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'Who pushed me in the pool?'

'Who pushed me in the pool?'

Shaheen Sehbai
Dawn, Karachi
March 30, 2000
Title: 'Who pushed me in the pool?'
Author: Shaheen Sehbai
Publication: Dawn, Karachi
Date: March 30, 2000

NOW that the Clinton visit is over, everyone in the GHQ, the foreign office and the chief executive's secretariat would be counting the net gains, or the losses. What did Pakistan get? What did we offer? Whether the US is more sympathetic to our position today than before? Have we been left high and dry?

Mr Clinton was very clear in his words and deeds. He had said it himself and through his spokesmen that his visit would not be an endorsement of the military regime, that he was going there to talk to the Pakistani people directly and that he would not mediate on Kashmir. The guidelines laid down were unambiguous.

But what surprised many experts and diplomatic and political observers in Washington was the gradual hardening of tone of the same message as Mr Clinton's travels in India progressed. His spokesmen, even his chief national security adviser, Sandy Berger, started talking in terms which no one had used before he left Washington.

Then came the direct address to the Pakistani nation and in his 15-minute monologue, Mr Clinton said things that would have left the military leaders baffled and in a daze.

Reading Mr Clinton's well-articulated and carefully picked-up words agives them more meaning to what they may have sounded in the first place. Some of his quotes:

- "(The US is) a committed friend who will stand with the people of Pakistan as long as you seek the stable, prosperous, democratic nation of your founder's dreams." Note the "as long as" precondition added here.

- "For more than 50 years we have been partners with you ...Now we are in the dawn of a new century and a new changing world has come into view..."

- "This moment in history poses some hard choices (for Pakistan). For this era does not reward people who struggle in vain, to redraw borders with blood." This is the gravest blow that could be delivered to the Kashmir cause. First he says the struggle is in vain which means it cannot be won. Then he says borders cannot be redrawn with blood, meaning the liberation movement in Kashmir is futile and Kashmir would remain a part of India.

- "I believe it is in Pakistan's interest to reduce tensions with India...Pakistan must also help create conditions that will allow the dialogue to succeed...the stark truth must also be faced - there is no military solution to Kashmir." These remarks put the blame and the onus only on Pakistan to make all the compromises and recognizes the Indian point of view that only a bilateral dialogue should be held with no outside mediation.

- "International sympathy, support and intervention cannot be won by provoking a bigger, bloodier conflict. On the contrary, sympathy and support will be lost and no matter how great the grievance, it is wrong to support attacks against civilians across the LoC.." Here is the direct condemnation of Pakistan and of all that it stands for. He is accusing Pakistan of provoking a bigger, bloodier conflict, with Kargil in the back of his mind. He is accusing Pakistan of supporting attacks against civilians across the LoC and is dismissing Pakistan's arguments by saying sympathy will be lost no matter how great the grievance.

- "We want to be a force for peace but we cannot force peace. We can't impose it. We cannot and will not mediate or resolve the dispute in Kashmir... Lahore process is the road to peace for resolution of Kashmir..." This is the Indian line, pure and simple and a tacit denunciation of Kargil and post-Lahore events. It also increases the weight and esteem of Nawaz Sharif as initiator of the Lahore process. In his talks he also asked for clemency for Nawaz if he gets the death penalty.

- "Democracy cannot develop if it is constantly uprooted before it has a chance to firmly take hold...The answer to the flaw of democracy is not to end democracy but to improve it...The return of civilian democratic rule requires a complete plan, a real road map... People of Pakistan should be given the opportunity to decide..." This is his direct rebuke to General Musharraf and his plans, the most unpleasant and undiplomatic part of the entire visit which prompts the questions why was he allowed to do such a humiliating act and will any other country allow that?

- "I hope you will be able to meet these difficult challenges ... If you do not there is a danger that Pakistan may grow even more isolated..." This is the threat that looms large over Pakistan now. Mr Clinton asserts that Pakistan is already isolated and may get "even more" isolated if Pakistani people do not follow his dictates.

After listening to and reading all of these remarks in cold print, a sense of confusion and humiliation is difficult to conceal. Confusion because he is appealing directly to the people to do all this when he knows that the people do not have any powers to achieve any of this by themselves. The politicians are discredited and there is no alternative leadership which can challenge the army. So who is going to do what Mr Clinton wants and professes?

Most Pakistanis must now be asking why at all we allowed this to happen to us. Who are the people who pushed the government into inviting Mr Clinton at all costs? What were they up to? What Pakistani leaders have been able to do is only to state their case before him, which he already knew anyway, and disregarded it by saying what he did.

So, how has the Pakistan cause been served by this visit? Any answers!

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