Dr. Maleeha Lodhi on AF-PAK

AF-PAK seems to signal one-size-fits-all approach: Dr. Maleeha Lodhi

By Rana Fawad

WASHINGTON: The AF-PAK policy seems to signal one-size-fits-all approach but Pakistan and Afghanistan have vastly different histories, different capabilities, and different kinds of security challenges.

These remarks were made by former Pakistani ambassador to U.S. and U.K., Dr. Maleeha Lodhi, while presenting her analysis on “Pakistan Security Challenges: Implications of the AF-PAK Strategy” at the United States Institute of Peace in Washington, D.C., on July 22.

She was of the view that policies are formed to fit complex realities not the other way around. The former ambassador warned that the policy and the acronym (AF-PAK) itself can lead to a perilous consequence. “It will tend to treat Pakistan as a function of Afghanistan,” she said.

Dr. Maleeha Lodhi remarked that subordinating the bilateral Pak- U.S. equation to a tri-lateralized policy will inadvertently and unintentionally erode bilateral relations between Pakistan and the U.S.

To a question about Pakistan’s threat perception she said, “Perceptions about security are like beauty. They lie in the eyes of the beholder.” She regretted that Pakistan-India dialogue was disrupted and emphasized that the composite dialogue should not be attached to any one condition.

Commenting on Pakistan’s domestic problems she told the gathering that the country needs a resolute leadership that could stand up and show a ray of hope to the people as far as problems are concerned. “I’m concerned that the present leadership doesn’t quite have that. And I think it’s no coincidence that former prime minister Nawaz Sharif happens to be the most popular man in Pakistan today. That is more of a statement on people in office perhaps.”

She suggested that Pakistan needs somebody with political vision. “Somebody who could unite not divide the people. Somebody who is not personally controversial. Somebody who could work on civil-military equation in Pakistan in a stable and predictable manner.”

Referring to predictions about Pakistan’s future, Dr. Maleeha Lodhi remarked that the country needed national self-confidence and added that the doomsday scenarios like “you’re about to implode, you are about to collapse, this is it it’s all over,” are no help.

She said no doubt the country had crises along the way but it defied all the odds. “This is a country that has a much stronger society today than in the past.”

Referring to the counterinsurgency, Dr. Maleeha was of the view that it has to be done by local actors. “Counterinsurgency is not a joystick war.  It is not something that you do in a robotic manner.”