As the world anticipates a conflict in the Middle East following extreme confrontation between the United States and Iran in the backdrop of unprecedented targeting of a serving Iranian General, the head of the Quds Force, the foreign operations arm of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards (IRGC), Qasem Suleimani, the state of affairs at the Pakistani ministry of foreign affairs or MOFA remains wanting.
Having just recovered from the U turn in the context of the Malaysian summit meeting called by Mahatir Muhammad and the Turkish president, when the Prime Minister Imran Khan himself committed to that summit on the sidelines of the UNO general assembly meeting in September, Pakistan stance right from the onset clearly suggests that the Pakistani political leadership is in no mood to run the foreign policy in a professional or realistic manner; rather it has decided for once that it will act as a client state to a dominant power; in the case of Pakistan; United States and Saudi Arabia respectively.
The Malaysian episode created a strong impression; which was also expressed by the Malaysian and Turkish heads of state that the Pakistani foreign policy for all practical purposes is guided by its economic dependence. The two nation states which called the summit have been taken in the highest esteem by the Pakistani general public as well as the military and the political leadership for their influence in the world economy and politics; unlike Islamic Iran; which has carried a general impression as the head of the rejectionist state opposed to the world order.
The two states, though have been subtle in their about turn by the Pakistani government must be thinking twice before putting Pakistan on board for any new initiative in the domain of economy, culture or foreign policy initiatives.
To get a better feel of the quagmire which has inflicted the Pakistani government foreign policy formulation, we need to go back to the period when the prime minister of Pakistan went to Iran for confidence building exercise with an alienated leader. While the foreign ministers in sane polities act as curtain raisers for the development of relationships in such complex scenarios, what was witnessed in the context of Iran was that the foreign minister especially called a presser to raise thorny issues with Iran; on the premise that when the PM starts his visit, the media has already inflicted a dampening impact on the visit.
The body language of the FM strongly suggested that following a pro United States and pro Saudi foreign policy was not just the state agenda, rather it was the personal preference of the FM to follow the desired path.
In the backdrop of these developments; the current body language of the government and the foreign office after the assassination of Qasem Suleimani can make even a man on the street to understand that the government is treading a very dangerous path in the widening conflict between Iran and United States.
Already there are speculations that in the case of any conventional war between Iran and USA, Pakistani armed forces as well as its territory might be asked for by the United States. Given the almost slavish attitude of Pakistani establishment vis a vis Saudi Arabia, there are increased apprehensions that Pakistan for the sake of its economy will succumb to the joint Saudi- American pressure. Here it may be pointed out that while the MOFA under an Pro US FM does not hides its preference for the United States cum Saudi narrative, the spokesman of the military had to jump in to create a semblance of balance between the two warring factions.
While one cannot speculate, where the current geo political situation in the region and in the world will lead to, the long term implications for Pakistan are not very bright, to say the least. Pakistan, a country of 22 million with a 0.5 million strong army, a nuclear state has been confined to a profile of an international beggar and a spineless statecraft.
In a world where every country deals with the other country in a multi dimensional way; like Turkey battling Iran during 2012 to 2017 in Syria, but also buying and selling the natural gas on account of the demand and supply mechanics, Pakistan has been going an extra mile to appease the Americans and Saudis. Here one needs to take into account the behavior of the previous political dispensations in power in Islamabad, which despite being friends to the house of Saud, still maintained a strategic distance; the result of which was that Pakistan was saved the hard baggage of participating in the humanitarian tragedy going on in the almost five years old Yemen conflict.
As things stand, Pakistan political groups need to put pressure and debate that dysfunctional and mercenary like foreign policy direction of the incumbent government; even if they are unsuccessful in turning the tide. It is imperative that the powers to be and the front men all get into a soul searching, whether it is desirable to behave like mercenary or we need to enact some pages out of the patterns followed by the late Jawaharlal Nehru and Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto or we are just acting as a client state of a power.