Pak-US ties: delay in decision would be unwise
Public pressure, from opposition political parties and the sentiments on the streets, are too strong to set aside. Not much dissimilar is the position of President Obama, who has already tendered two apologies, first to Afghanistan for attack by foreign forces on Kabul security personnel, and then to India over the issue of detaining its film idol, Shah Rukh Khan at New York airport. Perhaps, the American President was too close to apologise to Pakistan also, but was either advised or prevented from doing so in an election year, where he is facing tough contest from Romney. An almost identical situation exists in Pakistan where government seems to be on a much weaker wicket than ever before. Prime Minister Gilani’s conviction by supreme court on contempt charge, has come as a severe blow to its reputation and prestige.
Zardari also is conscious of his administration’s failure to deliver in the last four years he had been in authority. At a time when elections are well in sight, he cannot afford to take any more risks. The issue has thus become much more complicated than had originally been thought. Attempts at resolving it have been on since long. Pakistan government’s decision to pass on the buck of handling the delicate issue to a parliamentary committee was a master stroke. In any established democracy, more so in America, where Congress and the Senate, has a hold on almost every major issue, parliamentary committees’ role is crucial.
Conscious of that fact, the Americans had little and in fact no option, but to spend agonizing moment for the recommendations from the Parliamentary committee in Pakistan, and lost no time in rushing their special representative Mark Grossman to Islamabad for talks on settling the problem once the committee findings were placed before the House. Unfortunately the talks ,Grossman had in Pakistan, with military or civilian administrations, failed to produce results. Despite President Zardari’s insistence on halting the drone attacks, which he thought had been counter-productive, failed to evoke any sympathy from the US official. Nothing was heard either about the demand from public and politicians about apology for attack on the Pakistani military outpost.
Disappointed and dejected Grossman returned to America, but the Americans, keen on pursuing the matter on resumption of NATO supplies through Pakistan for their troops in battle-torn Afghanistan, reportedly are rushing their senate intelligence committee chairperson Fienstien hoping for politicians to settle the issue now
Such an approach from Washington shows maturity of thinking but in a country, where foreign and defence affairs are only in name with the elected government, winning over the military leadership alone can clinch the issue, hanging fire since long. Military’ role in democratic dispensation is nothing but nil, but the PPP government, in power since 2008, has been so naïve that it allowed the substance to go out of its control. It went on committing blunders after blunders, allowing the public sentiments to be headache for itself.
Now almost everyone, from those wielding political power like Nawaz Sharif and Imran khan, to JUI’s Maulana Fazlur Rehman, to non-entities like Hafiz Saeed, and a so-called Defence of Pakistan Council, has been in the forefront to demand a halt to drone attacks and reopening of the NATO routes to Kabul. They have been threatening long march toward Islamabad if their voices go unheard. America’s problem is its global strategy, in which it wants to test the pilotless planes to perfection, and though the intensity of their attacks on Taliban hideouts in northern area have subsided substantially, a complete halt to such infringements of Pakistani sovereignty, is still not visible.
Only a day before this piece was written, a missile in the mountainous area, had killed three. Statements emanating from America, expressing sympathies and appreciation of Pakistani sacrifices in men and material, have been dismissed here as mere lip service. As an ally for 64 years, United States must realize that it has to “do much more” than what has been done for Pakistan. Example can be cited for American help and assistance for India which has been given freedom to buy or sell nuclear material from wherever it likes, while Pakistan is being prevented to give up its gas pipeline project with Iran. Nothing has either been done in substance for poverty alleviation, power generation, economic assistance, and the woes Pakistani society is afflicted with.
Practical steps are yet to be seen, and if everything it linked to heeding to American requirements, then it would be rather too much from a country, which is a super power and which has been in the forefront of helping the suffering humanity around the world. Yet another issue, though of much more smaller in nature, is of demand to check Haqqani network and also the wish expressed by US ambassador Cameron Munter for putting Hafiz Saeed behind bars for being allegedly involved in bombings in India. While Haqqani lives in Afghanistan, the issue of Hafiz Saeed ought to be left to the Indians. America becoming spokesman for India in its relationship with Pakistan, is rather strange, least to say.
Despite such situation, however, a resolution of the problem of restoring ties with America, is of vital import. Both sides must show flexibility. Rigidity on either side, will be in the interest of neither. So why delay this problem. Pakistan foreign office and the military establishment must look for solution, which is honourable, and America, being a super power and in much better position to mend its ways, without much ado, should be magnanimous in its approach. Such an attitude, if displayed by both sides, can alone help retrieve a difficult situation. A problematic situation, stemming from the Raymond Davis incident, cannot be allowed to linger on. Pakistan-America relations are too important to be taken lightly.