All Parties Conference ( A.P.C.) — The Placebo Effect ?
RASHEED HASAN KHAN
The last half of September 2011, saw a sudden burst of activity by the Taliban in Afghanistan. First, there was a destructive attack on the U.S. Embassy in Kabul and a few days later, the Chief Negotiator for Peace of the Afghan Government, Maulana Rabbani was assassinated by a suicide bomber. This caused a violent reaction from the U.S. Establishment. Pak-U.S. relations, which had been floundering for the last two years, took a steep nose dive when Adm. Mullen unleashed a blast at the Pakistani military establishment, specifically the I.S.I. He bluntly accused the Pakistan Army and I.S.I. of using the Haqqani Network as an extension of its of its strategic arm !!
The history of the decade long war in Afghanistan, into which the Pakistani establishment, under the leadership of Gen. Musharraf had thrust the country, under the threat of U.S. attack, caused death, destruction and economic collapse not only in Afghanistan but in Pakistan as well. The U.S. hubris in planning the ‘Surge’ and its pathetic petering out, has left no viable strategy for the U.S. Forces in Afghanistan. Since the last two years there has been an effort to negotiate with the Taliban on the part of the U.S. Authorities, though this has been declared as taboo for the Pakistani government. The Karzai Regime had, in consultation with the Occupation U.S. Forces, appointed Maulana Rabbani as their Chief Negotiator. His assassination has been placed at the doorstep of the Haqqani network and has lead to an exchange of accusations and counter-accusations between the Pakistani and the U.S. governments.
In response to the threats and accusations of responsible persons of the U.S. Establishment, the Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani convened an all parties conference on 29 September 2011. Fifty eight political parties as well as the C.O.A.S. Gen. Kayani and the D.G. I.S.I. Gen. Pasha were invited to participate in the meeting. Mr. Gilani in his introductory speech had determined the objectives of the meeting as an effort to resolve the diputes and normalize the relations between the U.S. and Pakistan. The resolution called for giving” peace a chance”, the watchword for the new policy.
The meeting also sought to steer policy in a way that restores Pakistanis’ compromised self-respect. The leaders agreed to push for economic self-reliance rather than be held hostage to loans advanced by international lending institutions or foreign aid, both of which come with strings attached. Trade, not aid, was the new mantra expounded. The politicians pledged to stand behind the government and the armed forces should it come to dealing with any military threat posed to the country from any quarter.
In the final analysis, it was a triumphant day for the army which under a tense situation succeeded in rallying political consensus behind its key policy that incorporates its internal policy, and more significantly, the foreign policy which remains the military’s prerogative.
The meeting also resolved to set up a parliamentary committee to monitor the developments. In established democracies, it is the parliament which debates and formulates all policy, but Pakistan is still far away from granting parliament that due role. That is why it needs to seek arbitrarily convened forums such as the APC to deliberate in a crisis situation.
To re- visit the Joint Session of the Parliament, convened on the occasion of the U.S. attack on Abbotabad (2 Dec.2010) the resolution and the discussions were very commendable, but no one attached any significance to the decisions afterwards. So, let us hope the resolution of the APC provides a real cure for the national malaise and is not just to provide a placebo effect.