Revival of Pak-US security ties
The US-Pakistan deal reached three weeks ago to reopen the NATO’s transit routes to Afghanistan after the US tendered an apology, which was a precondition from Pakistan side. There were already indications of ‘change of heart’ before the visit of ISI chief Lt. General Zaheer-ul-Islam to the US, which was in response to the invitation from the CIA chief David Petraeus. The potential US-Pakistani plans were discussed in meetings in Washington involving the DG ISI and top officials of the CIA, State Department and Pentagon, as well as top lawmakers, the newspaper quoted officials as saying. The US officials are reported to have told American daily that in meetings with Petraeus and other officials, Lt. General Zaheer-ul-Islam emphasized the point that drone attacks had proved counterproductive, and stopping drone attacks would give Islamabad room to build domestic support for counterterrorism work with the US. The officials said that the US would also work with Pakistan to control the Afghan side of the border, so that militants driven out couldn’t escape into the Afghan border region. According to the officials briefed on the meetings, Pakistani officials asked the US to target about a half-dozen Pakistani Taliban operatives based in the Nuristan and Kunar provinces of Afghanistan, who have carried out dozens of attacks across the border, killing Pakistani soldiers. It would not be an exaggeration to say that the ISI chief’s visit has been fruitful and contributed towards regaining Pakistan’s status as an ally of the US in regional security.
We will not comment on the Wall Street Journal report quoting US officials that the US and Pakistani officials are considering joint counterterrorism campaigns in Afghanistan and Pakistan, since there was no hand out either from the US or Pakistan about such arrangement. Reportedly, the proposed campaigns would target the Haqqani militant group, which has mounted several attacks on US soldiers, and the US will target Pakistan Tehreek-i-Taliban in Afghanistan that have been launching attacks on Pakistan security forces. “The campaigns would be intended to help stamp out major security threats facing each country, targeting what the US says are sanctuaries for the Haqqani network in Pakistan, and what Pakistan says are sanctuaries for the Pakistani Taliban in Afghanistan”. But Pakistan had always taken the position that there are no sanctuaries of Haqqani group in North Waziristan. If they are in Pakistan how could they attack NATO forces? Say for argument sake that they are operating from Pakistan, then why the NATO forces do not stop them and kill them while crossing the border.
According to a local TV channel report, the US had made its intent known that it would declare Haqqani network as terrorist organization. And Pakistan has rightly said that it would not have any objection to that, as Pakistan does not hold any brief for Haqqani network or any other militant organization. Meanwhile, President Hamid Karzai recently stated that he would persuade the NATO to take action against Pakistani Taliban holed up in Nuristan and Kunar provinces, provided Pakistan can bring Haqqani group leadership on the negotiating table. The erroneous impression is being created as if Haqqanis are in Pakistan’s pocket, knowing full well that all militant groups are united under Mullah Omer, and no one is inclined to enter into dialogue with President Hamid Karzai, as they consider him American lackey. Secondly, Mullah Omer has categorically stated that unless the US and NATO forces withdraw from Afghanistan, there would be no dialogue with the occupiers or its protégés.
The question is what were the reasons for the change in American strategy? There is a perception that apart from resistance from Pakistan against US pressures, and also in view of the situation in Syria and America’s slapping of additional sanctions on Iran have forced the US to revisit its policy. M. K. Bhadrakumar, former ambassador and a career diplomat in the Indian Foreign Service in his treatise stated: “Unsurprisingly, Saudi Arabia has also come into the picture, proposing that it will help Pakistan to meet its energy crisis provided Islamabad cuts back on ties with Tehran…The looming crisis in Syria and the rising tensions with Iran make it a pressing necessity for Saudi Arabia to revive security and military ties with Pakistan. Significantly, in his meeting with King Abdullah, Prime Minister of Pakistan Raja Ashraf was quoted as saying, the security of the two countries is synonymous and they will keep on enhancing their cooperation in all fields. The road map for furthering strategic relations of the two countries will be completed on faster pace.”
Although Pakistan has been trying to stem the movements of the militants, yet it should give its message loud and clear that it would not allow anybody to use its soil against Afghanistan or any other country. Afghanistan, on its part, should also ensure that they do not allow any militant organization to cross the border and attack Pakistani citizens and security personnel, and stop recruiting Pakistanis from Chitral for Afghan army.
Anyhow, Pakistan should tread the path carefully, and should not become a pawn in the chessboard of the big powers. So far as America is concerned, Pakistan should have cordial relations with it but with honour and dignity. There are of course some irritants in the relations in the face of violations of diplomatic protocol, but Pakistan should make it clear that all the staffers in the US embassy and its consulates should abide by the norms stipulated in the Vienna Convention and should not roam around with the unlicensed arms and in the vehicles without number plates.
—The writer is Lahore-based senior journalist.