Someone needs to send the Pakistani government a copy of the picture book, If You Give a Mouse a Cookie. In it, a pestering mouse asks a boy for a cookie, and after he obliges, the rodent escalates his demands until he is moved into the exhausted boy’s house.
Similarly, Pakistan is surrounded by a nest of mice, actually wolves in sheep’s clothing, pressuring the nuclear-armed country through a carrots-and-sticks policy to oblige and fulfill their demands to join the anti-Iran coalition. These countries include America, Israel, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates, all bent on waging war on Iran and aware they can’t do it without cooperation from Pakistan.
Prime Minister Imran Khan’s government has so far resisted pressure to join the war plan but the future looks precarious, unfortunately, as the government shows signs of capitulating under stress and altering policies to oblige outsiders.
Last month, for example, under global pressure to rein in terrorists, the government seized hundreds of institutions run by banned outfits and apprehended their leaders. That is the right thing to do, of course, but should have been done earlier, on principle and not under duress. Buckling under pressure sends signals to others that if enough force is applied, Pakistan will come around and do as told.
High on the American-Israeli-Saudi axis “to-do” list for Pakistan right now is normalizing relations with Israel, something most Arabian countries have done de facto but are waiting for 200-million-strong Pakistan to do first so they can declare it officially. Pakistan’s founder Muhammad Ali Jinnah refused to recognize Israel in 1947, and that has remained the country’s policy ever since.
While getting Pakistan to change course on Israel is a tall order, especially with Pakistani officials accusing Israelis of involvement in India’s foiled attacks on Pakistan on February 26, the pressure is on nonetheless, and has intensified since Khan took office last year. Khan insists normalization with Israel is not on the table but some in his government have already succumbed to the normalization narrative.
In February, Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi told an Israeli news portal that “Pakistan is interested in advancing its relations with Israel,” according to media reports. Last November, parliamentarian Asma Hadid tried to coax colleagues to support Israel during a meeting of the National Assembly. The media also claims that the Pakistani government allowed a plane carrying a senior Israeli official to fly into Islamabad from Tel Aviv last fall. And although the Pakistani passport says it is “valid for all countries of the world except Israel,” a Pakistani Jew was allowed to fly to Israel for the first time in January.
Others pushing Pakistan to establish diplomatic ties with Israel include:
• military men – Pakistan’s former president, retired General Pervez Musharraf, told reporters in Dubai, again in February that “there is no harm to establish a relationship with Israel” as it will help “counter India,” buttressing the arguments of those who say India’s attacks were the “sticks” to get Pakistan to normalize relations with Israel.
• the media – Pakistan’s English-language newspaper, The News International, editorialized in early March that Pakistan should explore ties with Israel as the two “are not enemies.”
• the lobbies – the Pakistan Israel Alliance (PIA) of London “seeks to build bridges and better understanding between Israelis and Pakistanis,” according to its Facebook page. PIA — an unfortunate abbreviation that Pakistanis are quite familiar with because it also stands for the country’s airline, although its reputation and service have declined in recent years — offers ways of “maintaining relations” off-the-record, including the pre-revolution Iranian model (recognize Israel secretly like the Shah of Iran), Jordanian model (close political and military ties without official recognition), or Chinese model (establish military contacts before political relations), according to a February 2018 post on its Facebook page.
• literature – PIA’s publishing arm, Pak Israel News releases books in Urdu celebrating Zionism, such as Zionism, Israel, and Palestinians and The State of Israel: In War and Peace and Islamic Terrorism.
Even if Pakistan does sell its soul and recognizes Israel, demands on the country — like those on the boy in If You Give a Mouse a Cookie — will not stop until Pakistan too is weakened to the point of collapse. These demands include helping the American-Israeli-Saudi axis wage war on Iran and the nuclear disarmament of Pakistan. Scholar Syed Jawad Naqvi predicts Pakistan will eventually be pressured to shut its nuclear program and sell its technology to Saudi Arabia.
Pakistan can learn from the disastrous effects of capitulating to outside pressures on Tehran. The Islamic Republic of Iran’s economy suffered greatly after agreeing to curb its nuclear program under a 2015 deal with the US and five other countries. Not only did the US start demanding that Iran stop its missile program (that is purely for defensive purposes) but Washington backed out of the agreement altogether and imposed stringent new sanctions on the country.
The Rahbar (leader of the Islamic Revolution), Imam Seyyed Ali Khamanei, had warned politicians that acquiescence to demands would lead to attempts to “bring the country’s decision-making… centers under their control.”
“The point is Iran doesn’t follow arrogant powers,” Imam Khamanei said in 2016. “In this war, willpowers are fighting. The stronger willpower will win.”
Pakistan, too, must strengthen its resolve and resist outside pressures. That is the only way to frustrate the best-laid schemes of mice and men.