Interview by Cecilia Capanna for Pressenza.

The world is splitting increasingly into two halves. This is not the first time. There’s a lot of talk about the US and China waging a so called “New Cold War”. There’s a lot of talk about Afghanistan too. Well, there’s a country that might have a key role in these issues: Pakistan. Therefore, the Pakistan perspective on US and China and on current global events is a very important way to look at the whole world situation through a different lens, with an Eastern vision, as a Western one might be narrow and limited.

I asked Senator Mushahid Hussain Sayed, journalist and politician, ex Minister of Information, Culture and Tourism, what is Pakistan’s position towards the US and toward China, in addition to his point of view on other countries and his opinion on what’s going on in the world. But let’s make a couple of considerations first.

Pakistan’s role in the dialogue with the new government in Afghanistan

Pakistan helped out with international dialogue between the new government in Afghanistan and the rest of the world. So far no country has recognized the government of Afghanistan, which, for its own part, has promised to not apply the strict rules adopted by their previous government back in 1990. But their recent decision to dissolve the Independent Election Commission (IEC) and the Electoral Complaint Commission (IECC) plus the humanitarian catastrophe Afghanistan is going through, clearly show that another international round table would be urgently needed. Pakistan could be the moderator.

Pakistan already hosted an important summit with Russia, the US and China last November, in the format of the so called “Troika Plus“. Islamabad was set to host the interim Afghan Foreign Minister, as well as special envoys from the three other countries, as part of diplomatic efforts aimed at preparing the ground for the international community’s recognition of the new Afghan government.

The four countries have been collectively urging Afghanistan to meet the international community’s commitment on the formation of an inclusive government, protection of human and women’s rights and not allowing Afghan soil to be used again by terrorists. As a result of that, any effective future US role in Afghanistan would need to be anchored on Pakistan’s cooperation, and what Senator Mushahid Hussain Sayed said about Pakistan’s perspective in that regard is extremely interesting.

Pakistan declined the invitation to the US Summit for Democracy

On December 9-10 the US Department of State held the Summit for Democracy “to renew democracy at home and confront autocracies abroad”. 111 countries were invited, included Pakistan. Some countries, though, seemed to be unwelcome due to their alleged lack of democracy, like China, Russia, Libya, Iran, Syria, Yemen, Turkey, Sri Lanka and Hungary, while authoritarian countries like India and Brazil were on the list. This kind of arbitrary choice did not go unnoticed by the excluded leaders that felt themselves discriminated against and some geopolitical commentators considered it a way to divide the world even more.

As a result of that, just one month after the Troika Plus meeting in Islamabad seemed to be a milestone for US-Pakistan cooperation, Pakistan decided not to attend the Summit. I asked Senator Mushahid Hussain Sayed why.

Pakistan was invited to the US Summit for Democracy but did not attend. Why? 

Well, there is a certain context about that, there are some reservations about how we see the Pakistan-American relationship. First of all, since the Biden administration has taken over, there have not been high level political contacts between Pakistan and the US Government.

Secondly, we feel that Pakistan has been responding very positively to the United States on various issues like Afghanistan. The US asked us to push the Taliban for promoting peace in Afghanistan, they asked us to bring them to the conference table at their request, previously Trump and now Biden. We arranged that, we facilitated that. And then when the Taliban took over on the 15th of August 2021 in Kabul, we also helped in the evacuation of American citizens and Afghan citizens from Kabul.

The CIA Chief came twice to our country. Pakistan was the only country where the embassy was functioning. So we did a lot for the US, but not once did the US say thank you to us, not once did the US appreciate Pakistan’s role for peace, for security, for stability in the region. And for the US’s own interest.

And then, eventually, we feel that the so-called Democracy Summit is a weapon being used by the US Government in a “New Cold War” mind-set to put pressure on China, to put pressure on Russia. It’s not about democracy, it’s about containment, weaponizing democracy for an ideological world view, for geopolitical reasons. And we cannot be part of that, we don’t want to be part of that. So, we feel this was a futile exercise in democracy, and only to promote specific interests for a specific agenda with which we don’t agree.

Pakistan’s perspective on countries with a controversial democratic connotation

Some countries were not invited to the US Summit for Democracy, while India and Brazil were welcome. What’s your point of view and what’s Pakistan perspective on that?

This is a very good question. And that shows a double standard that the US applied for the invitations. India was invited so Mr Modi has been considered a democrat. But he is a neo-fascist, and his inspiration is European fascism from the 1930s, from Mussolini. People from his party wear black shirts and make the salute, with the only difference that at that time the mind-set was anti-Semitism, now it is islamophobia. Both are unacceptable. Both are racist.

As well, I think Bolsonaro is a right-wing leader and he has been invited by the US Department of State, while other countries like Turkey, Sri Lanka, China and Russia weren’t.

In my point of view, Erdogan is a democratically elected leader. He came to power through elections. He recently lost the elections for the mayor of Istanbul, the mayor of Ankara, the mayor of Izmir. Three of the biggest cities. And the next election is due in 2023. So, Turkey and its governments in the last 20 years have changed through the ballot box. Yes, his policies do not coincide with the policies of the West, the policies of the US. He’s buying weapons from Russia instead of buying them from the US, and he has taken a strong stand on Palestine against Israel. So I feel that this is a case of discrimination. Turkey is like Pakistan, like Indonesia, like Malaysia, a very vibrant Muslim democracy.

Let’s also say that Erdogan’s intervention in Libya solved quite a few problems. And you know, the Libyan issue was created by Macron and Blair, frankly speaking. Furthermore, Erdogan is recognising the UN Government in Libya. So, you see, this is discrimination on the basis of geopolitics.

 Sri Lanka, for example, is the first country in south Asia which has defeated the most terrorist faith group in Asia, the LTTE, The Liberation Tigers of Talim Eelam. They did it on their own, through 30 years of war. So, they should be supported. These countries are victims of war. Sri Lanka, like Pakistan, we are victims of extremism. So, we don’t agree with that, because in Sri Lanka as well the Government has come to power through the ballot box. So, what is the criteria? And you are willing to support a racist and a fascist government in India and you call it democratic, while you do not accept democracy in Turkey or Sri Lanka? That is inconsistent.

How about Russia and China?

Russia has a different story. China is led by the Communist Party, it’s one party, it came through popular revolution. I’ll give you one or two examples for China.

There is a survey by the Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation from Harvard University that gave a long-term view (2003-2016) of how Chinese citizens judge their government at the national, as well as the regional and local levels. The survey was completed and published in July 2020: over 85% of the people expressed satisfaction at how they are being ruled and about their real life in China.

And how about Taiwan or Hong Kong?

Just a moment, please. So, the survey shows that the Communist Party is popular. And why is it popular? Because it is delivering to the people a better life. I went to China as a student, as a teenager, I was about 16, over 45 years ago, and China was a poor country, a backward country, people were riding bicycles, they were all dressed the same. Today China has been transformed. When I visited China at that time I thought Pakistan was so rich in comparison to it. But meanwhile, China has been transformed. They’ve given a good life to the people. The system in China is delivered. So, the US should not try to impose its so-called democracy.

Pakistan’s perspective on the US

I lived in America for 4 years, in Washington DC. That America I knew no longer exists, it has changed. American people are good people, warm, welcoming, they have a sense of humour, they are hardworking. Now America is divided, it is a pulled race America, a split America. It’s almost like a civil war, ideologically and politically.

And regarding the US Congress, their own system is broken. For instance, 75 million Americans do not accept the 2020 election results saying they were stolen. In conclusion, Trump might come back in 2024. So, what lecture can Washington give to other countries, when their own system is not working?

And let’s talk about their strict consequences for human rights violations worldwide while they are persecuting Julian Assange. What has he done? He exposed the crimes, he told the truth. I’ve been a journalist, I exposed the wrong policies of any government, even my own government or foreign governments. That is a service to humanity, because it’s a service to truth. Ultimately, you’ll be judged by the truth. What in the name of national security are you doing?

 The Assange case is a very bad precedent, it’s undemocratic. If I give a story which shows my government is lying to the people, and what I say in the story is true, then I should be honoured, not persecuted.

If you were an Assange in Pakistan, would you be free after telling the truth or would you be persecuted?

I can’t say, because a lot of governments work similarly. When I was a newspaper editor for a centre-left-wing newspaper called “The Muslim“, there was the military regime in Pakistan, and we opposed them. I used to say “this is the officially certified truth”. But then any government hides behind the Secret of State.

So, it happens in all countries, I can’t say. But I did my best to tell the truth. I opposed the Afghan war, I was against it. I interviewed several people in Kabul, I found that policy wrong, the military regime and America. They destroyed Pakistan; unfortunately, I was proven right.

To the US I would say… there’s a famous saying in English: “Physician heal thyself”. Doctor, please heal yourself first before you tell others how to heal.

Racism is the main problem 

I see a world-wide alliance of what I call the three Rs: Right wing, Religion, Racism. In America there are the Evangelicals, they are very extremists, white supremacists. It is happening in Europe too and that’s because they feel like Western civilization is under attack and one of the reasons the US is against China is also racism. The competition is with non-white countries.

China has now emerged and they cannot handle that. So, racism is a very important part. Please, don’t forget in 1882 the US Congress passed The China Exclusion Act: it stated that any Chinese immigrant would be excluded by name. If that is not racism! Previously racism was against Italians, against Jews, against Polish people, different eras, different ages, that’s why they have ghettos, the Jewish one, the Italian one, the Polish one and now it is the same with Afro Americans, there’s no integration in the community. When the murderer of a black person becomes a hero and he wins a court case in America, that’s shocking.

How about the Chinese government versus the Uyghur people? Isn’t it racism too?

Yes, if that is true, there’s a lot of talking about it, but I think that is a lot of propaganda. Americans and the West after 9/11 spent 6.4 trillion dollars on the so-called War on Terror. 900.000 people were killed in Pakistan, in Afghanistan, in Iraq, in Syria, in Libya, in Somalia. 37 million were displaced.

As well Erdogan with Kurdish people, isn’t that racism?

Yes, Kurdish people are victims also, I agree. But Kurdish people don’t live in one country, they live in four countries. Their lands have been stolen, like the Palestinians. Kurdish people now live in Iraq, Iran, Syria, and Turkey.

Racism also can turn into chauvinism. When they say “our language, our country, our culture, our race, are superior to the others”. That’s what’s happening in the Balkans: they are Slavs, included the Bosnians, the Serbians.

Pakistan’s perspective on NATO and Europe

 I read the NATO 2030 report, and it says China is a threat. But is China part of NATO? Is China part of Europe? Why is NATO being used as an instrument super partes? Is NATO trying to reinvent themselves in this new cold war?

I think the EU should have its own distinct foreign policy. I wish there was a person like General de Gaulle with a “Gaullist European view”. Europeans should be independent. They should be part of the Belt and Road Initiative of China, joining its tradition of trading, economy, integration.

Because now Chinese own more money than Americans, and the balance of economic and political power is shifting from the West to the East. The US is in decline, Europe is in decline. What is happening? Britain has Brexit, Spain has Catalonia. And thanks to Pakistan immigrants Britain is still one country because most of the Pakistanis living in Scotland want a united UK and most of the Pakistanis living in Barcelona want a united Spain. People who care about unity are not European, they are immigrants.