Is ‘sorry’ an apology?

Burhanuddin Hasan

Sorry is the most common word in English language to express regret over any inconvenience caused by one person to the other. If two persons walking on a street bump against each other both say sorry and go their way. It is just a courtesy, and not an expression of serious concern or apology. There are many other words in English which can be used if one wants to seriously apologize for killing somebody. A very big diplomatic issue was at stake when American troops fired upon Pakistani soldiers and killed 34 jawans at Salala check post without any provocation. No doubt this was a very serious and uncalled for attack for which Pakistan demanded an apology. US President Mr. Obama verbally expressed his regrets over the incident, but no apology was conveyed by the US government through official channels which Pakistan rightly expected.

The US government however kept sleeping over the issue while Pakistan closed down all NATO supplies in panic as religious parties raised hell that since the US has insulted Pakistan mass rallies will be held throughout the country. The weak government immediately surrendered under the pressure of religious parties and closed down Pakistan routes for NATO supplies to Afghanistan. This involved not only the US but more than forty member countries of NATO including some Muslim Nations like Turkey.

Following a great deal of haggling for seven months an agreement was reached between Pakistan and the US that NATO supply lines will be opened on July 06, 2012 but this was aborted due to some last minute hitch over the US apology demanded by Pakistan. The word “sorry” was not considered good enough as an apology. The stalemate lasted for seven months of bitterness between Pakistan and the US due to the haggling on the apology issue by both the countries

Finally on July 06, 2012 the US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton made a telephone call to Pakistan Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar saying that the State Department had agreed “that both sides made mistakes which led to the fatal air strikes killing 24 Pakistani troops. She said “we are sorry for the losses suffered by the Pakistan military. We are committed to working closely with Pakistan and Afghanistan to prevent such happenings ever again.” Pakistan accepted this apology which it has been refusing to accept for seven months. Except for a little change in words America still used the word “sorry”, America did not use the word “apology” or even “regret”. If our mistakes also led to air strikes, it has not been explained by the US government what mistakes were committed by us.

In fact America has just said “sorry” which is not an apology and should not have been rejected in the first place. Critics of the accord are saying it is a sellout. The agreement reflects a growing realization by Pakistani officials that they overplayed their hand believing that America will ultimately surrender and compelled to using the word “apology’’ but this did not happen and Pakistan was forced to accept the US version of apology implicating Pakistani troops also in the mistake which led to firing on Salala check post. Pakistan did not even ask what mistake was made by Pakistan.

A newly formed group of anti-American fundamentalist Muslims, named Defense of Pakistan Party which had been opposing Pakistan’s alliance with America on providing the facility of Pakistan territory for the supplies to NATO troops which they may use against Muslim Mujahideen. The day Pakistan announced its willingness to open Pakistani roads; Defense of Pakistan Party took out a massive rally against the decision of the government. And now that NATO supplies have started trickling into Afghanistan, another group of about 5000 people has begun a march in a convoy of busses and cars from Quetta to Chaman on the border with Afghanistan. This kind of activity, if continued, may erupt into great trouble for Pakistan government.

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