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  • Writer's pictureSaleem Qamar Butt

Pitfall of being a cat’s paw (Part-I)

Updated: Jul 13, 2021

In English cat’s-paw originally meant “a person used to serve the purposes of another; tool.” The term comes from a Le Singe et le Chat, “The Monkey and the Cat,” a fable by Jean de La Fontaine (1621-1695), the French poet and collector of fairy tales, in which a monkey persuades a cat to pull chestnuts out of hot coals that the chestnuts are roasting in, and promises to share the chestnuts with the cat. The cat scoops the chestnuts one by one out of the coals, burning his paw in the process, while the monkey eats up the chestnuts. A maid enters the room, stopping all the action, and the cat gets nothing for its pains. This parable sadly but so aptly describes the tale of Pakistan’s foreign as well as other national policies right since inception. However, a maid is yet to enter to stop Pakistan from burning its paw.

The decision to join American camp since 1948 during cold war, instead of following an independent and non-aligned policy and consequent addiction to stand on crutches resulted not only in gradual sinking in foreign debts, but also more and more dependence on America and allies for military and technological support rather than working for self reliance in the last over seven decades. The crises of leadership that struck Pakistan after untimely passing away of father of the nation Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah, allowed power and money guzzlers jumping in to political arena, which saw seven prime ministers changed in first eleven years that paved the way for a cycle of repeated martial laws/ military takeovers after removal of corruption ridden political governments. Leaving aside the debate whether Pakistan’s internal chaos was all of its own making or it was manipulated by big powers or a mix of both, the net result was always suitable for foreign powers to deal with a singular military ruler for using Pakistan as a Cat’s paw for attainment of their strategic interests in the region, always leaving Pakistan with the burnt paw. At present, once again Pakistan is playing the most vital role in bringing peace to war torn Afghanistan without being much conscious of the cost benefit analysis, the perils involved including potential repeat of 90s like situation

The membership of CENTO, SEATO and Common Wealth proved to be continuation of colonial hold in changed form, serving USA and UK’s interests particularly the geo-strategic interest versus former Soviet Block and till recent past against emerging China and resurgent Russia. Acting as a silent bridge between USA and China in 70s, winning war against Soviet in more than ten years on behalf of USA and KSA only to be depicted cheaply in Charlie Wilson’s War, fighting yet another 18 years long war (2002-2019) as a front line state for USA and allies without learning any lessons from the past experience (of 1979-1990) and without recovering from its devastating socio-economic and psychological effects. Obviously the price paid in blood and treasure (80,000 human casualties ad approximately US $ 150 billion economic losses) far exceeds the peanuts paid and sarcastically often mentioned by the givers with least regard for what was done and achieved by Pakistan. At present, once again Pakistan is playing the most vital role in bringing peace to war torn Afghanistan without being much conscious of the cost benefit analysis, the perils involved including potential repeat of 90s like situation. Pakistani military deployments that are stationed outside Pakistan and serving in other countries is also a case in point here. The sixth largest military power in terms of active troops, Pakistan has an extensive history of overseas military presence, especially in the Middle East, where it has maintained military contingents, missions and battalions in several states. As part of its foreign policy efforts to expand its military relations and influence in the region, Pakistan signed defence protocols during the 1970s with several Arab countries including Saudi Arabia, Libya, Jordan, Iraq, Oman, the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait and later Qatar and Bahrain, under which members of the armed forces of these countries were imparted professional training by Pakistani advisers and military trainers. Saudi Arabia signed a bilateral agreement with Pakistan on defense cooperation; during that time, there were 40,000 to 50,000 Pakistani military personnel serving abroad with the largest number of these, about 20,000, deployed in Saudi Arabia.

AUGUST 26, 2019

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