Nov 3, 2009

Power of argument

Mir Jamilur Rahman

Once I asked a lawyer friend that how he rates American and British lawyers, whom he occasionally meets in relation to arbitration cases. He replied without hesitation that American lawyers are far ahead than us or the British. They come thoroughly prepared to the meeting and argue their case efficiently. Their powers of argument are highly developed and it is not easy to keep up with them.

US secretary of state Hillary Clinton was an outstanding lawyer, but she stopped practising because of her political commitments. When she visited Pakistan last week we failed to recall that she had been a high-ranking lawyer with mastery in argument and debate. She was twice listed as one of the 100 most influential lawyers in America. It was not easy to win an argument against her.

After her husband Bill Clinton completed his tenure as president, she won the Senate election from New York and remained Senator for three consecutives terms of two years each. She narrowly lost to Barack Obama in the race for Democrats nomination for president.

President Obama fully recognised the political potential of Hillary. She had given him a tough time in the primaries. She was a worthy opponent; why not make her a worthy ally?

Hillary spent three days in Pakistan. I do not recall that ever before a US official of the rank of secretary or above has stayed in Pakistan for three full days. She did not share these 72 hours with Afghanistan and/or India, which has been the usual practice in the past. She had exclusively come here to allay the fears of Pakistanis about the Kerry-Lugar Law. She spent every minute of her 72 hours arguing with media persons, politicians, students, civil society and lawmakers. She even squeezed into her busy schedule visits to historical monuments and holy shrines.

Obviously the US is genuinely keen to understand the reasons of resentment over the KLL. Obama wants to help Pakistan in uplifting the poor social and economic conditions of its teeming millions. He could not have chosen a better person than Hillary to assess the situation at first hand. She openly admits that the US was wrong when it abandoned Pakistan following the Soviet exit from Afghanistan. She says that US would not repeat the mistake.

Pakistani critics chose a wrong track when they attacked the KLL on the ground that it was loaded with humiliating conditions. Hillary faced the sharp criticism patiently and explained that the language used in the KLL was not different from similar laws made in respect of other countries. She told her various audiences that Pakistan could reject the $7.5 billion free of charge aid – spread over five years at $1.5 billion per year -- if it feels its honour threatened by accepting it. The critics, instead of refusing the aid, should have asked for bigger aid package because Pakistan is carrying bigger burden of American security than Israel or Egypt. Israel since its inception has received $1.2 trillion from America in direct aid.

According to Hillary America wants to help Pakistan to expand its energy base, sink tube wells, raise literacy rate, keep a vigilant watch over democracy, alleviate poverty and empower the Pakistani women. Our record in all these fields is very poor. But the question arises what our government would do if all these things are to be done by America? Already the government has unburdened itself from providing water, electricity and security to the citizens. If they want water, dig a well. If they want electricity, buy a generator. If they want security, hire a guard.

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