In reality, neither are US marines approaching Pakistan nor are we being attacked from Afghanistan. However, the concerns of the MQM leadership are not baseless. Pakistan is indeed faced with a critical situation. There is complex labyrinth of challenges that need meaningful national dialogue. But dose the present initiative of the MQM for a roundtable conference or the prime minister’s call for an All-Parties Conference promise any tangible results? The answer is a big no.
The MQM initiative is important. It is at least a positive step. Dialogue, exchange of opinions and expression of views are always positive. The MQM leadership reached out to the ANP leadership and they were received by Shahi Syed himself. The MQM-proposed roundtable conference will prove a good forum for mutual understanding of political leadership. But the scope of that conference ends there and the challenges Pakistan is facing now require a far greater conference to enable the participation of all stakeholders.
Every day we hear and read about exchange of views by politicians. In TV talk shows and in columns those views are further analysed. However, all these discussions seem useless in terms of a positive impact for Pakistan. So the real mission for a national dialogue is to identify real challenges.
The disagreement over priorities and sensitivity of issues are common in all state institutions, and are very different from region to region. Drone attacks are a big issue for PTI and religious parties, but not for the left and the PPP. For the judiciary sending letter to the Swiss government and safeguarding institutional respect is high in priority, but for a common man the law and order situation, joblessness, price hike and power breakdown are main issues.
Each institution considers itself the only guardian of the country, despite the fact that popular distrust about every institution is growing every day. If a common man in Balochistan has lost trust in the state, the citizens in other provinces too don’t see the government or a state institution as their protector. And this situation gets worse when politicians see the establishment’s intervention as a basic cause of all problems. On other hand, the establishment considers politicians as the root cause of all problems.
This mutual distrust between institutions has a negative impact on policymaking and policy implementation. Foreign policy on Afghanistan, India and the USA is a fitting example of this mutual distrust. Military personnel are full of complaints about wrong priorities and inabilities of political leadership. However, on the other hand, the political leadership blames military intervention for all failures. The blocking and reopening of Nato supply was indeed a tragic policy failure. For this failure politicians blame the establishment and say it used them as cards. However, the military claims that without it damage control after blunders committed by politicians was not possible.
This blame game do not ends with foreign policy. In countering extremism and terrorism political and military leadership are again have differences with each other. For politicians this is an issue that is far beyond the capacity of those in uniform to deal with, while the military complains that the sacrifices of their soldiers are not properly acknowledged. They are of the opinion that due to the inability of the political leadership the policies backfire and sacrifices are going in vain. The same story extends to Balochistan where everyone blames the military. However, the military accuses politicians for their confused policies and corruption. Such differences of opinion also plague all state institutions and are making issues more complex.
So how could a roundtable conference called for by a single political party answer all those real questions? No conference could change the present conditions where, besides the politicians, all stakeholders like the military and judiciary are not participants. Pakistan needs a serious, multi-dimensional civil- military dialogue, involving all stake holders that are sharing power in any capacity.
The agenda for such a conference is indeed clear. All the issues our nation is facing should be put on the table and be debated with full honesty and open minds. The whole nation must be informed about the policy options and positions adopted on each issue by each institution. Such open, transparent and honest dialogue should provide clear policy guidelines and limits for each institution. The information provided to the citizens of Pakistan would the end blame game between the institutions. A new social contract that marks mutual limits among institutions and segments of the society could answer all our present and even future issues.
Without such a new, open, and transparent social contract, Pakistan might turn into a piece of land where generals, judges, journalists and politicians would not be able to operate anymore. Before this happens, we could change whole situation in our favour.
The writer works for Geo TV. Email: saleem. firstname.lastname@example.orgMeaningful conference,