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A steep and slippery path


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IN assessing the current state of US-Pakistan ties and determining their future direction, what is one to make of the reports over the last week?

First we have a report that the US has rejected the Pakistani claim for reimbursement of $2.8bn from the Coalition Support Fund. The next day we have a report that the Pakistan embassy in Washington has been able to persuade the chairman of a congressional committee to drop his objections and allow the reimbursement of $1.18bn which, as in the past, represented about 75 per cent of what Pakistan had claimed.

Then we had yet another report quoting an American official that no agreement on reimbursement had been reached. Clearly, the Americans are not yet relinquishing this pressure point.

More drone attacks have been carried out and the Pakistan Foreign Office has lodged more vehement but meaningless protests. Since the Nato summit in Chicago last month eight drone attacks have been reported and some 30 people apparently killed.

Most reports on these attacks have come from foreign sources and suggest that the people killed were militants. Reuters has reported being told by Pakistani and American officials that the latest attack early on Monday morning was aimed at Abu Yahya Al Libbi a close aide of Ayman Al Zawahiri.

There is no confirmation that Abu Yahya was hit but it is significant that Pakistani officials knew of the raid and knew who the intended target was, although whether this information came to Pakistanis before or after the raid is not clear.

Talks on the reopening of the transit route appear to be dragging on interminably. A new shot in the psychological battle was fired by Nato Secretary General Rasmussen who announced that agreement had been reached with the three Central Asian Republics bordering Afghanistan to allow the use of their territory to ship in or ship out Nato vehicles and other heavy equipment. This suggests that extra expenditure notwithstanding Nato could withdraw without resort to the Pakistan transit route.

Was this mere whistling in the wind? Earlier statements from the logistics commander had suggested that without the Pakistan transit route withdrawal would not be completed by end 2014.

The full transcript of an interview President Karzai gave to Time magazine on May 13, the day of Arsala Rahmani’s assassination, was released on May 31. In this long rambling often contradictory interview, Karzai was nevertheless clear that what they were fighting in Afghanistan was not an insurgency but terrorism and that “the war on terror is not in the Afghan villages or homes. It’s in the sanctuaries, it is in the training grounds….”; and he went on to add “if it is a war on terror then the Afghan people will join you on terror”.

This would seem to suggest that the Karzai administration would happily allow the use of its territory for the US war on terror including attacks on ‘sanctuaries’ in Pakistan.

Having pointed the finger at Pakistan he refused to term Pakistan an enemy and claimed that “an effective war on terror … has not been done, and we must do it together”. He seemed to think that reconciliation was needed both in Pakistan and Afghanistan: “The other point is for both of us to seek to bring the reconcilable in this process to reconciliation, to peace and Afghanistan should help Pakistan do it in their own territory, and Pakistan I hope will help us do it in our own territory….”

One does not know what sort of reconciliation in Pakistan Karzai wished to help with but we do know that from the perspective of certain circles in Pakistan Mullah Fazlullah and his band of insurgents are being assisted in Kunar and Nuristan by Afghan intelligence. More recently, the inspector general of the Frontier Corps, Balochistan, said that several farari (fugitive) camps of Baloch dissidents are based in Afghanistan.

As regards Pakistan’s assistance in Afghan reconciliation Karzai maintains that those who want reconciliation are suffering in Pakistan when they don’t follow the Pakistan line.

We have a host of grievances with the Americans ranging from their strategic partnership with India though Pakistan was the South Asian country sacrificing the most while partnering with the US in the war on terror. The grievances include encouraging India to play a larger role in Afghanistan while ignoring the concerns this arouses in Pakistan, and urging Afghanistan to enter into a strategic partnership agreement with India, as well as refusing to give Pakistan the same civil nuclear deal the US has with India.

There are also complaints of the refusal to recognise that Pakistan, because of its position as landlocked Afghanistan’s route to the outside world and for bearing the heavy burden of Afghan refugees, had a right to a substantive role in determining Afghanistan’s future dispensation. There have also been apprehensions vis-à-vis the sinister motives of America seeking a presence in Afghanistan post-2014

The highlighting of these grievances and apprehensions and the fuelling of fears about malevolent American intentions with regard to Pakistan’s nuclear assets have helped generate a degree of anti-Americanism in the general public that will be difficult to overcome, particularly when there is no visible impact from the $22bn in assistance that the Americans say they have given Pakistan over the last decade.

This is truly a ridiculous situation. Our principal differences arise on Afghanistan. And yet any clear-headed analysis would show that if we do not entertain unattainable ambitions, Pakistan and the US have many more areas of convergence in this area than they do of divergence. Pakistan, more than the US, needs to build on these convergences. To do otherwise will ensure that the slippery path on which we mistakenly embarked many years ago will intensify regional tensions and perhaps make our survival difficult.

The writer is a former foreign secretary.

The views expressed by this writer and commenters below do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of the Dawn Media Group.

Comments (17) Closed

John Gerald Jun 06, 2012 05:04am
Pakistan seems to be embarked on ques for its obliteration. It has no friends left except the 'all weather friend China'. In due course Pakistan will realise the reality of the chinese friendship. It is interesting to read that pakistan president was recived by a deputy foreign minister on his recent arrival in China!
BRR Jun 06, 2012 05:15am
Like most foreign office personnel, and similar to the UN Ambassador who spoke about nuclear war recently, this writer too has some strange opinions. How can he substantiate his statement "Pakistan, because of its position as landlocked Afghanistan’s route to the outside world and for bearing the heavy burden of Afghan refugees, had a right to a substantive role in determining Afghanistan’s future dispensation". Just because Afghanistan is landlocked, why should Pakistan be given special rights over it? What international law is that from? So, if Pakistan doe not gets a say over "Afghanistan’s future dispensation", will it play the spoiler? Will it prop up the Taliban just to have an influence over Afghanistan? Back to the "strategic depth" are we?
Akbar Jun 06, 2012 09:31pm
Agree..this is are landlocked are you the choosen one???? What a pity. The politicians leading Pakistan lack basic sense of international outlook and respect for other nations independence. Today..Pakistan's U turn towards India is seen as such a joke by many in India. You gain respect as secular force -not as an islamic citadel.
rashed Jun 06, 2012 09:41am
When pak says , they have been denied India like nuclear deal ,do they consider their track record any time? Dr Afridi being sentenced to 33 yrs - any protest in Pakistan ,was it a blunder on his part to have helped in eliminating OBL ,the most dreaded criminal? It will take lot of time for them to clean their slate ,may be generations.
Cyrus Howell Jun 06, 2012 08:30am
The American people have given up on Pakistan. Pakistan as an ally is beginning to look like a mistake. To make little sense. Plus the fact that whatever people personally think of Obama he is not a fool. He does not play games.
P1845 Jun 06, 2012 08:48am
China is much smarter a country. They keep their interests, firstly, economic in sight. Pakistan would need monetary support from China, which may not be forthcoming. Pakistan needs to find a friend in Pakistan first.
Jaihoon Jun 07, 2012 02:05am
Pakistani former and present officials are day dreaming to arrogate to themselves the right to have a say in the future dispensation of Afghanistan They need to have their heads examined
Aviratam Jun 06, 2012 11:27am
Mr. Shaikh is always a pleasure to read. Pakistan could do worse than follow the advice in the last part of this article, with particular reference for Pakistan to "not entertain unattainable ambitions". The US is already moving on, note Panetta's visit to New Delhi this week; and if reports are correct, India is being asked to take a more active role in Afghanistan and elsewhere in Asia. US policy is not directed at Pakistan per se, but in pursuit of its global strategic ambitions, if that happens, so be it - the prerogative of a Super Power. It has to be Pakistan that must adjust its sails and that is where Mr. Shaikh's sagacious prescription comes in.
Tamoor Khan Jun 06, 2012 11:35am
Well, time will tell that how much US is going to regret it's behavior with Pakistan. One thing is for sure that there is no solution to Afghanistan if you leave Pakistan out of it. Plus, involving India in this game is for sure going to bring more disastrous results, that we can only imagine. Looks like US is on the path of old soviet union, just tik tak - tik tak.
Mohammad Ali Khan Jun 06, 2012 11:00am
There is corruption,tribalism,and religious fanaticism in Pakistan and Afghanistan.US and its allies support the Zionists and uses VETO against the Palestinians. People of Pakistan and Afghanistan are in a no win situation.
Gaurav Arya Jun 06, 2012 10:09am
Somtimes when I see Pakistani TV anchors speaking about China, I am left wondering what they are so gung-ho about. China does not support Pakistan on Kashmir and Siachen. It maintains the "bilateral issue" stance. The loans for the Karakoram Highway are essentially for contracts that go to Chinese companies. It has not even given one-fourth of the funds that the US gives to Pakistan. Pakistan's Foriegn ministry needs to know the difference between "love affairs" and "foriegn affairs". China is totally focussed on its interests. So should Pakistan. Dont over romantisise the "friendship" issue. Keep it practical and pro-Pakistani.
Socrates Jun 06, 2012 10:05am
Pakistanis overwhelming believe that they are purely Arab. If they dont then they want to become fully Arab. Arabization might be their only path to survival. It will at least get them some money from the oil rich Arab states.
Mohammad Ali Khan Jun 07, 2012 11:38am
I am surprised that people don't agree with me when I say that the leaders in Pakistan and Afghanistan are corrupt, and there is nepotism and religious fanaticism in their country. I am surprised that people don't agree with me when I say that super power and its allies have double standards in their foreign policy.
NASAH (USA) Jun 06, 2012 04:17am
If China can have 'strategic partnership' with the Karzai government -- why can't Pakistan. Has the United States prevented Pakistan from doing so -- or is it very hard for Pakistan to climb out of its army's "strategic depth"?
Essjay Jun 06, 2012 01:35pm
Re: ".. recognise that Pakistan, because of its position as landlocked Afghanistan’s route to the outside world.. had a right to a substantive role in determining Afghanistan’s future dispensation". Exactly what the world does not agree with. The people of Pakistan will determine their future dispensation. There are 47 other Land-Locked countries besides Afghanistan. There are international treaties, norms and guidelines to deal with the situation. They don't include that the country that provides access to coastline has the right to gouge or blackmail.
umair Jun 06, 2012 12:54pm
Pakistan does not need to comply to US but to follow her own interests and what the people of Pakistan wish so. The current US pressure on Pakistan will not work well in the interest of US and will soon prove counter productive. To be independent and sovereign is every country right and US should respect this.
cautious Jun 06, 2012 01:44pm
The principle differences between the USA and Pakistan are only superficially tied to Afghanistan. The USA believes that your "establishment" supports Al Qaeda and militant extremist - that's the root cause of the distrust/dispute.