Gen Mirza Aslam Beg

Sunday, July 25, 2010 – Diplomats are very careful in choosing their words, when dealing with other countries. They are polite, articulate, courteous and convey even very tough messages with a touch of grace. But the Secretary of United States, Hillary Clinton, on her recent visit to Pakistan, appeared much jilted, emotionally disturbed, and displaying a strange logic, she hit-out to “decrease the Historic Distrust”. She said:

One: “Should an attack on United States be traced to Pakistan, it would have a very devastating impact.” This means, another demonstration of “shock and awe” over Pakistan, as on Afghanistan in 2001, but with a difference, that India would also join them, as they are also having jitters after the Mumbai attack.

Two: “I believe, Mullah Omar and Osama are here in Pakistan and you know they are here. Don’t double cross. Help us to get them.” For over nine years, the Americans and their allies have been trying to get them and having failed, now expect the Pakistan Army to ‘produce the rabbits from the hat’, failing which Pakistan has to remain prepared to face the wrath of the sole super-power of the world.

Three: “Pak-China nuclear deal is a matter of great concern. We can trace the export of nuclear information and material from Pakistan, through all kinds of channels, to many different countries. We are fulfilling our commitment, but it is not a one way street.” Whereas, both China and Pakistan have explained umpteen times, that China-Pakistan nuclear deal is fully covered by the IAEA guarantees and should not be a matter of concern for any one. But this is the case of the ‘lion and the lamb’ where the water flows from down upwards and therefore Pakistan is to be prepared to face the onslaught of the ‘global-anti-nuclear-proliferation-regime of USA, Israel and India,’ ready to take out Pakistan’s nuclear assets and capabilities.

Four: “Pakistan is double-crossing us in dealing with the terrorists. They are shielding the Haqqani group in particular, who are causing all the trouble for us in Afghanistan. It is time for Pakistan, now, to make sure, that we are on the same page on Afghanistan” and “There is a gulf between how the Pakistanis define the good and bad Taliban and what Washington calls reconcilable and irreconcilable Taliban.”

As if, this was not enough, Pakistan and Afghanistan delegates were huddled together at Islamabad to sign the Afghan Transit Trade Agreement, while Hillary stood behind like a headmistress with a rod in hand, to ensure compliance. The entire process was completed in such a hurry, that the Pakistani delegate didn’t have the time to discuss the matter with the parliament, or at least with the members of the Cabinet. And our Prime Minister, who should not have been there, in any case, stood, hand folded and cheered, at the signing of the agreement, with a cynical smile on his face.

Hillary Clinton scored another point, by forcing the government of Pakistan, to restore the privilege of our Ambassador in Washington, to issue, one year, multiple visit visas to the Americans visiting Pakistan. This privilege was abused in the past by the American citizens visiting Pakistan working for Blackwater and other such shady organizations. It means that the old ‘cloak and dagger’ game is on, once again.

It is not only Hillary, but also, Admiral Mike Mullen, who tried to further decrease the “historic-gap”, by revealing from New Delhi, that: “Mumbai carnage had demonstrated how a small group of extremists could have a ‘strategic impact. I’ve worried a great deal about a repeat attack of something like that and am making sure this doesn’t happen again. But there is an implication that there is zero-sum game here, that if we increase our interactions with Pakistan we are somehow diminishing India. I can’t even imagine why any one would think that India is being diminished. Our goal is to have full transparency with India on what’s going on in Afghanistan. The links between the ISI and the Taliban are a problem in this respect.”

Hillary Clinton’s next stop was Kabul, where she met the ‘seventy countries group, trying to find the resources to rebuild Afghanistan. Strangely enough, Hillary was totally mellowed down and in a reconciliatory mood. She remarked: “The July 2011, date captures both our sense of urgency and the strength of our resolve. The transition period is too important to push off indefinitely. This date is the start of the new phase, not the end of our involvement.” This statement of the AmericanSecretary of State, read in conjunction with Karzai’s proposal, is in fact a tacit acceptance of the first two demands of Mullah Omar, as the pre-conditions for talks. The demands are: One: A definite time of withdrawal from Afghanistan which has now been given as July 2011, and seventy countries attending the conference are a witness to it. Two: Release the fifty Taliban leaders in the custody of the occupation forces and the black list be removed immediately. This indicates a big shift in the American stance, to enter into dialogue with the Taliban. The melt-down has started, setting a very fast pace of development, which will overtake the ‘American resolve to maintain their involvement till the year 2014.” Raising an Afghan Army of 170,000 and a police force of 30,000, as a bulwark against the Taliban, is not workable. The reality has been accepted, that, without the participation of the Taliban, who have won the war and also are in majority, no stable government can be formed in Afghanistan.

What role Pakistan can play, to ease-out the exit process of the occupation forces and facilitate the establishment of a stable government, is the moot question. There is a big trust deficit between the Afghan Taliban and the government of Pakistan, Pakistan Army and the ISI. And there is no magic solution to bridge this gap and no visible effort either on part of Pakistan, to achieve this purpose. On the other hand, Karzai appears to be playing a more sensible game. He has succeeded in gaining the acceptance of the first two demands of the Taliban. And through this process he may well succeed on a cease-fire, followed by a Loe-Jirga, to decide the future of Afghanistan. As of now, he appears to be a safe bet, while Pakistan has more than enough at hand to respond to Hillary Clinton’s charge-sheet.

In her attempt to decrease the “Historic Distrust”, Hillary’s utterances can be taken as a befitting gift to Pakistan, “the most allied ally, the strategic partner and the non-NATO ally of all times.” Yet, we would say: “As far as criticism is concerned, we don’t resent that, unless it is absolutely biased,” (John Vorster). Hillary’s criticism and allegations are outrightly biased, lacking substance and reality.

—The writer is former Chief of Army Staff.

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