US-Pakistan: increasing anxiety
April 15, 2011
The protracted war in Afghanistan and the increasing mistrust between Washington and Islamabad has severely undermined the latter’s national interest. The current chill in the bilateral relations between the United States and Pakistan is, obviously, in the interest of the terrorist syndicate residing in the region and acting against both States’ interests. It is, therefore, imperative that both sides act pragmatically and collaborate sincerely in combating the menace of terrorism.
Recently, Washington and Islamabad cordiality was spoiled by four visible incidents i.e. Raymond Davis killing two Pakistanis in Lahore; the unearthing of American intelligence agencies’ covert operations inside the country and the people of Pakistan’s serious resentment on such activities in the electronic and print media; the drone attacks, especially March 17, 2011 drone strike on Jirga meeting; and above all, increasing pessimistic perceptions about each other. Americans believe that worsening situation in Afghanistan is due to the Al Qaeda and Afghan Taliban sanctuaries in Pakistan. Conversely, Pakistanis conclude that American policies in the region are the cause of their internal and external security challenges.
The aforementioned factors forced the Pakistani establishment to snub the United States’ on its negative activities in the country. For instance, the joint US-Pakistan intelligence operations were halted in late January 2011. According to the press reports, since January, both sides have failed to restore the joint operations against the transnational terrorist organizations. Islamabad also refused to participate in the trilateral meeting between Afghanistan-Pakistan-U.S. in Brussels. The continuing ill will between the intelligence agencies impedes military operations against the terrorist groups.
Neither Washington nor Kabul realize the inability of the United States and NATO-led ISAF armed forces in preventing the Afghanistan-Pakistan border crossing by the members of the transnational terrorist syndicate residing in the region. Ironically, they simply allege and pressurize Islamabad to do more in checking illegal border-crossing. The recent White House report multiplied Pakistan’s anxieties.
Admittedly, the political stability and peace in Afghanistan is in the interest of Pakistan. The turmoil in Afghanistan gives rise to the devastating developments in the neighboring countries. Against this backdrop, President Asif Ali Zardari categorically stated that the war in Afghanistan was destabilizing Pakistan and seriously undermining its efforts to restore democratic institutions and economic prosperity. The ruling elite in Pakistan are very much disturbed by the American political elite and media misinterpretation of the situation in Afghanistan. On April 11, 2011, in an interview to the Guardian, President Zardari pointed out: “Just as the Mexican drug war on US borders makes a difference to Texas and American society, we are talking about a war on our border, which is obviously having a huge effect.” More precisely, the Afghan imbroglio is taxing Pakistan economically and also sabotaging its security.
The US-Pakistan relations received a severe blow by Raymond Davis, a Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) contractor, who shot dead two Pakistanis on January 27, 2011, in Lahore. He was released after the settlement and was permitted to leave Pakistan in March 2011. Though the case was resolved by the Federal Government and Mr. Raymond left the country, the Prime Minister Gilani government has been facing a severe criticism by the opposition members in the National Assembly and opposition parties on the streets. On April 11, 2011, the Opposition Leader in National Assembly Chaudhry Nisar, on the floor of the Assembly, questioned the settlement of the case. He urged Prime Minister Gilani to take the house in confidence on the Raymond Davis issue.
Among the other recent visible irritants, one of the most devastating issues was the drone strike on a tribal Jirga meeting in North Waziristan along the Afghanistan border on March 17, 2011. The strike on Jirga killed at least 45 innocent Pakistanis and amplified anti-Americanism in the country. The Chief of the Army Staff, General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, publically criticized the United States drone attacks in the Federally Administrated Tribal Areas. In addition, the United States Ambassador Cameron Munter was summoned to the Foreign Office where he was categorically told by Foreign Secretary Salman Bashir that ‘such strikes were not only unacceptable, but also constituted a flagrant violation of humanitarian norms and law’. The general impression is that General Kayani and foreign office reactions were taken seriously by the Washington. Nevertheless, the pragmatic process to restore the trust of Pakistani people and establishment is missing.
The war in Afghanistan has become America’s longest war or overseas military operation. The longevity of the war has been increasing frustration in the United States. Therefore, the Obama Administration has been intelligently shifting the burden on Pakistan. This tactic of the American administration is obviously not acceptable for the Pakistanis, and thereby they are begrudged. Simultaneously, the war in Afghanistan has been causing a lot of problems for Pakistan. The increasing militancy and extremism hinder the country’s economic prosperity.
To conclude, Islamabad and Washington have to review their bilateral relations and prevail over the lingering mistrust between them to combat effectively the menace of extremism and militancy in the region. The sooner they resolve their issues, the better it is for both states.