Ali Ashraf Khan
Pakistan’s Foreign Affairs Adviser Sartaj Aziz has recently admitted that there has been a ‘stalemate’ in relations with Washington for the last three months. A glimpse of it has been seen in the US Congress decision to deny subsidy on the sale of F-16 jets to Pakistan,” he said while winding up a debate in Senate. Now this information was supported by Elizabeth Trudeau, Director Office of Press Relations State Department who during a press briefing disclosed that “Key members of US Congress are not prepared to support military aid to Pakistan”. The problem those ‘key members’ have is that Pakistan is not doing enough to round up the Haqqani network whose leadership is supposed by the Congress to be located in Pakistan.
There have been many comments and rejections of this allegation by the military and law enforcing institutions of Pakistan and we needn’t add another one. What makes this situation interesting is the fact that it offers (another) opportunity to Pakistani foreign and defence policy makers to reconsider our alliances in those sectors. In 2001 when asked (or pressurized) by President Bush to join the war against terror, Pakistan joined without making any preconditions. Since then Pakistan has done and sacrificed much more than the US in this war, given the fact that we are the neighbouring country and we share not only a long border but a long common history and cultural tradition though have not enjoyed very cordial relations during peace times with Afghanistan.
While the US counted meticulously the number of US soldiers killed – it has reportedly reached some two thousand only – Pakistan has suffered tens of thousands of military and civilian deaths in the same war that we fought on US behalf. In addition, we suffered immeasurable more by that war; materially it destroyed our roads and infrastructure, it damaged our economy. But much more precariously it damaged our society by upsetting its balance not only in the tribal border areas but everywhere. Millions of Afghan refugees and internally displaced swept through Pakistan settling from Lahore in the East to Karachi in the South changing the ethnic and cultural balance and creating social strife and controlling the major chunk of goods transportation business by road apart from smuggling of arms and drugs. It was again under US pressure during Musharraf rule that even Pakistani travel documents were issued freely to Afghan refugees to facilitate their travel to West and US.
The US is known for creating world-wide turmoil for its own petty personal interest; take the Jihad against Soviet forces in 1979-80, when Soviet troops were invited to Afghanistan by the then lawful government to assist in law & order situation, Osama bin Laden loaded with US dollars and arms was inducted in jihad with General Ziaul Haq’s active role, which was not in the interest of Pakistan. When the US purpose was served, Afghanistan and Pakistan were abandoned. Again during the nineties when US started eying Central Asian oil and gas and mineral resources in this region the so-called 9/11 was plotted and Osama bin Laden was made a scapegoat for US plan of colonization of resources through this so-called war against terrorism under pre-emptive warfare plan of George W. Bush that is now taking its toll from US and rest of the world. Since then it has created the handmade banner of “Daesh” threat which is nothing but part of Christendom’s Millennium agenda.
Now you look at US arm twisting on Afghan peace requirement; apparently Pakistan is not only being asked to do more but much more, Indian supremacy in the region is also to be guarded by Nawaz Sharif and a few months back the much trumpeted TAPI gas pipeline was inaugurated jointly by the Indian Vice President, Hamid Ansari, Turkmenistan President, Afghan President and Nawaz Sharif in December 2015. It is claimed that the five projects associated with TAPI would change the destiny of Afghanistan and Pakistan but so far it only gained border tension from both India and Afghanistan for US. Then our government and foreign office continued silence on unearthing of a highly provocative spy network of RAW indulgence in terrorist attacks in Pakistan, when an Indian naval officer Gulbashen Yadev was arrested who gave clue of hundreds of his other operatives of which thirty five to forty were apprehended. Spies were arrested even from Ramzan Sugar Mill, which belongs to Nawaz Sharif family, but it seems under US pressure the matter has been pushed under the carpet. Then reports are coming of American attempts to lease air bases in India. Even it was heard that two major hotels in Islamabad were the target of a RAW offensive meant to silence the Panama papers scuffle of PML (N) with Opposition parties that appears to have reached some other settlement.
Now the CASA project for the purchase of 1300 MW electricity by Pakistan and Afghanistan from May to September periods has been inaugurated and the construction of Transmission lines of 455 Km in Afghanistan and 755 km in Pakistan to cost an enormous amount of over $ 1.5 billion! What a wasteful exercise, the only purpose behind the timing of this drama appears to be showing at the inaugural site wall mounted map of the regions countries, where four heads of government with their high-ups were performing the opening ceremony. In such a situation it can’t be called just a mistake that Pakistani territory of Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan was shown as Indian territory on the same line as India claims that so as to establish border link and road access with Afghanistan. Strangely the Pakistani Prime Minister and his high powered delegation remained tight lipped on this and no protest was launched; had they done so, it could have been changed in hours or this map could be blackout for media.
National interest has been compromised for personal interest again and such an embarrassment is not considered any big issue by the coterie of such puppet regimes. I vividly remember in my youth days when Shah of Iran was the US policeman for the East, a similar situation used to disturb the foreign office over a map when the Pakistan government used to keep changing our ocean map showing some time the same as Persian Gulf and sometime as Arabian Gulf. I have read that in 49 BC, a defiant Julius Caesar stood in front of his army at the River Rubicon and made the biggest decision of life, it was strictly forbidden by Roman law for a General to lead his army out of its Province and into Northern Italy to fight against forces of Pompey, as Rubicon had marked the boundary – “Alea iacta est” He said ( meaning The die is cast) and he led his army across the river into civil war and phrase “ crossing the Rubicon” signifies a risky and dangerous point of no return. Nowadays many powers are crossing that limit, because Caesar considered this step in the best interest of Roman Empire though later he faced the consequences of such a risky decision that would have and in fact liquidated the Roman Empire.
Knowing all this, Adviser on Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz who is a Pashtun himself and the government of Pakistan should take this stalemate in our unfortunate relation with the US to reconsider this alliance and find better partners closer to home. In the first place that means improve our relations with neighbouring Iran, put our Afghan policy on a realistic footing and strengthen our commitment in the Shanghai security pact. That makes it reasonable to look for F-16 replacement in Russia. Have you seen the military parade on Red Square in Moscow on 9 May? If not it is available on Youtube. Russia is known to be a much more reliable political and military partner; just see Syria and Iran examples. Closer relations with Russia would also be helpful in reorganizing our Afghan policy. Let’s take this ‘stalemate’ as an opportunity for the better and not as a disaster which it is not. Survival of Pakistan is the need of time that needs immediate revamping of state apparatus and bury the status quo for ever from our body politics. GOD Bless Pakistan and Humanity.
—The writer is a senior columnist based in Karachi.