A chaotic exit and Pak’s soft power -The Nation

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The phrase ‘soft power’ was coined in the 1990’s by renowned American scholar Joseph Nye. He defined soft power as the ability to get what you want through attraction rather than coercion or payment. In contrast to soft power, hard power is characterised by the military and economic power of a state and is linked with coercion. Soft power, on the other hand, enumerates the attractiveness of a state owing to its culture, ideals and policies. Although hard power is still central to diplomatic goals by many nation states, after the Cold War, soft power is often the preferred approach to achieve strategic gains.

Pakistan has faced the issue of a positive image particularly post-9/11 events. The country is significantly contributing to global peace by participating in UN peacekeeping missions. Pakistan is amongst largest contributing countries and over 6000 personnel from the military and police of Pakistan are performing their duties in different UN peacekeeping missions. The country has enormously contributed for a greener climate by taking measures such as frequent plantation drives and developing green areas, including smart forests. Pakistan has the world’s most beautiful locations for tourism. The country facilitates expeditions by foreign mountaineers and extends prompt rescue support when required. However it is an irony that the country has been blamed for acts such as terror financing etc. through forums like the Financial Action Task Force (FATF).

The exit of the US from Afghanistan after twenty years of conflict with the Taliban was characterised with chaos and uncertainty. The Taliban takeover of Kabul on August 15, 2021 surprised many at the helm of affairs. The meltdown of Afghan forces, which were trained and equipped by the US and allies for the last twenty years, was not calculated by many analysts. The Taliban’s swift entry into the capital endangered security in Kabul and resulted in chaos. Most foreign missions were worried for the safety of their personnel and families. The Pakistan government prudently activated the Pakistan embassy in Kabul. The national flag carrier PIA started special flights to evacuate the staff of different embassies and missions including the World Bank and the World Health Organisation (WHO). These flights were operated in difficult conditions where normal Air Traffic Control (ATC) and other allied facilities were not available at the Hamid Karzai International Airport of Kabul. Leading from the front, the CEO of PIA, Air Marshal Arshad Malik himself accompanied these flights and commanded the operation to ensure safe evacuation. The PIA also flew sorties via Dubai to provide relief goods arranged by the WHO to the Afghan people in other provinces of Afghanistan. The Pakistan government also facilitated the exit of the US force by facilitating transit stay in Islamabad.

The laudable effort by Pakistan to reduce the chaos and ensuring safe evacuation of personnel of different embassies and missions is a remarkable display of soft power. Pakistan attracted the attention of the world and once again highlighted that the country is a peace-loving nation and contributes towards promoting global peace. Pakistan has shown to the international community that it is not the harbinger of terrorism but a facilitator of peace and a supporter of humanity. This gesture of the country has been acknowledged by world leaders. The foreign ministers of Germany, the Netherlands and the UK appreciated Pakistan for contributing to peace during a chaotic exit. It is unfortunate that India, who was the president of the UN Security Council during August, 2021 when the world was witnessing rebooting of the world order, repeatedly denied the Pakistani ambassador to speak on the Afghanistan issue. It is a fact that Pakistan has played a pivotal role to bring the Taliban on the negotiating table. Therefore, it is imperative that Pakistan should be given recognition and a setup which is acceptable to all stakeholders including Pakistan should be put into place.

The kindling of peace in Afghanistan has lit up once again. The great game played by superpowers in Afghanistan has impacted Pakistan severely. Pakistan has borne the brunt and sacrificed over 70,000 lives beside an enormous loss to the economy. Pakistan is still hosting millions of Afghan refugees. It is time that the world recognises Pakistan’s efforts for global peace. Persecution of the country through international bodies such as FATF should be stopped. Pakistan should be removed from the red list of the UK, which is hindering smooth traveling of overseas Pakistanis living in the UK. Moreover, it is time that the unresolved issue of Kashmir should be mediated and should be resolved for enduring peace in South Asia.