To recognise or not to recognise…

The Libyan Embassy in Pakistan raised the rebel flag of the National Transitional Council (NTC) last month after the fall of Muammar Gaddafi’s government. In August, Pakistan’s Foreign Office (FO) was noncommittal in this regard. Foreign Ministry spokesperson Tehmina Janjua said, “We are monitoring the situation in Libya very closely…We believe that at this point in time, the situation is in a flux. So we continue to monitor it and in doing so we are guided by respect for the principles of sovereignty, political independence and territorial integrity of all states.” Almost a month after the rebel flag was raised by the Libyan Embassy, Pakistan has not recognised the NTC government. This has apparently irked the new Libyan government, which has now threatened not to revalidate Pakistani diplomats’ visas if we do not recognise the rebel-led government. Pakistan is not the only country not to have recognised the NTC government so far. Many other countries are keeping an eye on the situation on the ground. According to reports, Gaddafi’s loyalists have claimed they captured 17 foreigners, including British and French personnel, in Bani Walid. Gaddafi’s loyalists are also holding on to his hometown, Sirte, where the NTC’s troops are getting ready to launch another attack.

Recognition of governments is a tricky matter. It depends on how much territory the ‘new’ regime controls and whether they are in control of the country as a whole or not. There is fierce fighting going on in Libya right now. The people in the south are much more sympathetic to Gaddafi and are giving the NTC forces a hard time. So far it seems Gaddafi’s strategy is to hold on to his hometown and other enclaves on the northern coast plus southern Libya where the new government has not been able to quash Gaddafi’s supporters. Thus it is difficult to legitimise the rebel government in the face of the situation on the ground. The question of legitimacy also raises its head because of the way Gaddafi was ousted with NATO’s help from Tripoli and areas in the north. Pakistan’s decision to ‘wait and watch’ is not without reason. Gaddafi has long been an ally of Pakistan. If we recognise the rebel government in Libya right now, it would give the wrong signal to the world at large. If Gaddafi’s old allies start to distance themselves from him, only then would it be a real victory for the new Libyan government. It would also legitimise an imperialist intervention.

The so-called international community is dominated by the world’s sole superpower, the US. Though the US did not participate fully in NATO’s intervention in Libya, it gave a stamp of approval to its European allies to oust Gaddafi. Most of the world turned a blind eye to an intervention that was uncalled for. It showed how the west has double standards when it comes to its ‘friends’ and ‘foes’. In the past decade, the US has directly invaded Afghanistan and Iraq. While there is by now considerable disquiet over both wars, the US got away with the Afghan invasion because of the high moral ground attached to it post-9/11. On the other hand, the invasion of Iraq was not just morally wrong but later proved to be based on lies. Despite this, nobody held former US President George W Bush and former British Prime Minister Tony Blair accountable for starting an unjust war leading to hundreds and thousands of innocent deaths. Giving legitimacy to the NTC government in Libya is a complicated matter given the backing of imperialist powers. Pakistan should be lauded for not giving in to western pressure.

(my editorial in Daily Times)

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