Over the past week, even as Pakistani media was consumed by the abhorrent (and self-destructive) tirades of Nawaz Sharif and his cohorts, an important transformation took place in Pakistan’s ‘international narrative’, especially concerning India. Specifically, in an exclusive interview to Indian media, Dr Moeed Yusuf, Advisor to the Prime Minister on National Security and Strategic Policy Planning, set out Pakistan’s new and bold counter-narrative to two decades of Indian hegemony over articulation of bilateral concerns.
In this regard, Dr Yusuf picked the ‘correct’ forum to articulate Pakistan’s side of this bilateral story—an interview to Karan Thapar, one of India’s most respected journalists, with viewership across the world. This was the first time that, in the words of Karan Thapar, “any official of Pakistan” was speaking to the Indian media “after the Constitutional changes in [occupied] Jammu and Kashmir in August 2019”. So the importance of this moment, especially in regards to setting out the new ‘policy’ objects of Pakistan, vis-à-vis India, could not be overstated.
In all honesty, such situations make observant Pakistanis uncomfortable. There have been too many instances, over the past some decades, where Pakistani officials have been interviewed by the Indian (or international) media, and only resulted in further embarrassment for our hapless nation. Just recently, Maj Gen Mahmud Durrani, the former National Security Advisor of Pakistan, had claimed, during a speech somewhere in the United States, that the “terrorist attack in Mumbai” on November 26, 2008, had been “carried out by a terrorist group based in Pakistan”. Even Nawaz Sharif himself, during various interviews (including one given to Dawn) had made a similar statement. And these ridiculous allegations, designed only to embarrass the national security establishment of Pakistan, were widely discussed across the Indian and international media to paint Pakistan as a rogue/terrorist state
In this backdrop, the idea of Dr Yusuf speaking to Karan Thapar, brought an uneasy feeling of trepidation to those of us familiar with recent history.
A proud moment
However, unlike Pakistan debacles, this interview set out a crisp and bold narrative for a ‘naya’ Pakistan, that was willing and able to expose Indian hypocrisy on regional terrorism, while also outlining the requisite steps for peace in our region. Refreshingly, there was none of the traditional backpedaling on bilateral issues, no hiding behind apologetic excuses for regional violence, no timidity on the Kashmir issue, no tentativeness on Afghanistan, and no uncertainty about how Pakistan envisions its (peaceful) relations with India. In short, this was nothing like the contrite state narrative that we have seen coming out of Pakistan over the past 20 years.
The interview, agenda for which was set by Karan Thapar, focused on four issues of bilateral importance: 1) Kashmir; 2) Kulboshan Yadav; 3) Cross-border terrorism; and 4) the ‘way forward’ for Pakistan-India relations. And on each of these, Dr. Yusuf articulated Pakistan’s point-of-view in a manner that effectively demolished two decades of caustic Indian narrative.
The interview started with Kashmir, and Thapar asked Dr. Yusuf why Pakistan was so “worked-up” with India’s “internal Constitutional changes” in the occupied Jammu and Kashmir. Dr. Yusuf, poised and prepared, pointed out how India had “scored an own goal” in Kashmir. That the actions of August 2019 were not only against the long-standing wishes of Kashmiri people, but also against the UN charter, Security Council resolutions, bilateral agreements and principles in international law. That, as a result of India’s impudence in Kashmir—which has been rejected by local political leaders as well—India now stands before the world as a “rogue state”.
“India has been caught with its pants down”
Next: Kulboshan Yadav. The host, Karan Thapar, accused Pakistan of not complying with the judgment of the ICJ, in letter and spirit. Prepared for the issue, Dr Yusuf pointed out that the ICJ judgment had directed Pakistan to do three things: 1) grant counsellor access; 2) review and reconsideration of the conviction; and 3) halt the execution in the meantime. Pakistan, in the instant case, had complied with all three. To this end, Yadav had not been executed, as scheduled. He had been granted two “unimpeded” counsellor accesses, and a third one “has been offered for long” (which Yadav wanted to forsake to pursue mercy petition instead).
Also, a special law had been promulgated by Pakistan to allow effective review and reconsideration of the judgment. In this regard, the appeal had been pending before the relevant High Court, which was being delayed by India on account of non-appointment of a lawyer. In the circumstances, Dr Yusuf pointed out that it is India, and not Pakistan, that was impeding compliance with the legal process. “India has been caught with its pants down”, as a sponsor of terror in this region. And no amount of ‘spin’ could hide this unimpeachable fact.
Next: Mumbai’s attack, and Pakistan’s alleged involvement in the said incidence. Karan Thapar insisted with Dr Yusuf that people allegedly involved in the 2008 Mumbai attack had not been sentenced yet. In response, Dr Yusuf pointed out that the biggest impediment in the resolution of these cases, and possible conviction of the suspected individuals, has been lack of cooperation by the Indian State. That despite repeated requests by Pakistan, India has consistently denied (or delayed) the provision of requisite evidence, necessary for the cases to reach a logical conclusion, for the simple reason that India wanted the ‘issue’ to remain alive.
While on the point of cross-border terrorism in the region, Dr Yusuf made certain startling revelations (for the first time). Countering the “one-sided” Indian narrative on the issue, he disclosed that 1) the TTP merged with four other terrorist organisations that perpetuate terror in Pakistan, through funds supplied by the “Indian embassy” in Afghanistan. 2) Malik Faridoon, “who masterminded the attack” on APS Peshawar from Jalalabad, was in touch with the “Indian Consulate” even while the attack was underway. He was later treated in Delhi on Indian sponsorship. That Pakistan has “records of 8 phone calls”, of “phone numbers”, of “handlers” who “orchestrated” this. 3) India is using “think tanks in Afghanistan as fronts to funnel money to Baloch terrorists in Pakistan”, and embarrassing the Afghanistan government in the process. 4) The “BLA commander”, Aslam Achu, who orchestrated the Chinese consulate attack in Karachi was “directly in touch with his RAW handlers”, and treated for ailments in New Delhi. 5) The Gwadar PC Hotel attackers were in contact with their “RAW handlers” as the attack was still underway.
Hope for talks?
Finally: Way forward for Pakistan-India relations. There are two issues at the heart of the bilateral relations. Terrorism and Kashmir. So, per Dr Yusuf, Pakistan’s conditions to move forward in bilateral relations are two: 1) “Stop perpetrating terror against Pakistan”, and 2) “reverse the military siege in Kashmir”; “pull back from the domicile law”. And that “Kashmiris” must be part of the process. And these are non-negotiable.
This interview, by Prime Minister’s Advisor on National Security, has been clearest articulation of Pakistan’s point-of-view, regarding regional terrorism and relations with India, by any Pakistani official over the past two decades. It spells the dawn of a new and aggressive age of diplomacy and international relations in Pakistan’s policy corridors. And for that, the PTI government, our security establishment, and its principal national security official, Dr Moeed Yusuf, deserve accolades.
This is a new Pakistan. One that is not on a perpetual defensive at the international stage. One that is not beholden to a misplaced legacy of terror. One that is willing to assert its point of view, and achievements, without fear or favour. May this Pakistan prosper and progress in the new geopolitical age that is upon us. Ameen.
Saad Rasool is a lawyer based in Lahore. He has an LL.M. in Constitutional Law from Harvard Law School. He can be reached at email@example.com, or Twitter: @Ch_SaadRasool. This article originally appeared at The Nation and has been republished with the author’s permission. The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Global Village Space.