Salala attack vis-a-vis Pak-US ties

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Reema Shaukat
TO conceal failure of US policies in Afghanistan the ‘do more’ mantra is often chanted by the US. Pakistan while paying massive price in the war against terrorism, the strategy of “either you are with us or against us” has given Pakistan many difficult intervals. But definitely Pakistan stands out among comity of nations as fearless and valiant nation who fought courageously against its covert and overt enemies and is still coping despite all odds. In this decade long war against terrorism many smaller and bigger operations were launched by armed forces to handle miscreants.
Pakistan never compromised on its sovereignty and stability despite foreign pressures. There were many incidents during this battle to eradicate militancy in which Pakistan’s own sovereignty and decision to support allies came at stake. One such incident was an offensive attack on Salala check post by NATO forces where 24 soldiers embraced martyrdom including officers too. This attack is considered as the most grave and austere occurrence in history of Pakistan when one of the military bases was directly hit. On November 26, 2011 NATO forces attacked the Pak-Afghan border on two military check posts and did indiscriminate shelling which led to many deaths. This tragedy strained the diplomatic relations between US and Pakistan.
Pakistan showed reservation and apprehension about this attack at the diplomatic level while the people of Pakistan through protests demanded a cut off of NATO supply routes, evacuation of Shamsi base from NATO forces and sending back US officials to their country after an apology. Historically, Pak-US diplomatic relations date back from October 20, 1947. Apart from other cordial and subtle relations, the Pakistan-US relationship is based on economic and military support. Pakistan has always proved to be a strategic partner of USA. In the Post-Cold War era, Pakistan proved to be a time tested friend of the US where it had the option of being an ally to either US or the Soviet Union, but Pakistan rendered all support to USA. Unfortunately, at the end of war between two powers of that time, Pakistan later had to face a mess of Russian invasion in Afghanistan.
Pakistan extended its full support to its Afghan Muslim brethren but it was left alone to wipe the mess of other countries. Pakistan was not only left unaccompanied by its allies in this vulnerable condition but with traumas of a troubled economy, disturbed infrastructure and population burden of millions of Afghan refugees. Since 9/11 the Pak-US ties were strained when Pakistan decided to be a part of the US led alliance in its war against terrorism. Unluckily, here again, Pakistan suffered more than the war zone and it is still paying a huge price in the form of the menace of terrorism and it’s after affects in the country.
Salala is the name of a mountain in the northern frontier border of Pakistan, on which two Pak-Army check posts ‘Volcano’ and ‘Boulder’ were surprisingly attacked by the NATO forces. After the incident both US and Pakistan had different stances on this attack. US, for a long time, maintained the stance that they informed the authorities about the sought attack on Taliban hideouts and had been given the green signal by the Pakistan army to attack, whereas Pakistani authorities denied this fact saying they didn’t give permission to NATO forces to carry out attacks inside Pakistani territory. Pakistan however strongly protested that by this is attack on its sovereignty and announced blockade of NATO supplies via Pakistani route, which gave NATO huge economic losses. When regrets were pursued and US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton apologised Pakistan opened supply routes for NATO again.
Pakistan has always desired long run peace and stability in the region and for that purpose it remained a part of the peace process and dialogues in Afghanistan as the peace in Pakistan is bound with stability in Afghanistan. But during this constant struggle Pakistan was left alone by its allies and had constant diplomatic and military pressure. After this incident though US did apologise, but time and again we have witnessed violations by US in Pakistani territory through drones. US maintains its view that it is operating within the states’ right of self-defence according to Article 51 in Chapter VII of the United Nations Charter and that US is involved in an armed conflict with Al Qaeda, the Taliban, and their affiliates and therefore may use force consistent with self-defence under international law. Whereas, Article 2(4) of the UN Charter clearly states that all members shall refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state so there is no justification of conducting strikes inside Pakistan’s territory.
We have again seen change in US moods for Pakistan and through different means often statements are issued by Trump administration to pressurize Pakistan. But Pakistan has always maintained firm stance against miscreants of any kind. Pakistani authorities must give strong reply to all such objections and clearly give strong missive that countries must limit their wars to themselves. To prevent another Salala, US, India, Afghanistan and other adversaries must revise their internal policies as Pakistan has time and again reiterated this communiqué that nothing will be compromised with regards to Pakistan’s territorial sovereignty, integrity and stability.
— The writer works for Pakistan Institute for Conflict and Security Studies, a think-tank based in Islamabad.
Email:reema.asim81@gmail.com

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