Pak-US relations – A way forward
Ever since its inception in 1947, Pakistan and the United States established cordial diplomatic relations with each other. However with the United States and Pakistan jointly fighting a war against common enemy, aiming at exterminating terrorism from the region, bilateral ties between the United States and Pakistan started weakening with Raymond Davis issue, in which a CIA contractor killed two Pakistanis on a motorcycle allegedly attempting to rob him at Jail road near Mozang Chowk, Lahore, on January 27, 2010.
When bad things happen to the US-Pakistan relations, other bad things seem to happen at the same time – one after another. The unilateral raid by the US Navy Seals on Osama Bin Laden’s compound in Abbottabad on May 2, followed by November 26 Nato air strike on two Pakistan Army border check posts in Mohmand tribal area bordering Afghanistan killing 24 Pakistani troops, added fuel to the fire. These unpleasant developments widened the mistrust between the two allies and made Pakistan more cautious, vulnerable and insecure.
In response to Salala aggression, Pakistan not only closed Nato logistics supply lines for seven months for the US/NATO troops in Afghanistan, it also got vacated Shamsi air base in Balochistan used for covert CIA drone strikes on Pakistan’s border areas with Afghanistan.
It is noteworthy that Pakistan has always sought good relationship with the United States and international community as a whole based on sovereign equality and mutual respect. By re-opening the logistic route for NATO and US forces in Afghanistan, Pakistan has fulfilled its commitment for the global peace and facilitation for larger good of the international community. Furthermore, in a key development in Pak-US relations, well placed sources said that Director-General Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) Lt-General Zaheerul Islam will visit the US in coming days and his visit has been approved by the government. After the killing of Osama bin Laden on May 2 in a unilateral raid by US Navy commandos SEALs in Abbottabad, Pakistan, it will be the first visit by the Army Chief or intelligence Chief to the US. The ISI Chief will meet his US counterpart, Director Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) David Petraeus, and other senior American officials to discuss matters related to counter-terrorism cooperation, drone strikes and Dr Shakil Afridi, the man who helped the US locate Osama bin Laden in Abbottabad. The US reacted strongly to the sentencing of Dr Afridi a few weeks ago for running a fake polio vaccination drive, which was really meant to hunt down Bin Laden. Genuine and critical polio vaccination drives have suffered a number of setbacks in Pakistan since the sting operation with many high-risk areas becoming off limits for vaccinators.
It is also learnt that Lt-Gen Islam, during his upcoming visit to US, will also focus on unilateral drone attacks by the US. It is likely that emphasis on provision of strategic and technical intelligence input obtained through drones will be sought, so that Pakistan can take action against terrorists. According to sources, the ISI Chief will discuss the possibility of the transfer of drone technology and capacity building to Pakistani forces.
They also held that he will reject any ‘wink-and-nod’ offers from the US in terms of drone strikes and US boots on the ground. The ISI Chief will focus on a new mechanism to ensure Pakistan’s input on drone strikes
The CIA, which is running the undeclared and unacknowledged drone war in Pakistan, insists that there have been no recent civilian casualties. US counter-terrorism adviser John Brennan, in his remarks admitted for the first time that US drones have killed civilians. But he said: “It is exceedingly rare, but it has happened.” This is just not true says the UK-based ‘Bureau of Investigative Journalism’ the group that keeps the best count of casualties from US drone strikes in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia. According to its figures, since 2004, US has killed between about 2,500-3,000 people in Pakistan. Of those, between 479 and 811 were civilians, 174 of them children. According to the ‘New America Foundation’, a non-partisan think tank in Washington, drone strikes in Pakistan over the past eight years have killed at least 1,715 civilians, and as many as 2,680 people.
‘Brookings Institution’, a nonprofit public policy organisation based in Washington, has concluded that although accurate data on the results of drone strikes is difficult to obtain, it seemed that 10 civilians had died in the drone attacks for every militant killed that would represent a civilian to combatant casualty ratio of 10:1, which is unacceptable. According to UK based ‘Conflict Monitoring Centre’ report on drone attacks American spy agency CIA has failed to eliminate more than four al-Qaeda leaders in its highly costly and controversial assassination by drones’ campaign inside Pakistan during 2011.
Nevertheless, the account of civilian deaths registered by credible international organisations shows a very clear picture that drone attacks are creating wider anti-American sentiments, which is very dangerous and a stumbling block against the success in the war on terror. To counter the Taliban strategies, one has to get more close to the general masses through launching development projects, rather carrying on with drone attacks. It is important to mention here that as per public aspirations and desire, Pakistan’s political, military and intelligence leadership has always been on the same page with regard to non-acceptance of drone strikes.
They have repeatedly asserted that unilateral drone strikes have proved counter productive as it results in arousing anti-American feelings among the masses with increased sympathy for the terrorists besides undermining Pakistan’s sovereignty and image of armed forces. It is also a complete violation of international law and UN Charter.
The US must understand that despite being friends, allies and also partners in war on terror, the US should respect the sovereignty of Pakistan, otherwise it will further erode its credibility and popularity.