Khushk TV News’ star presenter Yaqut Vattay, who hosts the current affairs Cat’s Eye on Pakistan program, has invited defense ministers who have served during the last decade to discuss Pakistan’s defense outlook with a new government in power; and one which is the first time in such situation.
Present are Chaudhry Ahmad Mukhtar who was minister from 2008 to 2012 in the Peoples Party Yousaf Raza Gillani-led cabinet, and his party colleague Naveed Qamar, who served under Raja Pervaiz Ashraf during 2012-13. Also present are PML-N former defense ministers Khawaja Muhammad Asif (2013-17 under Nawaz Sharif) and Khurram Dastgir Khan (2017-18 under Shahid Khaqan Abbasi).
Before Yaqut Vattay could offer his formal invitation to speak, Khawaja Asif jumped in, “Imran Khan, only one day before this Defense Day had met with the American Secretary of State Michael Pompeo and their chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Joseph Dunford, along with foreign minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi, our Chief of Army Staff General Qamar Javed Bajwa and our Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) chief Lt. Gen. Naveed Mukhtar.
“Imagine, the next day, Imran, addresses a ceremony to mark the 53rd Defense Day at the military headquarters in Rawalpindi, and declares, ‘I promise that Pakistan will never engage in proxy wars’.
“Yaqut … imagine Yaqut, a slap on the face of the Americans!
“And why he had the army and intelligence chiefs with him? He is setting a wrong precedent because a political leader cannot discuss a few things when generals are there. When our governments were there, the foreign visitors were always met alone. For real talk they met with the generals.”
Yaqut Vattay quickly interjected, “Why you are objecting to this? In fact this negates the accusations being leveled by both of the parties and the Pakistani liberals that Imran, being brought by in the army, will dance to their tune. Hasn’t he proved that the military is under the command of its commander-in-chief, the prime minister?
“Not only that, the prime minister set a precedent, at least in recent times, to speak at the ceremony, where the army chief has always been the main speaker.”
Of course, ignoring his observations, Naveed Qamar offered, “Thank God that Shah Mahmood decided against raising the American decision to scrap the $300m in Afghan-war related payments to Pakistan. You can’t question the Americans.”
Khurram Dastgir impatiently added, “I don’t know how this government will go about resetting bilateral ties on basis of mutual trust and respect.
“Yaqut, did you note that Imran had no notes … how did he know what to say? Mian Nawaz Sharif was always careful to read from notes.”
Ahmad Mukhtar excitedly spurted, “How will this government have any relations with the United States when it announces that safeguarding Pakistan’s national interests will remain supreme priority?
“Now what is this ‘national interest’ that Imran wants to safeguard? Isn’t national interest means that those, like us, who have dedicated their lives to public service, are properly compensated? ”
Naveed Qamar smirking at his best added, “Imran knew the date of Pompeo’s arrival, but on August 30th, he invites Iran’s foreign minister Javad Zarif to meet with him and Shah Mahmood. And Pompeo leaves; he receives Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi.
“Wow … what … the prime minister is not going to the UN General Assembly because he says he has things to do at home.”
Khurram Dastagir not to miss his chance, “What a shame that our Pakistan delegation will be four people … our Nawaz Sharif used to take a planeload… and your President Asif Zardari had such a large heart for friends and family.”
Khawaja Asif quickly adds, “What an affront to our Saudi friends when for in a very long time a Pakistani leader reaches out to Iran ahead of them. Our Nawaz Sharif could not even think of such a thing… from Benazir Bhutto to Asif Zardari and children, to Nawaz Sharif, everyone have close personal ties to Saudi Arabia and the UAE. But now comes Imran Khan.”
Naveed Qamar, “I tell you Yaqut Vattay, this Imran Khan is creating hurdles for those who will come after him … Bilawal … Hamza … Americans keep their eyes on us. In his Defense Day speech, he has said that Pakistan would no longer engage in someone else’s war and he never wanted the country to partake in the United States’ ‘War on Terror.’ After this, will the Americans sell us arms … will Americans give us aid and grants?
“All of you know that buying American arms is more lucrative … F-16s are at $105 million a piece; while the Chinese JF-17s are $30 million each maximum … so what percentage can one ask when buying Chinese cheap. This is clear that Imran Khan has impaled our strategic interest by sending the wrong message to America!”
The hour is over, and Yaqut Vattay sums up saying, “Despite all that, all of our former defense ministers insist that Prime Minister Imran Khan has impaled our strategic interest. By the way, ‘our’ here means ‘their.’ May God bless Pakistan.”