a fearless media has now come into USA’s reckoning for the first time ever. One has to hand it out to Ms Clinton that she did a great job from the US point of view and for neutralising some of the damage done by the Kerry-Lugar Bill (KB). Having been wife to a governor for 12 years, USA’s first lady for eight years and then an elected Senator from New York for nearly eight years, there could not have been anyone better equipped than Hillary to handle the US-Pakistan relations’ crisis.
The KLB, with all its fall-outs, had heightened tensions between the US and Pakistan while the government was quite content. The support for KLB on the part of the Government of Pakistan will never be able to stand the test of time. When the bill will be put into operation, the anti-KLB stand taken by Pakistan’s intelligentsia, media, civil society, all political parties except PPP and most significantly the Pakistan Army will continue to ring in one form or another. The USA went wrong in reading the pulse of the real Pakistan and missed an opportunity to soothe relations with Pakistan. In such an environment came Hillary Rodham Clinton.
She was quick to realise that her visit would be fruitless if she did not interact with real Pakistan. She had done her homework well in order to not be shackled in the name of security. She had come equipped with her own security of a few hundred personnel. Needless to say that Ms Clinton’s encounters with the leading media personnel, college students in Lahore, tribal elders, members of the National Assembly, her visits to Police Lines, historical monuments and the tomb of Allama Iqbal went well. There is little doubt that Hillary Clinton returned to USA knowing that Pakistan will, in future, have to be dealt with in the light of its public perceptions. She must have understood that no individual can ever deliver Pakistan to anyone on a platter for use in the international power play unless the people-of-Pakistan factor is taken into account. Pakistanis, as a nation, must give all those people who interacted with Hillary Clinton in public debates and interviews broadcast live by the media, a standing ovation for having put real Pakistan on the drawing board of US policy makers. And if those in Washington still do not see the real Pakistan on their drawing boards they will make a mistake, diplomatically, as fatal as the mistake they made in Iran in 1979. Thirty years down the road, the US has still not been able to make diplomatic inroads into Iran.
Pakistan is neither for sale nor for grabs through individuals. If the US truly wants a people-to-people relationship with the Pakistani nation, then the rest of the US administration must take into account what Hillary Clinton will surely have to tell them about her interactions with Pakistanis in the country. Hillary with her pleasing mannerisms and friendly discourse was able to put across USA’s point of view in an effective manner. What is more important is that she could also digest the point of view of the Pakistani nation. Given her experience, one can easily say that whatever Hillary said here to justify contentious issues was diplomacy, but what she will say of her experiences in closed door meetings of the Obama administration will surely portray that she saw a Pakistan out there that is progressive, moderate, friendly and democratic, but its democratic capacity has always been prevented by governments hoisted upon Pakistan mainly through US manipulation.
Ms Clinton will certainly play a major role in the correcting of the future path of Pakistan-US relations. It will be very unbelievable if Hillary Clinton has not, as yet, reported to her president that they will now have to deal with the real Pakistan, as no government in Pakistan will ever be able to deliver anything unless the actual face of the country supports the actions or decisions taken by that government. This side of the country is now here to stay and all else is superficial.
On another plane, it is sad that while Pakistanis were being killed by the dozen every day and the Pakistan Army was involved in sensitive and large-scale military operations that are crucial for Pakistan’s survival, the parliament, which is anything but sovereign, was engrossed in political battles revolving around the infamous NRO. Do ordinary Pakistanis even feature anywhere in the political structure of Pakistan beyond casting (read selling) their vote in elections? The masses have no electricity, jobs, food or healthcare but all this seems to be a situation on some other planet and the government’s apathy on this situation is too obvious to miss. The real Pakistan will have to emerge quickly to also take the reins of the government and only then will Pakistan and its people have truly synchronised as a solid nation.
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