The triumphalism in Pakistan PM Yousuf Gilani’s tone is unmistakeable, as he spoke in Multan on Saturday. Pakistan has won in a big way in the standoff with US. But, to my mind, Gilani won an even bigger political victory in terms of his statesmanship. His indulgence in brinkmanship with Washington was masterly and his panache in finessing the Pakistani opinion was perfect, and the fact that he got a damn good deal for the GHQ in Rawalpindi is going to matter in Pakistani politics in the coming period. Yet, Gilani was originally picked up by President Asif Zardari for the job largely because he was thought to be mild-mannered and ‘apolitical’.
Think of it: Gilani is dictating today that Pakistan’s dialogue with the US will be “on the basis of equality and mutual trust.” Then he turns around and tells Afghan President Hamid Karzai not to sit in his palace and sulk but to come out and try to make the best out of a bad situation.
He has obtained a formal assurance, meanwhile, from the US that there is no question of American soldiers stepping foot in Waziristan. He got Admiral Mike Mullen to bactrack on his own words regarding the nexus between Pakistan and the Haqqani network, and he got the White House and State Department spokesmen certify the admiral’s humble retraction.
On top of it all, President Barack Obama has personally stepped in to apply the balm on Pakistan’s injured pride. But what takes the breath away is that Pakistan has presented the US with an ‘exit strategy’ in Afghanistan that the latter simply cannot afford to turn down – deal directly with the Haqqani clan.
The beauty of this political coup is that it will now be the turn of the US to go the extra league to secure Pakistan’s ‘legitimate interests’ in Afghanistan so that the American interests can also be, inter alia, safeguarded. The tectonic shift in the public diplomacy by the US ambassador to Pakistan Cameron Munter (and his Australian colleague) speaks volumes of the sense of gratitude and relief in Washington. This is Gilani’s finest hour.
Posted in Politics.
– October 2, 2011