NATO blitz: time to move beyond rhetoric
December 02, 2011
What is happening all around? People burning the US flags, waging anti-US street protests from all corners, chanting to quit War on Terror as well as the alliance with the US. Religious circles or polity, opposition or ruling party, all are there to stand shoulder to shoulder with Pakistan army, demanding ‘earnest and meticulous’ investigation into the brazen NATO-led ISAF attack on Pakistani positions. Pakistani press is also abuzz with headlines of ‘grave consequences’ with regard to NATO provocation.
With war anthems being played in background of the footage of martyred soldiers’ burials, it seemed as if there was some warlike situation. Would this enthusiastic reaction be long-lasting, or fizzle out overnight is yet to be seen. Whatever the case, the real difference this time is that for once, military and civil bureaucracy are on the same page (if not, then ought to be) after calculating the public resentment and furor. What has to be seen is whether they reach some historic decision this time, or a reasonable ‘bargain’ would be held?
Do allies behave in this manner as NATO did on Saturday, leaving aside all promises and sacrifices to curb the terror menace and joint efforts against the radicalization tide? How can US attack its own frontline ally in the war against terror and a sovereign state -- but it happened, and that, too, at the cost of 24 Pakistani soldiers and relations of both states. Was that all arrogance of a superpower? It is indeed ironic that Pakistan which sacrificed more than 35,000 people and sustained some $68 billion losses in the war against terror is still required to prove its sincerity against militant forces or build image to secure its nukes.
What caused NATO to attack the Pakistan outposts in Mohmand area just after a meeting between the armed forces’ counterparts from Pakistan and the US? This shows that either there are some forces (in Afghanistan) who don’t want restoration of peace in the region, or the US state department, Pentagon and the allies are still unable to overcome the trust deficit.
The million dollar question is whether the ongoing hue and cry over the brazen NATO attack on Pakistani posts would bring about some change, or meet the same fate as in the case of Raymond Davis, OBL and Drones. Would it be possible for Pakistan to overlook say ‘no’ to mounting public fury?
One shouldn’t be wishful for any overnight change, or laud the clamor for pursuing the course of independent foreign policy and strong defence. With aid-dependent economy, no state can devise an independent foreign policy, especially not in the case of Pakistan which is faced with grave energy shortage and excessive external debts.
No doubt, the whole country is crying out loud against NATO aggression, just like the case of Raymond Davis or OBL, but ‘rhetoric’ or mere blocking the supply route won’t be sufficient. The US can find alternative route from north Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, and Russia via Europe, and it may also jeopardize Pakistani interest in future Afghan solution during the forthcoming Bonn Conference. On the other hand, lies after lies have created an embarrassing situation for both the Govt and army, as both have lost the public confidence after issues like uninterrupted drone strikes, Raymond Davis, May 2nd OBL-Abbotabad episode, and now NATO’s direct attack in Pakistan. People demand to review the rules of engagement.
The US must be mindful of mounting anti-Americanism in Pakistan which is, directly or indirectly, the spillover effect of War on Terrorism and the way Pakistan is being treated. It would simply extend the right wing street power and assemble the tribal lot again in the favor of those powers who won’t let progress prevail; girls like Malalay Yousafzai will have to wait for next generation to bring change.
Such actions, if continued, would make it impossible for Pakistan’s civil or military institutions to continue relations with the US. On its part, the US, too, can’t afford severing ties with Pakistan. Pakistan is already under fire from the western border, and it now has to extend its forces and surveillance for effective response.
Timely and effective response to a particular event proves the capability of a nation to ensure its defence. That’s why, sensing the situation, the army upped the ante and warned of grave consequences. But still one doubts the ‘rhetoric’ of Pakistan military as well as effectiveness of moves like blocking the supply route or setting a deadline to vacate the Shamsi Airbase. The situation rather demands use of diplomatic channels, and activating the OIC forum and UN over violating the sovereignty of a state.
Condolences and sympathies are insufficient, rather a mere repetition of the US policy of hitting and then apologizing to Pakistan ever since 9/11. Pressure on Gen Kayani is also mounting as well after OBL episode. The need of the hour is to devise a diplomatic-cum-military strategy to maintain constructive and working relations with the US, and, at the same time, to ward off any future offensive from Afghan border.
China and Russia have also raised voices against violating the sovereignty of Pakistan and demanded a thorough investigation. Actions like the recent deadly NATO strike inside Pakistan are not only hampering the efforts to eliminate the radical forces, but also widening the gulf between Pakistan and the allied forces in Afghanistan which can compromise peace in the region.