Ac­cept­ing US Se­na­tor’s de­mand on Asim will be com­pro­mise on na­tional sovereignty


SARTAZ Aziz’s dis­clo­sure that For­eign Of­fice has agreed to sup­ply de­tails of Dr Asim Hus­sain’s case to a US Se­na­tor, has come as rude shock to coun­try­men. Was it not out­ra­geous or did not tan­ta­mount to com­pro­mis­ing on na­tional sovereignty? Ad­viser on for­eign af­fairs owes an ex­pla­na­tion to the peo­ple of Pak­istan. He must clar­ify his po­si­tion with­out fur­ther loss of time. First and fore­most the ques­tion arises as to whether the pol­icy of the For­eign and In­for­ma­tion min­istries’ to rely on a se­lect num­ber of peo­ple, pri­mar­ily from elec­tronic me­dia, for brief­ing on sen­si­tive is­sues, is a cor­rect pol­icy? Sooner it is changed, the bet­ter it would be for na­tional co­he­sion. In­for­ma­tion min­istry, which bears the brunt for ar­rang­ing such gath­er­ings, must re­view its pol­icy. The min­istry has an ar­tic­u­lar min­is­ter in Se­na­tor Pervez Rashid, and in­deed a gra­cious sec­re­tary in Im­ran Gardezi, a thor­ough­bred pro­fes­sional, hum­ble and cour­te­ous. The two must sit to­gether, and work out a sys­tem under which TV an­chors, coloum­nists, an­a­lysts et; from all over the country must be invited with­out dis­crim­i­na­tion.

Such a method­ol­ogy will be good for the gov­ern­ment too. It will have a far greater spec­trum than it is us­ing now to con­vey its mes­sages to the peo­ple, who have in­her­ent right to know about gov­ern­ment poli­cies and de­tails of its ex­e­cu­tion. The me­dia, be­ing the ob­vi­ous bridge must be uti­lized to the fullest pos­si­ble ben­e­fit of those at he helm and those keen to know as to how their gov­ern­ment is do­ing.

The coun­try­men were stunned to learn from Ad­viser on For­eign Af­fairs that a US Se­na­tor has de­manded de­tails of cases against Dr Asim Hus­sain. What busi­ness does he have to make such a de­mand? His area of ju­ris­dic­tion is con­fined to Amer­ica. How could he ask for some­thing from Pak­istan. Do­ing that will nat­u­rally be, and ought to be con­sid­ered as in­ter­fer­ence in in­ter­nal af­fairs of a soverign country. And re­spond­ing to that will tan­ta­mount to ac­cept­ing dic­ta­tion from a for­eigner, which is bound to raise eye­brows.

Will the US Se­na­tor al­low Is­lam­abad to seek de­tails from House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives or the Sen­ate, or from any gov­ern­ment of­fice in Amer­ica about a mat­ter which does not di­rectly con­cern Pak­istan? There will be furor in Amer­ica. Pak­istan would be lam­basted. The gov­ern­ment of Pak­istan, must surely be aware of that, and must send a clear mes­sage to the Amer­i­can that it is an­swer­able to its peo­ple, and not to those liv­ing out­side the ge­o­graph­i­cal bound­aries of the country.

Does the sur­pris­ing de­mand from the US leg­is­la­tor has any­thing to do with the visit to Amer­ica of the PPP chair­man Asif Ali Zar­rdari?. Is there a link be­tween the two? Zar­dari re­port­edly met McCain in Los An­ge­les and fed a story to the me­dia wing of the party here that he had pleaded his country’s case for the sale of F-16, about which there has been lot of con­tro­ver­sies al­ready.

It was none other than Sar­taj Aziz him­self who had an­nounced in the Par­lia­ment that the chap­ter for the sale to Pak­istan of the high pre­ci­sion com­bat air­craft, had been closed, and that Pak­istan had turned to other op­tions.

Why did McCain and oth­ers not raised voices in favour of Pak­istan for the sale of F-16, if they were so con­cerned about Pak­istan? PAF had uti­lized th­ese air­craft with re­mark­able pro­fi­ciency to flush out ter­ror­ists from their hide-outs in the moun­tain­ous North. The US se­na­tors had kept mum over the is­sue, and now one of them, who never showed any in­ter­est in Pak­istan pre­vi­ously, has dared write a let­ter to For­eign min­istry, ask­ing for de­tails as to what was hap­pen­ing with Zar­dari’s friend, Dr Asim Hus­sain. The lat­ter has been charged with embezzling Rs 462 bil­lion, and oc­cu­py­ing lands for his hos­pi­tal and TV channel. Sto­ries about his mis­do­ings have flooded the mar­ket.

Sorry to say that Sar­taj Aziz, in­stead of send­ing a re­buff to the Se­na­tor, has pre­ferred to ad­dress a let­ter to NAB, and even brazen-facedly an­nounce to the full view of the me­dia that he will for­ward those de­tails to the US Se­na­tor. He should have con­veyed to the Se­na­tor that Asim’s was purely an in­ter­nal mat­ter for Pak­istan and Pak­ista­nis, and that the mat­ter is sub­ju­dice for be­ing be­fore a court of law.

That he chose to opt for an­other course, is re­gret­table. It would be treated as sor­did af­fair, and would make Pak­ista­nis hang their hands in shame. The Ad­viser on for­eign af­fairs or the prime min­is­ter, hold­ing the for­eign min­is­ter’s port­fo­lio, should send a sim­ple two-line mes­sage to the self­styled cus­to­dian of Dr Asim Hus­sain’s in­ter­est—“sorry, Se­na­tor, this is not your do­main”.

The ques­tion be­gin­ning to be asked now as to whether Zar­dari re­ally told the truth about his Amer­i­can ya­tra. Was he there to plead Pak­istan’s case, or was he there to save his friend? He too owes an ex­pla­na­tion to peo­ple at home. If Zar­dari has tried to, which we hope and feel con­fi­dent that he has not, then in words plain and sim­ple, he tran­scended the bound­aries of wellde­fined ter­mi­nol­ogy of pa­tri­o­tism. Can he deny, that he had sought sup­port from a for­mer Amer­i­can am­bas­sador Anne Pat­ter­son to help him re­gain power.

In re­turn he would sub­mit to her country’s de­mands from Pak­istan. That is not all. Even Be­nazir tele­phoned for­mer Pres­i­dent, se­nior Bush to seek help against ac­tion taken against her by late Pres­i­dent Ghu­lam Ishaq Khan. Is this pa­tri­o­tism? The gov­ern­ment, and the Zar­daris need to an­swer that.

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