The shoe politics

Dr Qaisar Rashid
The initiative taken by Prime Minister of the UK David Cameron to reproach Pakistan ended up in flinging shoe on President Asif Ali Zardari while the latter was addressing a public gathering in Birmingham, UK. Nevertheless, the unprecedented floods (and their ravages) in Pakistan threw the proverbial oil on fire.
Questions are still raised regarding whether shoes really took off or the news of the launch was just a figment of imagination. The TV channels which broke the news are now knocking at the doors of the Supreme Court to get their telecast beamed again in Sindh. Whatever the reality is, people generally felt relief on hearing the news.
Generally speaking, it seems that the shoe-club is expanding fast but petrifying those who are yet to join the ruling ranks. Nawaz Sharif must weigh his options again. His craving for the third time premiership may grapple with the pro-shoe flinging sentiments of his would-be opponents if he fails to perform at any stage. Nevertheless, so far the touch-stone to join the shoe-club is that the more one is unpopular, the more are the chances of receiving a pair of flying shoes – even if the fig of imagination is allowed to work. The trend foretells that during the canvassing season of the next general elections shoe-markets would be a popular place of activity – to buy shoes to express sentiments and perhaps to sell shoes earned at each electoral show.
Disputes between Pakistan and India on various issues are known to everyone except Cameron. As if the leaks of the classified documents through the WikiLeaks were a blessing in disguise, British PM availed himself of the opportunity to promote trade relations with India by saying what the Indians had been desperate to listen for centuries: the role of Pakistan (through its intelligence agencies) was undermining interests of the UK in Afghanistan and that the (military) aid given to Pakistan should not be diverted against India. In both the statements, connotations of using the militant groups by the Pakistani intelligence agencies to interfere in the internal affairs of Afghanistan and India were hidden.
The statement of Cameron is not a reality check but a reflection of a problem rooted in the British society. The British of today do not value victory in the Second World War but are aggrieved at the loss of their supremacy the war brought along thereby making the victory a pyrrhic one: the British won the war but lost their colonies which were a guarantee of Britain’s economic prosperity. This reality has descended on the present British generation in a demoralising way perhaps clouding their cognitive abilities and depriving them of making fair judgements – Cameron’s statement is an example in this regard. The higher rate of unemployment and mounting expenditures accruing in the name of war on terror are bringing Britain under immense economic pressure. The electoral victory of the Conservative Party over the Labour Party is an assurance of economic interests of Britain taking precedence over everything else.
Just after 9/11, Tony Blair, the former PM of Britain, capitalised on the opportunity of joining the US camp and in return secured thousands of British jobs by entering into business and trade contracts with the US companies. For Cameron, in India, at least hundreds of business contracts could be secured by declaring, indirectly though, Pakistan (or its intelligence agencies) a common foe.
In a way, the statement of Cameron in India can be seen less to condemn Pakistan but more to gain favour of India by speaking the words the Indians were desperate to hear. For Cameron, Pakistan is at the receiving end of economic help but with India trade could be possible, as India could buy something from Britain and the Indian businessmen could invest in Britain as well. Cameron’s statement is an example how the economic realities are shaping political arenas and leading to regrouping of foes and friends. Contrary to the emerging realities, Pakistan is still cherishing the Cold War era when its joining of one bloc would solve its financial problems. Cameron’s statement also indicates that by declaring itself a front line state in the war on terror, Pakistan did not do any favour to itself.
The information leaked by the WikiLeaks foretells clearly who is going to be blamed after the war in Afghanistan is over. Secondly, the information forecasts the fate of the war: failure. Nevertheless, the prospects of victory of war have been blighted by ill-planning and blame game. Can the Afghan intelligence agencies report that in the failure of the Afghan security forces there is no role of the Pakistani intelligence agencies? If they do so, they would be sent home. The reason of survival of the Afghan intelligence agencies lies in shifting burden of their failure onto the shoulders of someone else. The war game is continued but has started the blame game – before the war game is over. That is a worrying aspect of the picture.
Cameron made it sure that his statement reproving the role of Pakistan in war on terror would not backfire at least in kind – a pair of airborne shoes. Hence, he was smart enough to select the venue, India, where, in the wake of his statement, he was assured of economic cooperation of Indian businessmen for trade. Cameron also knew that he would not be visiting Pakistan subsequently. That was how Cameron also precluded the shoe treatment.
Conceivably, Cameron knew that the Pakistani leadership would not be condemning him. Zardari proved that expectation correct when he called on Cameron in the UK. In the future, Pakistan must expect more such statements and that too spoken in India by the foreign head of state: the formula being evolved is, to gain (financial) favour of India, speak against Pakistan on the Indian soil. Further, Pakistan should also expect that once money is looted in Pakistan and deposited in foreign banks, it can never the retrieved.

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