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EDITORIAL: It's very unfair of the 22 Republican lawmakers, who moved a bill in the US Senate to seek "imposition of sanctions with respect to the Taliban and persons assisting the Taliban in Afghanistan, and for other purposes", to mention Pakistan by name in their draft. The Republicans are dumping all the blame on the Democratic leadership even though their party was in power when the drawdown was green-lighted and, let's not forget, their party was in power when the long and ugly war was initiated under the then Republican President George W. Bush 20 years ago. But to try and drag Pakistan into the middle of all this, and accuse it of helping the Taliban throughout the war on terror, goes too far and quite clearly betrays frustration on the part of the US at losing the war.

Pakistan's Human Rights Minister Shireen Mazari hit the nail on the head when she said that Pakistan was "being scapegoated for this failure". She also raised a number of very serious questions that anybody in the US government at the moment would be hard pressed to answer: "Where did $2 trillion disappear? Why did the heavily invested-in ANA (Afghan National Army) simply dissolve? Who asked Pakistan to free TTA (Tehreek-e-Taliban Afghanistan) prisoners?" The bill not only aims to review Pakistan's position during the 20 years of war, it also wants to see if it had any role in the fall of the Panjsher valley, the final point of resistance to the Taliban's complete takeover of the country. Surely, this is an outrage. The fact is, that as the reality of this embarrassing, humiliating loss for the mightiest military machine in the history of the world is setting in, and Washington is becoming the butt of all jokes all around the globe, US politicians increasingly seem to think that the best bet is to throw the blame around and go right back to holding Pakistan responsible for everything that went wrong in Afghanistan. The bill seeks a task force to dig out all the information it needs and also demands periodic review and presentation of all its findings.

And finally, it was after two years or so of talks, after two decades of fighting, that brought an end to the war. But not before baffling two two-term US presidents and one one-term outlier, the last of which finally pulled the plug on the whole thing because of the kind of expenses it was running into, and now it falls on the Democratic administration of President Joe Biden to take all the blame simply because he was in power when US forces were televised scrambling out of Kabul. Yet the optics of the way it ended caused a few high-profile legislators at the Capitol Hill to throw a fit and toss the blame on Islamabad. Just some months ago, though, President Trump's team was thanking Islamabad for its help with the negotiations and planning to invite the Taliban to Camp David for a historic photo opportunity, if nothing else. How things indeed stay the same, no matter how much they change.

Needless to say, of course, that this bill has not been taken too well in Pakistan. The government called it "uncalled for" and the market bled close to a thousand points because it's opened a whole new world of uncertainty; something traders hate even more than bad news, which they factor into prices very quickly. The way winds are beginning to shift once again means a possible reset of Islamabad-Washington ties cannot be ruled out just yet. The coming weeks and months will no doubt shed more light on the subject.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2021


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