Najam Sethi at SAIS
I attended a talk by prominent Pakistani journalist Najam Sethi at the Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS) of Johns Hopkins University about the US-Pakistan relations and the country’s domestic politics.
Respected American experts on South Asian affairs, such as Dr. Stephen P. Cohen and Walter Andersen were also present at the event. Dr. Cohen showed me a copy of his latest book, The Future of Pakistan which I have already purchased on my Kindle and started reading.
Here is the summary of what Mr. Sethi, the editor of the Friday Times, had to say:
- The military in Pakistan has made a remarkable political comeback under the leadership of General Kayani. In all the recent developments, starting from the raid that killed Osama bin Laden to the Raymond Davis case, decision by the military overshadowed the ones, if ever made, by the civilian government.
- Irrespective of what is right or wrong, the Pakistani military’s policy toward Afghanistan has prevailed over the American decision. While Washington was unwilling to give any role to Pakistan in the Afghan endgame, it has now gone to the extent of offering a ‘central role’ to Islamabad.
- The I.S.I, Pakistan’s top military secret service, is patronizing Imran Khan as the future leader because former prime minister Nawaz Sharif is no longer willing to work with the military. With the help of the ISI, Imran Khan has dramatically emerged as such an agent of justice that even Taliban have hinted at talking ‘only’ with Imran Khan. In return, Imran Khan thinks Taliban are not bad guys, nor are they Pakistan’s number one problem.
- If a journalist in Pakistan speaks against religious groups, mainly those engaged in sectarian killings, they are most likely to face death threats. After the killing of Saleem Shahzad, journalists in Pakistan are terribly terrified to cover ‘sensitive topics’.
Although Mr. Sethi responded to most of the questions satisfactorily, I was surprised by the response to a question when he was asked about the state of education in Pakistan. A participant asked how Pakistan had lagged behind Bangladesh in the area of education. Mr. Sethi, in response, said, Pakistan had no money to educate its children.
He said the United States had not provided ‘enough money’ to develop schools and colleges in Pakistan. I never understand why the US should even pay for the education of Pakistani children? Why can’t Islamabad cut its defense budget and spend more money on social development?