Coming to a head
If the happenings linked to the Pak-US ties over the last week or so are any hint one may presume that the bilateral relationship is coming to a head and may bring on a deadlock between the two governments. The relationship seems to be in a freefall with not much in evidence to hope for an immediate halt and rescue. Not only have tit-for-tat statements have emanated from Islamabad and Washington, the events on the ground perfectly match the growing perceptional mismatch negatively impacting their anti-terrorism alliance. The divergence in their co-operative relationship appears to be supplanting the multifaceted convergence they had over the decade in their united fight against regional and international terrorism. Consider the gravity of the incidents that took place over the last few days. The frequency of the drone strikes has increased considerably, causing much more than usual casualties, and two American diplomats were caught red-handed smuggling a catch of sophisticated weapons from Peshawar. On Monday also, the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) militants launched a furious attack on the Salala checkpost - the one that was struck by the US planes last November, causing a rift between the commands of their militaries. If all this was not enough to suggest a precipitous decline in the Pak-US co-operative relationship as the war in Afghanistan draws to an end the statement made by the two governments on the drone strikes brings out the sharpness of that growing divergence. First the protest handed over to US charge d'affaires Richard Hoagland by our Foreign Office. Conveying the Pakistan government's "serious concern" over the stepped up drone activity it said the drone attacks are "unlawful, against international law and a violation of Pakistan's sovereignty". The FO also told the diplomat - clearly suggesting the protest was not merely a diplomatic formality - that the action was in line with 'parliament's call'. The Pentagon spokesperson, avoiding a direct response to our Foreign Office's statement asserted, "it was the drone attack, on Monday, that took care of al Qaeda's No 2 Abu Yahya al-Libbi. Senior leaders of al Qaeda, no matter where they are ... we are going to deal with those threats," said a spokesman for the Pentagon. We may not be able to stop the drone strikes at least for now, but we can and should come up for a clear stand on the evolving Afghan imbroglio and in that context on relationship with the United States. Apparently, as people and as government we are torn between a professorial concept of sovereignty, buttressed as it is by emotion-driven mindset and hard realities of international politics. For instance, drone strikes were with full knowledge and complete connivance of Musharraf government and were being tolerated till about the end of last year. And it is also a fact that its continuity has been endorsed by some our top military commanders in the target area. Now if al-Libbi has been killed in a drone strike, does it hurt us? As a people and as parliamentarians we have to think and act realistically. At the same time we expect the United States leadership, both political and military, to rethink their regional ambitions and plans in light of emerging ground realities. The US and its allies have lost the Afghan war and they need to accept this fact. Obviously, they want to get out of Afghanistan in one piece. But to think and plan the aftermath of their military defeat as their political victory that is indeed profoundly naïve. There is no doubt they are going to leave behind an Afghanistan. Bereft of a central power strong enough to impose its writ all over the country, Afghanistan yet another spell of civil war. The only way out of this is to involve the regional, neighbouring countries of which participation of Pakistan is most crucial. The US failed to kick-start the Qatar process because it had not taken along Pakistan. More openly said, the fact is that while the ultimate power to restore peace and normality in Afghanistan lies with Afghans it's their neighbours who can be of help and these neighbours include Pakistan. That calls for the political leaderships of Pakistan and the US to recast their co-operative relationship keeping in view the dictates of their national interests.
Copyright Business Recorder, 2012