Popular uprisings in the Middle East to help deter military coup in Pakistan

Popular uprisings in North Africa, including Egypt, and various countries of the Middle East will be a deterrent, for the time being at least, to military intervention in Pakistan.

This observation was made by Dr Masuma Hasan, Chairperson of the Pakistan Institute of International Affairs (PIIA) and former cabinet secretary, in an exclusive interview with The News.

Dr Hasan is one of the most distinguished diplomats and intellectuals Pakistan has ever had. She did her PhD in Economics and Politics from the University of Cambridge, United Kingdom, in 1967 and passed her MA in Political Science from the University of Karachi in 1962.

She has been Permanent Representative of Pakistan to the United Nations Office in Vienna, International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), and Pakistan Ambassador to Austria with accreditation to Slovenia and Slovakia. She has also been Director National Institute of Public Administration, Karachi, and Consultant to UN Country Team Islamabad on designing a United Nations Development Assistance Framework (UNDAF) for Pakistan.

In her interview, she dwelt at length on the volatile situation in Pakistan and Afghanistan, the relationship between Pakistan and the United States, the ‘Great Game’ being played in the region and the impact of drone attacks in Pakistan.

The following are excerpts from the interview:

The News: With 15 billion dollars in military and civilian assistance since 2001 and holding major votes in the International Monetary Fund (IMF), are there any chances that the Pakistan military will intervene again in the realm of politics?

Masuma Hasan (MH): In spite of the 15 billion dollars military and civilian assistance to Pakistan since 2001 the US is obviously committed to supporting a civilian set-up in Pakistan.

One big factor which will influence thinking on this issue is the recent political and people’s upsurge in North Africa, including Egypt, and other countries of the Middle East. This people’s movement in many countries will be a deterrent, for the time being at least, for military intervention.

The News: How drones are affecting Pakistan?

MH: Drone attacks are affecting Pakistan in many negative ways. In the first place there is a general perception that these drone attacks violate the sovereignty of Pakistan since they are an intrusion into Pakistan’s territorial limits. Secondly, they have created fear and apprehension in the areas which are being targeted, forcing people to abandon their homes and migrate to safer areas.

This has created internal migration and unless reversed will eventually lead to a change in demographic patterns. It has also created administrative problems for the provincial government.

The News: Do you agree that “Great Game” is again being played in the region?

MH: The “Great Game” had always been played on a high plane but it was played between two distinct empires, between Russia and the British Empire in India which treated Afghanistan and the present tribal areas of Pakistan as a buffer between them. I don’t think that the analogy holds in the present scenario because there are many players interested in the dynamics of this region; Russia, China, Central Asian Republics, Iran, Pakistan and India are all stakeholders in the future of this region, both in terms of peace and security, access to natural resources and access to energy resources.

I do not think that it is in the interest of any these players to upset the peace of this region. But how this peace is achieved will be the biggest diplomatic challenges of our times.

The News (Karachi), 27 February 2011