According to a report published in leading English daily newspaper, Foreign Minister Khawaja Asif has indirectly conceded that his ministry is not in control of the Country’s foreign policy. Winding up discussion on the recent visit of the US Secretary of State to South Asia and the recent America’s Strategy on Afghanistan, he said that foreign policy was being shaped by different institutions and no single institution was in charge of the foreign affairs. However, he said the policy was framed in the light of the recommendations of the National Security Committee and the parliament.
The political leaders used to talk loudly about the origination of foreign policy from parliament. But when it comes to the test of their ability, acumen, sincerity and diplomatic skills they fail to deliver on the foreign policy front. The diplomatic fiasco after the Salala Check Post incident is a noteworthy example of ineptitude of our political leadership. After this incident NATO supply for Afghanistan was blocked for months but with no results. The state institutions submitted a draft of six points for the formulation of foreign policy guidelines viz. a viz. the United States. The Parliamentary Committee on National Security converted it into 14 points and then 30 plus points and finally condensed it to 14 points again. After an unnecessary delay the Committee submitted its recommendations to the Parliament. The parliament remained indecisive on the matter due to internal issues of political rivalry. Point scoring took precedence over national interest. On the other hand, President Obama administration urged the political leadership of Pakistan to expedite the review of ties with Washington but they could not decide about the rules of enjoyment with the United States. After the firebrand speeches in the parliament a resolution was adopted which was short in substance and long on common place political rhetoric.
During the deliberation of Parliamentary Committee on National Security, a stage came when the United States hinted to tender an apology over the Salala attack to secure early reopening of the NATO Supply. However, due to lack of seriousness on the part of our political leadership this opportunity was lost, which enabled the United States to issue a symbolic regret. Conceding a humiliating diplomatic retreat, the then foreign minister Ms. Hina Rabbani Khar said in press briefing that Pakistan wants to move beyond Salala. If Salala onslaught was not an attack on our sovereignty, then why NATO supply remained blocked for several months. Just four days later, on 28th May 2012 former Chief of Army Staff General Asfaq Pervez Kiyani reiterated in talks with top US Commanders that American Air Strikes on Salala was an attack on Pakistan’s sovereignty.
The democratic system of government does not exclude the institutional input for foreign policy formulation. In the United States, the State Department, Pentagon, National Security department and military top brass give their input on foreign policy. In Parliamentary democracies federal government workout foreign policy after receiving the necessary input from state institutions and it is fine tuned after a meaningful and quality debate in the Parliament. It would be worthwhile that our political leadership refrain from making the serious subject of foreign policy, a political football.