Pakistan has boldly defied US pressure against pursuing its gas pipeline deal with Iran thereby forestalling the desperate Western efforts to make it the latest battleground in the war to squeeze Iran. Pakistani premier has declared that his country would not compromise on its national interest. In a separate development, Pakistan’s top court has admonished country’s security apparatus for internment of terror suspects who were let off the hook by lower courts. The top court has declared that it is a better custodian of national interest. A similar assertion was made by President Obama in his installation address when he declared that core values of the Founding Fathers would not be compromised for security and that he would close down the infamous Gitmo prison.

The debate of who is the custodian of national interest is on-going and the political class is asserting its role in deciding national interest heretofore being jealously guarded by the Establishment.

What is national interest and is it compatible with political interest of the ruling elite and the rule of law? According to Wikipedia, the national interest, often referred to by the French expression raison d’État (English: reason of the State), is a country‘s goals and ambitions whether economic, military, or cultural. The concept is an important one in international relations where pursuit of the national interest is the foundation of the realist school. The national interest of a state is multi-faceted. Primary is the state’s survival and security. Also important is the pursuit of wealth and economic growth and power. Today, the concept of “the national interest” is often associated with political Realists who wish to differentiate their policies from “idealistic” policies that seek either to inject morality into foreign policy or promote solutions that rely on multilateral institutions which might weaken the independence of the state.

While political scientists believe that national interest is not compatible with political interest in the world of power politics where politicians do not see beyond the next elections and can sell their souls to devil in order to remain in power, the majority of the jurists consider that the “national interest” is incompatible with the “rule of law”.

Pakistan’s security agencies are working overtime to protect the national interest and fight the terrorists and separatists who, even if caught red-handed, are let off the hook by the courts for lack of evidence. According to Foreign Policy, Pakistani courts have repeatedly failed to convict terrorism suspects, even when the cases against them seemed clear-cut. In a recent case, they acquitted four Pakistani Taliban activists accused of an attack on the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) headquarters in Lahore. This kind of verdict not only undermines the entire struggle against terrorism in Pakistan, but also encourages extrajudicial executions by the police and Army. In this case, all four men were promptly detained by the ISI under special anti-terrorism laws. These verdicts reflect in part both fear of the terrorists and the extreme incompetence of Pakistani prosecutors and police to draw up charges that will stick in court. Read more at: