The US is responsible for bloodbath in Pakistan
By Asif Haroon Raja
Unprovoked attack by NATO helicopters on 26 November on Salala check posts in which 24 officers and men of Pak Army were martyred and 13 received injuries in the backdrop of Raymond Davis episode and 2 May stealth attack in Abbottabad brought Pak-US relations to a head. Deeply hurt Pakistan virtually stopped cooperating with the US in war on terror and decided to revise its terms of engagement with the US, NATO and ISAF. To rub salt on the wounds of Pakistanis, highly biased and misleading NATO inquest carried out by Brig Gen Stephen Clarke wrongfully blamed the offenders and the victims equally. The second probe instead of apportioning blame on the offenders and recommending punishment added insult to injury by concluding that Pak troops had initiated the fire and NATO helicopters fired back in reaction. Based on these cockeyed inquiry reports the US has refused to offer an apology or to punish the perpetrators but insists that NATO supply must be reopened. This is not the first time that the ISAF under the US military has stabbed Pakistan in the back. Between June 2008 and July 2011, US-NATO has struck Pakistani border posts four times in which 18 Pak troops got martyred and 10 sustained injuries. Each time the US felt sorry and promised that it will not happen again but repeated its aggression without any remorse.
Over four months have lapsed and NATO supply has not been resumed but indications are that very soon NATO containers would start plying as heretofore. This time delay was gained on the plea that public sentiments were highly inflamed and new terms of engagement were being framed by the parliamentary committee for national security (PCNS). The PCNS had finalized its recommendations on January 12, 2012 but for unknown reasons these were kept in the pending tray for weeks and was put up to the joint session of the parliament for debate on 24 March. Inexplicable delay gave grist to speculators that the recommendations were put up to Washington for perusal and approval.
Out of the long list of suggestions, the ones which were revised on insistence of the opposition were: 50% of NATO containers to be handled by the railways to reduce load on road infrastructure and only non-lethal items to be transported. The other was that NATO supplies to be linked to ending drone attacks. No serious debate has however been conducted so far and it is presumed that it may take another month to finalize the action plan. Recent meetings between President Obama and PM Gilani in Seoul, President Zardari and Marc Grossman in Dushanbe, and Gen Dempsey and Gen Allen with Gen Kayani and Gen Wynne have given reasons to believe that the ice has begun to melt.
During their meeting in Seoul, Obama reminded Zardari that Pakistan should respect US security needs. If the US has expectations from Pakistan, the same is true for Pakistan. If one gleans through the track record of both sides, none can disagree that Pakistan leadership has been diligently taking care of US security needs at the cost of annoying its people, but the US has least cared for Pakistan’s security concerns. It has been unilaterally exerting pressure since it was in a position to do so and getting its dictations obeyed. Pentagon and CIA were chiefly responsible for spoiling military-to-military ties because of their hawkish attitude and CIA-RAW alignment. White House, State Department and Congress have remained heavily tilted toward India owing to mutually beneficial strategic, political and economic interests. Pakistan, which staked its security to serve US interests has been distrusted and taken for granted.
Had it not been for heavy dependence on ground and air supplies and continuously deteriorating security situation in Afghanistan, the US by now would have ditched Pakistan and openly adopted a hostile posture. The US leaders have tolerated Pakistan’s defiance with a pinch of salt since they know that the US has lost the war and ISAF troops and heavy baggage cannot be safely extricated without Pakistan’s cooperation. Soviets troops had also safely exited from Afghanistan by February 1989 because of cooperation of Pakistan. Hence, Pakistan will be grudgingly kept in the loop till end 2014 and then punished for its numerous sins about which charge sheet has already been framed. Charges pertaining to cross border terrorism, religious extremism and nuclear proliferation were immaturely accepted by Gen Musharraf to appease USA and India.
Since USA counts on Pakistan that it will help in its disentanglement from quagmire of Afghanistan, it has restrained itself from suspending aid despite pressure from the Congress and Republicans, or imposing sanctions about which a hint was given by Hillary Clinton. In order to make Pakistan do its biddings, the US may hasten up paying the arrears of CSF and agree to pay transit fee for containers. It may also restrain from undertaking 2 May or Salala like aggressive actions, but it will continue with its covert war indirectly if not directly, through allied intelligence agencies. It will remain focused towards its primary objective of denuclearization of Pakistan, particularly when it couldn’t achieve any of the stated objectives in Afghanistan. Disablement of nuclear program will be a bigger prize which will help in casting off negative effects of humiliating retreat from Afghanistan.
The US is principally responsible for the bloodbath and accentuation of socio-politico-economic woes of Pakistan. Without its active connivance, its allies couldn’t have succeeded in inflaming so many regions and wreaking death and destruction at such a wide scale. Normality in relations may be achieved if the US makes up Pakistan’s loss of $70 billion suffered in the US war on terror, compensates 100,000 dead and injured in the war including those who died or got injured by drones, stops drone war, provides civil nuclear technology to overcome energy crisis, apologizes for Salala massacre, declares that it will respect Pakistan’s sovereignty in future and will not meddle in its internal affairs, agrees to treat Pakistan with respect, assures that it will facilitate resolution of Kashmir dispute and promises that it will not let India to takeover security duties once the ISAF departs from Afghanistan.
The US is in no mood to oblige on any of these areas of friction since it is feeling depressed and out of sorts. It somehow considers Pakistan to be partly if not wholly responsible for its failures in achieving its sinister designs. It is displeased with Pak Army and ISI as to why obstacles are being created in its efforts to undermine Pakistan. It is neither reconciling to the fact that it has lost the war in Afghanistan, or over the defiance of Pakistan which had accepted its dictates meekly for a decade. Closure of NATO supply routes has forced the US to utilize six-time expensive northern network and that too for non-lethal items. The US is considering making use of supply routes from China and air supplies from India.
Closure of Shamsi airbase resulted in suspension of drone strikes for sometime but after activating drone bases in Afghanistan and fine tuning ground intelligence, strikes have been resumed since January, although at a reduced scale. Militancy in Orakzai, Kurram and Khyber agencies has increased, several suicide attacks have taken place in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, target killings in Karachi and Balochistan are continuing, exiled Baloch Sardars supported by their patrons are spitting venom and rejecting reconciliation. Such anti-Pakistan activities are not possible without provision of funds to the dissidents. As long as funds are flowing in and weapons are supplied, there will be no letup in such anti-state acts. It is wishful to assume that Pak-US relations will revert to normal after the parliamentary review, when strategic interests of the two are at variance, drone war and covert war by Indo-US-Israeli nexus remain operative and there is no let up in propaganda war.
The writer is a retired Brig. of the Pakistan Army and a political commentator.