Diplomacy and development mantra needs revisiting
By Saeed Minhas
ISLAMABAD: Easter arrangements were at their peak and many of our diplomatic friends from western countries had to halt their official secret-sharing chores to plan or attend Good Friday and Easter get-togethers at several places to celebrate the long weekend.
News about easing the Americans’ much-criticised screening policy for the Pakistanis was a welcome sign for all these friends, as they found the disclosure of the visiting US Congresswoman Sheila Jackson-Lee quite comforting and helpful for their targeted public diplomacy and tainted developmental efforts. But many of the diplomats agreed with me partially that neither diplomacy nor development could happen from bunkers by untrained and circumscribed staffers, who remain completely oblivious of locals.
But, since money allocated for these “high-valued” tasks has to be spent with positive results, be it the UN-led Pakistan Humanitarian Response Plan (PHRP) or DFID (UK) consultancy or Japan’s JICA multi-million dollar grants or CIDA’s (Canada) humanitarian aid and over a billion dollars of USAID diplomacy and development funds, all will be shown as well-spent, regardless of how much of it will help the masses and how much will be repatriated through their own consultants with the help of local sub-contractors.
Quoting an example – though I have many in my kitty – might serve as an eye-opener for all the stakeholders that in the UN-led PHRP, 169 projects have been identified for our war-torn areas in Swat/Malakand and only five percent of the pledged donations have arrived in UN coffers, and the progress report shows that work is underway but ground realities smack it all. All this only remains in computer records of a few blessed individuals, but we in the media are made to believe through flashy presentations that millions are being spent for the people.
It is yet to be seen how long this cruel joke will continue, as the moment you put this to any of these “agents of development”, rest assured that you will hear all the procedures to invite foreign consultants with little plans for the masses. Then we hear that the Transparency International will issue a detailed report of the government’s ratings without laying much emphasis on its sister-NGOs or should we call them partners in personal welfare. Come on guys, please be real and come out of your bunkers to do something concrete on the ground, if you are sincere in ending all of the people’s problems.
To mention my quid pro quo with a western friend on all these things – with all these documents stacked up in my hand-carry – I could not find the contesting folks in any of the diplomatic bunkers throughout the week, they may have been on Easter break. Well fellas, I’m waiting, so be ready for our next bout.
Meanwhile, a sitting with some Arab friends amid the picturesque massif of low hills drove us all through a number of conspiracy theories surrounding ground realities in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Palestine.
A former Hamas spokesperson – who was recently a spokesperson for the Palestinian president – His Excellency Hazem Shanab, in his bid to cap it all, triggered a new debate about Pakistan’s sovereignty and the “viceroyship” of certain western, American and Arab diplomats and NGOs in the country.
A tall, sturdy man from the Gaza Strip, sipping plain water and resting on a ridge on Trail 5 of Margalla Hills, blurted out, “Peace in Pakistan and the whole world will start with peace in Palestine.” Elaborating upon his views, he said when phosphorus bombs are showered on innocent Palestinians every day and scores are killed as a result, how should we believe that Americans are having serious talks with their buddies in Israel to stop this bloodshed? “Palestine will continue to serve as a tailor-made situation for extremists of the world to give as an example of the Israelis’ barbaric acts and raise their insurgent-armies throughout the world,” he added. He said, “The sooner the Americans and the UN realise this, the better for them and for the whole world.” Otherwise, he said, “Letting Israelis continue state aggression against unarmed Palestinians might not only engulf the Arabs, but the whole world.”
A friend from Pakistan’s superior angels-force pushed this further, “Weaker and wayward political will of our country’s leadership is letting all the evil forces tighten their grip through heavily-funded multinationals and local NGOs.”
Citing an example of a UN-led organisation, he said they had started funding several individuals and organisations to collect data on various core subjects such as religious seminaries, army installations, active social, ethnic, linguistic and regional groups, and the recent trend shows that they are focusing especially on Balochistan and FATA.
It reminded me of the discussion with the Spanish (Gonzalo Saravia) and EU (Jan De Kok) ambassadors a few weeks ago, when we were discussing the blame-game and conspiracy theories. With focus on our army chief’s speech in Brussels, where he openly declared some Taliban groups such as the Haqqani group as a strategic asset for Pakistan, we all agreed that the great game encircling Afghanistan has entered a crucial phase.
Our European friends did not hide their ire by stating, “American policies are as liked in our countries as they are in Pakistan,” adding that Pakistan should focus on putting its house in order, instead of finding an easy way out by blaming others. Innovations of immigration experts by people hailing from Gujrat of the Chaudhrys will be revealed next week.