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On Its Own Terms

After the damaging concluding remarks of the emerging BRICS powers on Monday against Pakistan; the Foreign Office and the military seems to have finally gotten on same page regarding Pakistan’s position in relation to Afghanistan and the extremist threat.

The Chief of Army Staff (COAS), General Qamar Bajwa, while addressing a function at the Defence and Martyrs Day said that it is the world’s time to “do more”. It is a strong statement which articulates the idea that Pakistan cannot be cornered into accepting that it is solely responsible for Afghanistan’s problems and any future solution. However, he conceded that cooperation with the international community is the way forward.

To back up the stance, the Foreign Office also issued a statement declaring that Pakistan is also seriously concerned about terrorism in the region, and has been effectively dealing with it. Crucially the diplomats from the office suggested that Pakistan should continue to work with the US, albeit on its own terms. This mirrors the guarded advances made by the COAS regarding the Afghanistan crisis – cooperation to “the logical end”, but with Pakistan’s demand’s taken into account.

This confluence of opinions is especially important considering that the civilian and military authorities have had differing opinions on how to deal with the extremist problem. The “Dawn Leaks” case is still fresh in memories, and while differences may still exist on other issues, we can see our institutions are astute enough to cooperate on matters of national interest and sovereignty.

Another important development in this case is China’s statement after the concluding statement of the BRICS meeting was perceived negatively. On Thursday, Chinese officials pointed out that the aim of pointing out the operational terrorists outfits in the region was not to malign Pakistan, rather to reinforce the need to take them out. To bolster this emphasis on continued support Foreign Minister, Khawaja Asif, will also be visiting Beijing soon.

A consolidated Pakistani response couldn’t have come sooner; at a time when Ashraf Ghani, President of Afghanistan, is advocating renewal of political talks and cooperation between the two countries, the government needs to have its house in order.

Pakistan may have debated and figured outs it’s response to the issue, it still remains to be seen how well this response plays out with other international players. Pakistan still hasn’t articulated what it’s terms are – these need to be focused on next.

 

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