Nato blockade ‘hurting’ army’s interests too

Published December 11, 2013
— File photo
— File photo

PESHAWAR, Dec 10: The ongoing suspension of North Atlantic Treaty Organisation’s (Nato) supplies by Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa is against Pakistan military’s interest and therefore, the military cannot afford to remain indifferent to it, according to security experts.

These experts told Dawn on Tuesday that PTI’s campaign against Nato supplies via Khyber Pakhtunkhwa had implications for the military, harming its interest directly and indirectly alike.

Aside from the anticipated suspension of Coalition Support Fund to which US Secretary of Defence Chuck Hagel also drew attention of Pakistani authorities during his visit to Islamabad on Monday, the PTI move has also affected military’s business interest.

“The National Logistics Cell, a military outfit, has a major stake (business) in Nato supply operations and the same has experienced a hit because of the shipments’ suspension,” said Brig (r) Mohammad Saad, a former military attaché at Pakistan Embassy in Kabul.

PTI and its coalition partners have set up Nato supply blockade camps at five points in four districts of the province since Nov 23 in protest against the US drone strikes in Pakistan.

Brig (r) Saad said if the US slowed assistance under the Kerry-Lugar Bergman law, it would result in economic problems for the country, which would be harmful for the army, too.

Khalid Aziz, former chief secretary of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, also holds the same opinion.

He said Pakistan could face troubles if the US influenced International Monetary Fund and World Bank besides delaying the Coalition Support Fund assistance to Pakistan.

According to Dr Hassan Askari Rizvi, a defence analyst, Pakistan will get major trade concessions from European Union starting from Jan 1, 2014, which could also be jeopardised.

How would be the military leadership viewing this situation?

“They (Pakistan military commanders) will be perturbed, but they will see this situation quietly for the time being,” he said.

“They would certainly do something if this continues for a longer period.”

Khalid Aziz thinks the military might have already given its projection to the political leadership about the support they (Nato) are extending to Pakistan.

Brig (r) Saad thinks the army has undergone major leadership changes and therefore, they might take some more time before doing something about the suspended Nato supplies.

According to experts, the friendly working relationship with Nato member countries is vital for Pakistan military.

Dr Rizvi said Pakistan could not entirely depend on China for meeting its military hardware requirements.

“China can supply light weapons, whereas our military depends on the US and Europeans for heavy weaponry,” he said.

“Their relationship is vital to Pakistan military.”

Brig (r) Saad also holds an identical view.

According to him, the military leadership might have been seeing this with a different perspective.

It was not intervening to let the steam out.

“They may not be intervening under the notion that ‘law of diminishing return’ will work on its own,” said Brig (r) Saad.

The Nato blockade done by a political party and not by the state can result into problems of a magnitude that might not have been considered by PTI, said the experts.

Brig (r) Saad said the US had gone in Afghanistan as part of International Security Assistance Force, set up by the United Nations.

ISAF, he added, had presence of countries like Turkey and the United Arab Emirates.

“What signals are we giving to the international community?” said Mr Saad.

“Diplomacy always aims at increasing friends and reducing enemies, but PTI’s action would not make that happen in Pakistan’s case.”

Brig (r) Mehmood Shah, a former intelligence official, said the United Nations could be moved against Pakistan since Nato’s presence in Afghanistan was protected under a UN resolution.

“They could have easily taken you to the UN, but they are showing restraint as their supplies are continuing from Chaman in Balochistan,” he said.

Pakistan’s real troubles, Brig (r) Shah added, could start if Balochistan’s supply route was also disrupted.

“In that case, they would imply that the move has a support from the federal government and the army,” he said.

The PTI protest camps, said former chief secretary Aziz, had not only blocked Nato supplies as the sit-ins were negatively impacting the transition in Afghanistan.

The US, he added, was working on a drawdown plan as part of which Afghan forces would be strengthened.

“We are negatively affecting the transition in Afghanistan,” Mr Aziz said, adding that the US would not want to move out its equipment from Afghanistan through the northern distribution line.

“This would not be cost effective as it would cost them 10 times more than what they are spending on moving equipment via Torkham.”

According to Mr Aziz, there is also the Russian factor involved if they take the Northern route and that the opening of the Torkham route is vital for the Americans.



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