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Thursday, August 4

A fine bit of withering sarcasm from a Pakistani pundit about the country's military establishment

From Dr Mohammad Taqi's August 4 op-ed for Pakistan's Daily Times, Pakistan’s foreign policy: grandeur of delusions — I —:
Following the [U.S.] arrest of Dr Ghulam Nabi Fai, the US-based lobbyist who headed the Kashmir American Council (KAC) and has been accused of being an ISI agent, things are not exactly a cakewalk for the Pakistani diplomats in Washington, DC.
What is really fascinating is the coterie of retired brigadiers and ambassadors, many having served at obscure stations, writing about the Pak-US relationship, especially in the context of Afghanistan. Their writings echo the Pakistani security establishment’s thought process and mysteriously precede the rolling out of the latter’s plans and the so-called ‘massive operations’ against the militants.

Brigadier (retd) Shaukat Qadir, who is the former president of the Islamabad Policy Research Institute, writes: “Policy formulation is a complicated business and foreign policy is perhaps the most difficult of all policies to flesh out since it involves relations with other countries, each of which have their own policies.”

Now who would have guessed that foreign policy might entail dealing with, well, foreign countries, which may actually be really diverse!

The fact of the matter is that those peddling ‘innovative’ ideas like above, or their cohorts, were at the helm in the military and civil establishment when the misadventures like Ghulam Nabi Fai were being planned and executed.

FBI Special Agent Sarah Linden’s affidavit in Dr Fai’s case makes an interesting read. The code words allegedly used by Dr Fai and his military handlers (who have been named in the document), such as requesting "half a dozen Brylcreem," meaning $60,000, are cheesier than a B-movie.

But more pathetic is the fact that the sleuths hatched a stupid conspiracy to do something, which if legitimate, could have been done legally. In fact, the US Department of Justice had written to Dr Fai in March 2010 to register under the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA) if he was acting as an agent of Pakistan. He categorically denied any connection to Pakistan at the time and did not register under the FARA.

But just as a few in the Pakistani-American community were getting ready to rally for his defence, Dr Fai apparently admitted last week to have received money from the ISI. The retired ‘grandmasters’ had got it wrong then and are bound to fumble again!

As the recent events in Turkey have shown, the praetorian control over the domestic and foreign affairs of a nation is untenable and incompatible with the changing geopolitical situation.

Turkey’s ‘zero problem’ foreign policy aimed at harmonious relations with its neighbours as well as regional and international actors, democratic changes tipping the domestic power balance against military and withering of the national security state paradigm, culminated in consolidation of the civilian control there.

In democracies, civilian control over the military is inevitable; Turkey was not an exception and neither is Pakistan. Just as war is too serious a matter to entrust to military men, foreign policy is a concept largely foreign to the military planners — the constellation of geopolitical events suggests that they will have to cede this domain.
I've cherry-picked my favorite parts but the whole thing is worth the read.

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