March 7, was the turning point in the recent political history of Pakistan. Since then there have been major transformations at the social and political level. It was the evening of March 7, when then Prime Minister Imran Khan received a sealed letter from the Pakistani ambassador to America Assad Majeed. The letter contains the record of detailed conversation between the US Assistant Secretary of the State for South and Central Asia, David Lu and Pakistani ambassador, Assad Majeed. As per the government sources, as recorded in the letter, during the conversation, the US representative David Lu used a threatening language against Pakistan. According to Khan, during the brief conversation, the US representative David Lu used the term “VOTE OF NO CONFIDENCE”, which was not even yet proceeded by the opposition in the Parliament. Hence, tjis is the reason why former Prime Minister Imran Khan links the VOTE OF NO CONFIDENCE and the letter he received a day earlier before the motion was put forward.
Mr. Khan holds a view that by orchestrating the motion of VOTE OF NO CONFIDENCE, America punished him for his two-day visit to Russian Federation especially at a critical time when Russia announced Special Military Operation in Ukraine. Mr. Khan publically said this weaving the sealed letter in his hand during his speech at the Parade Ground, Islamabad on March 27. Khan told hid supporters that the US representative David Lu is behind the motion of VOTE OF NO CONFIDENCE and vowed to fight to protect the dignity of his nation in the face of US interference. During the brief conversation with Pakistani ambassador, Mr. Lu warned “If the VOTE OF NO CONFIDENCE failed to topple Khan’s government then Pakistan must get prepared to face graveyard consequence s.”
By taking into account the above-mentioned scenario; Khan vowed to fight for the dignity and freedom of his country from the foreign interference. Hence, by mainstreaming the narrative of nation pride and national freedom during his rallies ; Khan remained successful in attracting massive support from the people. Hence, the ongoing chaos and polarized transformation at the socio-political level can be understood in three major domains.
Soon after the success of VOTE OF NO CONFIDENCE motion against on April 12, the public support for Khan reached the peak level. Likewise, during his televised addressed after his fall, Khan asked the Military to take the notice of American interference. A week later due to Public outcry, the Inter Service Public Relation (ISPR), a military watchdog explained their position by saying that there was no direct interference but a conspiracy. Moreover, in its press-release, ISPR also stressed that army should not be dragged into politics and hence, declared Army as “neutral” on this matter.
Unfortunately, the word “Neutrality” didn’t appease the angry supporters of Khan. Soon after the ISPR’s press-release, Khan’s supporters took the twitter and the word “#neutrality” remained on top trending for days. Moreover, by examining the intense political polarization the Army refrained from making public statements on the issue in order to keep the institution “neutral“. However, as key and important decision-maker, the sanctity of Army as an institution became a heated debate on social media. For the first time in the recent history, the Armed Forces of Pakistan as an institution began facing the challenge of protecting its sanctity due to exacerbating polarization.
By mainstreaming the narrative of “American interference”, Mr. Khan remained successful in dragging huge crowd to his rallies in big and small cities of the country. During his rallies, Khan resurfaced the American interference narrative to pressure both the coalition government and security establishment to hold fresh elections as soon as possible. According to both official and unofficial sources; there is a division in the security establishment regarding the VOTE OF NO CONFIDENCE motion against Khan. Hence due to immense polarization at the social and political level, the Military establishing is seriously thinking about the formation of technocratic government to pave the way for elections in the coming months. Nonetheless, it goes without saying that due to the rising support for Imran Khan; the opposition-led coalition government has already lost its legitimacy. Likewise, the rising political polarization at the socio-structural level is threatening the security of the country.
By organizing successful rallies one after another in major and small cities; Khan succeeded in uniting his supporters towards his early election demand. The massive socio-political polarization has already shocked the incumbent coalition government to pay attention to his key demands. However, Khan actual plan id to pressure the Military Establishment (the Power brokers in the country) to conduct the fresh elections in the country. On the contrary, there is also a huge disagreements among the coalition as Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz (PLMN) is leading the show for now. But the other key coalition partners such as Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) and the Mutahida Quomi Movement (MQM) arw the ruling coalition with certain key political demands. MQM has already warned the ruling coalition; if their demands are not met on emergency basis then they will quit the coalition.
Similarly, Mr. Khan has already declared the last week of May and the coming month critical as he told his supporters to wait for his call to march towards the Capital Islamabad. According to various polls especially poll recently conducted by the Arab News Media Network, since the VOTE OF NO CONFIDENCE, Mr. Khan’s popularity has increased to an unprecedented level. Hence, both the incumbent ruling coalition and the military establishment knows that Khan’s popularity cannot be contested. According to experts, Khan’s main strategy is to pressure the Military Establishment to maximum level to conduct the early elections as soon as possible.
Perhaps, his call for long march towards capital Islamabad is a part of this long-game strategy. Moreover, the massive polarization in the socio-political level and rising economic turmoil is pressing both the Military Establishment and ruling coalition to succumb to early election demand of Imran Khan. In a nutshell, the early elections seems the only way to sway away the ongoing political turmoil and menace of soaring civil war in the country. Just an hour earlier, Former Prime Minister Imran has called on his supporters to march towards Capital Islamabad on March 25, to participate in what he calls “Azadi March/ Freedom Rally”. Indeed, this march will have grounded impact on the politics of Pakistan in the years to come.
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Pakistan-US relations have been passing through many ups and downs in history. The US believes in interest base relations, as a general rule of thumb in the Western World. But, Pakistan is an Eastern Nation and believes in “Pure Friendship”. In our society, relations are above interests. However, according to Eastern culture, friendship, help, and assistance can go to any extent, with no limits.
Pakistan has been serving American Interests during the cold war, the Afghan War against the former USSR’s occupation of Afghanistan during the 1980s, the war on terror, etc. But,
Pakistan has never asked for any reward, because in our culture, it is considered an obligation to assist a friend in time of need, without asking for any favor or reward in return. But, the US believes that Pakistan is serving its interests against the meager assistance extended to Pakistan.
The issues rises from the Afghan war after 9/11, when the US supported by allies, removed the Taliban Government and installed the pro-US governments of President Hamid Karzai and then Ashraf Ghani. The US was demanding Pakistan “Do More”, without caring about Pakistan’s national interests, and without considering Pakistan’s capacities. Although, Pakistan was contributing a lot, according to its best possible capabilities, but, could not meet Americans, vicious demands. While the US was judging Pakistan on Western Standards, Whereas, Pakistan was performing on Eastern Standards. It has created few misunderstandings.
Due to its strategic location, and strong will, Pakistan was looking after American interests in this region for more than seven decades and ensured that all vital goals and American interests are achieved. However, since, the US has been keeping its distance from Pakistan, and started relying on India, as a major defense partner, The US has been facing failure after another failure consecutively.
It seems, that the US Administration has realized the ground facts, and recognized Pakistan’s potential and importance. It is obvious from the telephonic conversation between the Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, on 06 July 2022.
The Foreign Minister thanked Secretary Blinken for extending him the invitation to attend the ‘Global Food Security Call to Action held in New York in May 2022 and recalled that, on its sidelines, they had a detailed and productive bilateral meeting.
Foreign Minister underscored that Pakistan had a long-standing and broad-based relationship with the United States which needed to be reinforced and widened on the basis of mutual respect and mutual trust.
The Foreign Minister underlined the need for frequent exchange of high-level visits between the two countries to realize the full potential of bilateral cooperation across a vast range of areas and highlighted that both countries were celebrating the 75th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic ties in a befitting manner.
The Foreign Minister particularly stressed that, given the demographic and economic potential of Pakistan, the U.S. may invest in Pakistan’s growing market. The Foreign Minister also hoped that the Trade and Investment Framework’s Ministerial Meeting could be held later this year to give further impetus to trade ties along with holding of Business Opportunities Conference. The Foreign Minister also appreciated the ongoing visit of Special Representative for Commercial and Business Affairs, Dilawar Syed, to explore and further solidify Pakistan-U.S. commercial and trade ties.
The Foreign Minister underscored to Secretary Blinken the importance of easing the issuance of visas for Pakistani nationals including students, businesspersons, and professionals. The two counterparts agreed to increase cooperation and continue momentum on the ongoing dialogues on Climate Change, Energy, Health, Security, and Trade and Investment. They also agreed to maintain sustained engagement in the future.
The Foreign Minister also underlined that the dire humanitarian situation in Afghanistan, accentuated by the recent earthquake, required scaling up of the international community’s assistance to Afghanistan. The Foreign Minister reiterated Pakistan’s resolve to remain engaged in the promotion of shared objectives of peace and stability in Afghanistan.
It is desired that all misunderstandings should be discussed and removed, all differences may be resolved amicably, and restore the traditional friendship between the two old strategic partners. It will be beneficial not only for the two countries but also important for regional peace, stability, and prosperity, too.
Piyush Poddar has done his Master’s from Delhi School of Social Work, and Bachelor’s in Commerce from Hans Raj College, University of Delhi. He has experience working as a consultant with the MPSRLM and organizations like Azim Premji Foundation, Society for All Round Development, and Rajasthan Mahila Kalyan Mandal, Ajmer. His experience at the grassroots led him to found Bookletpedia, which works to bridge the information gap that exists at the grassroots through contextual and interactive Information, Education, and Communication materials to make people in the villages informationally empowered.
What exactly is Bookletpedia?
Bookletpedia is a non-registered firm of professional social workers passionately designing contextual Information Education and Communication materials with an understanding of the ground realities. We design contextual posters, booklets, pamphlets, brochures, and flipcharts for individuals and organizations working with people in the development sector with an aim to bridge the information gap that exists at the grassroots and to make capacity-building participative and more effective
Tell us about your journey of founding the organization?
While working as an intern in October 2020 during a household study in Jawaja and Silora blocks of Ajmer by Rajasthan Mahila Kalyan Mandal (RMKM) Piyush Poddar found that although people had job cards under MGNREGA, they were not aware of the wage rate and the number of days they had to work. This was the case despite the act being in place for more than 15 years. It was at this point that a need for contextual material in the local language was realized and the seeds of Bookletpedia were sown.
What was your inspiration behind helping people at the grassroots level?
“When you are doing any work, do it as worship, as the highest worship, and devote your whole life to it for the time being.” Swami Vivekananda
I realized that with Bookletpedia, I was trying to find a solution to the most pressing issues that plague the welfare programs: the issue of accessibility and that if backed by a dedicated team and capacity building, contextual and interactive IEC materials have the capacity to transform how communication takes place at the grassroots level. Take for example our MGNREGA booklet (backed by the Rajasthan Mahila Kalyan Mandal, Ajmer team, and capacity building) that has helped the organization reach 3973 households (September 2020- March 2022) in Silora and Jawaja blocks of Ajmer and empowered them to access benefits under the scheme. This along with other booklets is empowering people at the grassroots to access benefits under various welfare schemes of the government. One of my professors at the Delhi School of Social Work told me and I quote “Success is measured by outsiders whereas satisfaction is measured by you, choose what you want to go after”. I chose the latter and I am determined to work hard for that satisfaction.
What regional languages do you create these booklets in? What welfare schemes do you cover?
We have so far developed booklets in Marathi and Marwari, and we are open to developing them in any local language, given that translation is possible. We have so far covered the central government and Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, and Maharashtra govt. welfare and entrepreneurship schemes. Following are the schemes:
Any future plans for expansion?
While working as a consultant with Madhya Pradesh State Rural Livelihood Mission, Chhatarpur, Madhya Pradesh, we realized that the District Administration headed by District Collector requires support from field experts to successfully manage the district to ensure development. For example, a district in Telangana has a large number of malnourished children and being an aspirational district, the district is regularly monitored by the NITI Aayog on health and education parameters. The district collector wants experts from the field of communication to design a Social and Behaviour Change Communication (SBCC) strategy to reduce the rate of malnourishment. This is where Bookletpedia is planning to expand and partner with district administration to go beyond developing the IEC materials and focusing on planning and executing an entire SBCC strategy.
What are your sources of revenue? How do you plan to expand that?
For developing the IEC materials, we enter into paid partnerships with organizations and government agencies, and we have a standard rate chart for various materials. Apart from this, we also generate revenue through the sale of a booklet named “Parivartan” which has detailed information on 35 welfare schemes of Madhya Pradesh and the Central Government. In a period of one year (since July 2021) we have clocked a revenue of Rs. 3,05,000. In order to expand it, we are looking to enter the field of SBCC and increase our partnership base.
What role do you see yourself playing in India’s making as a leading nation
Mahatma, Gandhi said, “ I would say if the village perishes, India will perish too. The revival of the village is possible only when it is no more exploited”. As an agency working to reduce the information gap at the grassroots, we see ourselves working on making information available and accessible so that there is :
Conventionally, the use of military and economic means to influence international actors is contemplated as hard power; however, at times of peace, the diplomatic activities of military are contemplated as soft power as they help in building dialogue between states, and these clear any confusion at the time of crisis. Military diplomacy has come at a critical juncture for Pakistan as the country’s foreign policy is going through ‘a geo-economic pivot’. Pakistan is seeing itself as a melting pot of global economic interests. However, this geo-economic orientation does not in itself imply that Pakistan is softening or retreating from its traditional security concerns. Thereby, military diplomacy is playing a crucial role in promoting national interest of Pakistan and providing for its national security.
Pakistan military has been working as a protagonist for Pakistan’s soft power through its diplomatic endeavors. For instance, Chief of Army Staff General Qamar Javed Bajwa official visit to Saudi Arabia recently made headlines as COAS was honored with a highest medal for making “significant contributions in defense cooperation” between Pakistan and Saudi Arabia. Moreover, visit to Qatar last month transformed Pakistan-Qatar ties into an enduring partnership. Adding to this, COAS’s visit to China initiated a new phase of military-to-military cooperation between both states. Although the pressure to fall into political blocs given the changing world order and the great power rivalry is there, yet military is maintaining Pakistan’s “non-bloc politics” stance by promoting a broad-based relationship with all the key international players that is anchored in trade, investment, and people-to-people linkages.
In the light of the ongoing economic and political turmoil faced by Pakistan, military can be seen huddling in the right direction that is steering Pakistan’ foreign policy towards geo-economic. The geo-economic shift emphasis on prosperity as a mean to greater strategic end! It implies no substitution of geo-strategy for geo-economics: instead, the latter folds into the former. Therefore, the recent visits of COAS to various states primarily focused on enhancing the bilateral ties. The doctrine of military diplomacy is “More Action; Fewer Words”. Despite all the geopolitical challenges, Pakistan’s military is enhancing economic and defense cooperation with China and Middle Eastern states. Military diplomacy is a significant mean for fostering stable future partnerships.
In a nutshell, the foreign policy architecture of Pakistan can be effectively comprehended in the context of Global and regional environment time to time, and to a considerable extent in the context of domestic environment. Therefore, military diplomacy for Pakistan could not come at a better time than now as the country is faced with a plentitude of geostrategic challenges. Maintaining a neutral stance at time of changing world order and alliances is a matter of moving to and from, not standing still. Pakistan military is making sure of that gracefully.
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