BtH: Sen. Javed Jabbar on the Future of Pakistan

The Beyond the Headlines @BUPardeeSchool, or BtH, series at the Frederick S. Pardee School of Global Studies at Boston University continued on October 24, 2018 with a discussion featuring former Senator Javed Jabbar of Pakistan, who also previously served as the country’s Minister for Information and Media Development and Advisor on National Affairs. 

The discussion, entitled “Where is Pakistan Headed?” covered a range of topics including the performance of recently-elected Prime Minister Imran Khan, the impact of the emergence of media and technology on the country, and the current state of relations between Pakistan and both India and Afghanistan. The conversation was moderated by Pardee School Dean Adil Najam.

Sen. Jabbar said he is optimistic about the future of India-Pakistan relations despite errors in strategic policy made by both countries over the years.

“There is hope to improve relations. We should work harder, and there has been a lot of hard work invested,” Sen. Jabbar said. “The India-Pakistan relationship is a fundamental dimension of Pakistan’s future as it is also of India’s external relations. India wants to present itself as a great potential global power, but unless it can live in peace with its own neighbor how can it claim to lead Asia in any way? For both countries, this bilateral relationship is extremely important and deserves continuous work through both official diplomacy and public diplomacy.”

Speaking about the performance and potential for Pakistan’s recently-elected Prime Minister Imran Khan, Sen. Jabbar said he is heartened by the fact that Khan’s political platform was built from the ground up and not inherited in any way.

“Compared to the two other major parties that have shared power consecutively over the past 30-plus years, this is a man and a party who has earned the right to leadership without being the brother or the son of someone who has been assassinated or has also occupied high office,” Sen. Jabbar said. “To the credit of Imran Khan and his colleagues, they have actually built a new, significant political party from the ground up without any inheritance of money, or titles, or ethnicity. It’s a remarkable achievement, and I really appreciate Imran Khan’s commitment to offering an alternative.”

Sen. Jabbar said while he is optimistic about Khan’s potential, he feels that the newly-elected Prime Minister has made many broad promises that will ultimately be difficult to deliver on.

“Imran Khan has proven that there is space and scope in Pakistan for merit, credibility and ethicality,” Sen. Jabbar said. “However, I tend to think he sometimes tends to make excessive commitments and often say things that are not appropriate and which hold up too much of a promise that is very tough to fulfill. For example, he keeps saying ‘I will eliminate corruption.’ There is no way you can eliminate corruption — you can’t change human nature.”

Beyond the Headlines is a regular series at the Frederick S. Pardee School of Global Studies which seeks to cultivate informed conversations among experts and practitioners on issues that are currently in the news headlines, but to do so with a focus on intellectual analysis and on longer-range trends. Recent Beyond the Headlines discussions have focused on topics including the Rohingya crisis in Myanmarpolitics of development research and transnationalism and health in Asia.