Pak-US War of Nerves
By Sajjad Shaukat
On April 12, this year, Pakistan’s parliament unanimously approved recommendations of the Parliamentary Committee on National Security (PCNS) in connection with the re-engagement with the United States. Besides other matters, the recommendations include an immediate cessation of drone attacks and infiltration into Pakistani territory, entailing some conditions regarding supply to NATO forces in Afghanistan across the country. Besides, Pakistan should seek an unconditional apology from the US for November 26, 2011 unprovoked Salala check post incident which killed 24 soldiers.
In the recent months, a number of American diplomats including NATO chief visited Islamabad and met Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani and Chief of Army Staff Gen. Ashfaq Pervez Kayani, asking them for re-opening the NATO routes. In this context, on May, 12, ISAF Commander Gen. John Allen who will attend a Tripartite Commission meeting in Rawalpindi also met Gen. Kayani who reiterated that parliament and the Defence Committee of Cabinet would decide on the issue of NATO supply.
Both the civil and military leaders have already refused American demands, saying that the issue would be decided in light of the PCNS recommendations, after negotiating new relationship with the US, based upon equality and non-violation of Pakistani territory.
When Pakistan government remained stern on its stand by keeping the NATO supply lines suspended for the last six months in wake of US pressure tactics, on May 10, the United States House Armed Services Committee approved a bill that would prohibit the preferential procurement of goods or services from Pakistan until the “NATO supply lines are reopened.” Besides other conditions, the bill requires the US Secretary of Defence to certify that Islamabad is committed to supporting counterterrorism operations against Al-Qaeda, the Haqqani Network, and other terrorist organisations, issuing visas in a timely manner for US visitors engaged in counterterrorism efforts in Pakistan.
Meanwhile, NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen suggested on May 11 that Pakistan could miss out on important talks on the future of Afghanistan, if it fails to reopen supply routes in time to secure a place at a NATO summit in Chicago on May 20-21. Indirectly, he disclosed that Pakistan will not be invited to participate in the summit.
On the other side, Prime Minister Gilani has to confirm the date for the meeting of the Defence Committee of the Cabinet, which is expected within a few days, and will also debate how to repair relations with America in time to attend the NATO summit in Chicago or to boycott it. He also remarked on May 11 that the issue of NATO supply would be resolved soon. While, the British Defence Minister Phillip Hamond stated that negotiations on NATO supply is progressing in the right direction, but Pakistan would not accept any pre-condition.
In these terms, Pak-US war of nerves which started in the recent years, accelerated due to American coercive diplomacy towards Islamabad coupled with its double game. In this regard, after the 9/11 tragedy, Pakistan joined the US war against terrorism as frontline state and Islamabad was granted the status of non-NATO ally by Washington because of its earlier successes achieved by Pakistan’s Army and country’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) against the Al Qaeda militants.
Within a few years, when the US-led NATO forces felt that they are failing in coping with the stiff resistance of the Taliban, they started faslse allegations against Pak Army and ISI of supporting the Afghan Taliban. US high high officials and their media not only blamed Pakistan for cross-border terrorism in Afghanistan, but also continously emphasized to ‘do more’ against the insurgents in tribal areas by ignoring the internal backlash in the country such as bomblasts and suicide attacks which killed thousands of innocent people and personnel of the security forces including ploice men.
Cold war had already started between Pakistan and the United States when hundreds of CIA agents entered Pakistan under the guise of diplomats to destabilize the country. On January 11, 2011, Raymond Davis who was CIA agent killed two Pakistanis in Lahore.
Since May 2, 2011, Pak-US relations further deteriorated when without informing Islamabad, US commandos killed Osama Bin Laden in a covert military operation. Afterwards, tension accelerated as America continued its duress on Pakistan in wake of drone attacks on FATA, while setting aside parliament’s resolution in this regard.
Differences also increased between Islamabad and Washington because Pakistan’s superior agency, ISI interrupted covert activities of the American so-called diplomats. Notably, in the recent years, ISI has thwarted the anti-Pakistan activities of the agents of Blackwater and CIA which had started recruiting Pakistani nationals who were vulnerable. In this context, with the pre-information of ISI, Pakistan’s police and other security agencies arrested a number of agents. On many occasions, ISI helped in stopping the clandestine activities of the CIA spies who were displaying themselves as diplomats. On the information of this top spy agency, Pakistan’s establishment expelled several American spies operating in the country. On the other side, US withheld $800 million in military aid to punish its army and ISI.
It was due to the professional competence of ISI in foiling the anti-Pakistan plot that US and India including their media intensified deliberate propaganda against ISI. In this respect, last year, US Admiral Mike Mullen (R) alleged that the Haqqani network is waging a ‘proxy war’ in Afghanistan with the assistance of ISI, and blamed for an assault on the US embassy in Kabul on September 13, 2011.
US top military and civil officials had been perennial insisting upon Islamabad to take military action against the Haqqani network, based in North Waziristan. But during her visit to Islamabad in October, 2011, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton requested for Pakistan’s help to “encourage Taliban to enter negotiations in good faith” including the Haqqani militants. Replying to a question that ISI was involved in attack on the US embassy in Kabul, she categorically pointed out, “We have no evidence of that.” Ms. Clinton agreed with Pakistan’s stance, saying, “Now US is realising that launching new military operation in North Waziristan does not suit Pakistan’s situation.” Contrarily, on October 27, 2011, before Congress, Ms. Clinton disclosed that she delivered a frank message to Islamabad that it was urgent to act against the extremist Haqqani network, which she accused of anti-US attacks in Afghanistan.
During her visit to India, Hillary Clinton allegedly said on May 7, this year that Pakistan had not taken enough action against Hafiz Saeed, the Chief of Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) who was blamed for masterminding the 2008 attacks in Mumbai. She accused that top Al Qaeda commander, Ayman al-Zawahiri “is somewhere in Pakistan.” Repeating American old maxim, Ms. Clinton pressed Pakistan “to do more to ensure its territory is not used as launching pad by terror groups.” Indian External Affairs Minister S M Krishna also raised similar allegations.
On the same day, Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar, while refuting all these false allegations, indicated, “it does not have any intelligence, suggesting that al-Zawahiri was hiding in the country and urged the US “to share information if any, instead of issuing speculative statements.”
As regards Hfiz Saeed, Pakistan’s Lahore High Court had released him on bail, saying that there was no evidence agianst him in connetion with Mumbai carnage.
In fact, in the aftermath of the November 26 incident in Mohmand Agency, Pakistan’s bold steps such as vacation of the Shamsi Airbase, boycott the second Bonn Conference and rejection of the US investigation report regarding the deliberate attack on Salala Army outposts accelerated tension between Islamabad and Washington.
In the recent past, some American top officials accused Pakistan-based Haqqani militants behind the well-coordinated attacks in Afghanistan, which occurred on April 15, 2012. US aim was to pressurise Islamabad for restoration of the NATO transit routes.
Confused in their goals, sometimes US high officials praise Pak sacrifices regarding war on terror, sometimes, admit that stability cannot be achieved in Afghanistan without the help of Pakistan after the withdrawal of foreign troops in 2014, sometimes, threatens Islamabad to abandon the Pakistan-Iran gas pipeline project, and sometimes, realise that US wants to improve its relationship with Pakistan, but at the same time, they blame Islamabad for safe-havens of militants in the country. While in connivance with India and Israel, America has been continuing its anti-Pakistan activities by supporting militancy in Pakistan and separatism in Balochistan. Nonetheless, Pak-US war of nerves continued, it could take the relationship of both the countries to the point of no return.
Sajjad Shaukat writes on international affairs and is author of the book: US vs Islamic Militants, Invisible Balance of Power: Dangerous Shift in International Relations