On 14 December 2021, in a statement before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, United States (US) ambassador-designate to Pakistan, Donald Blome said that the relationship of the US with Pakistan remained extraordinarily consequential for the US’ core interests. Further, “Pakistan is pursuing expanded economic linkages with the United States as part of what it calls ‘geo-economics’.”

After an interlude of a few years, the term geo-economics resurfaced on 18 March 2021 when, in his speech at the Islamabad Security Dialogue, Pakistan’s Chief of Army Staff General Qamar Javed Bajwa said that Pakistan’s tremendous geo-economic potential was still untapped. Indeed, the year 2021 has compelled Pakistan to prioritize the economy. For a country like Pakistan, which had been at the front of the Soviet-Afghan war (1979-1989) and which has been the front-line state in the war on terror (2001 to date), the shift from the entrenched geopolitical significance to the projected geo-economic forecasts has been onerous. Deriving strength from the geostrategic position, the orientation of Pakistan’s executive and military machinery is geo-politics. The economy is still a subject locating its roots in Pakistan. Blome’s utterance to predicate on any chosen geo-economic craving of Pakistan is no more than propitiating Pakistan. Nevertheless, Pakistan’s pronouncements to shift its strategy (from geo-politics to geo-economics) are the declarations of the end of Pakistan’s engagement in the war on terror.

Blome elucidated his ambassadorial assignment by saying, “Mission Pakistan also plays an important role in encouraging an inclusive Afghan government that respects and promotes the human rights of all individuals, including women and girls and members of minority groups, and ensuring that Afghanistan never again becomes a safe haven for international terrorism.” One wonders what this statement has to do with Pakistan. Interestingly, Blome is an ambassador-designate to Pakistan but he selects to speak as if he were heading for representing his country in Afghanistan. Nevertheless, the statement reveals Blome’s veiled belief: the key to Afghanistan’s peace lies in Pakistan. This is a moot point.

Blome pledged to continue with counterterrorism efforts. On the occasion, he said, “On the critical issue of counterterrorism, if confirmed (as ambassador), I will press Pakistan to target all terrorist groups without distinction. The United States and Pakistan are committed to combatting al-Qaeda, ISIS-Khorasan, and Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan. If confirmed, I also will engage Pakistan on fighting all other groups – including Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jaish-e-Mohammed.” Quintessentially, the statement reflects the Kerry-Lugar-Berman Act of 2009, which asked Pakistan to exterminate terrorist retreats from its land – along both eastern and western borders – in return for non-military aid amounting to $1.5 billion per year for five years (from 2010 to 2014). Pakistan received the money but remained loath to execute any crackdown. Blome is coming with a mandate to get the job done this time gratuitously.

Under the excuse of sacrilege, the spree to subdue (religious) minorities have blemished Pakistan’s image internationally, besides dehumanizing the conscientious Pakistanis. The world connotes such horrendous acts as violations of human rights. Blome said, “If confirmed as ambassador, I will never shy away from defending human rights in Pakistan, particularly freedom of religion and expression. Religious minorities in Pakistan have long faced societal and legal discrimination, as well as accusations of blasphemy. These accusations have undermined the rule of law, threatened mob rule and deeply damaged Pakistan’s international reputation, and led to murderous violence and many deaths. If confirmed, I will speak out against these abuses and violations of human rights and religious freedom.” Certainly, no religious mawkishness permits a zealot to take the life of anyone in the name of preserving religious sacrosanctity. It is high time Pakistan did introspection. The practice of using the religion card to muster the support of young impressionable minds to win politics has poisoned the country’s streets. The same is equally true for the practice of playing the ethnic (provincial) card to woo the youth. Likewise, the practice of accusing somebody – as punishment – without offering corroborative evidence has putrefied the whole society. Reiterations have perfected these three practices. Though ochlocracy is an expression of decadence, the disaster multiplies manifold when the State condones, patronizes, or partakes in such egregious practices.

In Pakistan, the freedom of expression is a raw nerve not many people like to touch. Templates for repression are many. Dissent is abominable. Perhaps, Blome decided to tread a trying path when he said, “I will urge the Pakistani government to cease harassment of journalists and members of civil society, who have faced kidnappings, assaults, intimidation, and disappearances, and hold perpetrators of these actions accountable.” It is easier said than done. Blome will have to plod through it. At least, the world is getting aware of the plight of press freedom in Pakistan.

Many a time, the Pakistanis forget that their ancestors founded the country through a democratic process of raising a voice for their rights and launching a movement. Pakistan was not a donation. Pakistan was the product of an electoral course that sprang successfully from the 1945-46 elections in the Indian subcontinent. Expressed in association and assembly, democracy made the origin of Pakistan possible. Most Pakistanis now discount the certainty of democracy, but Blome said, “I will advocate for expanded protections for freedom of association and assembly and will meet with civil society partners regularly.” In the statement, meeting civil society partners and that regularly open a new vista for the promotion of democracy, which has been reeling under the encumbrance of planned populism.

Through “Mission Pakistan,” Donald Blome committed himself to a grueling undertaking. He might be confident of his diplomatic experience gathered after serving in some countries in the Middle East and also in Afghanistan, but Pakistan is a different country. Generally speaking, the statements convey that Blome set the bar of performance and delivery high to outclass his competitors to capture the top diplomatic task. He does not know that the mission will be a tough and constrictive assignment.