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Regional path to peace

Updated January 14, 2018

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THE occupant of the White House in the US may have his sanity questioned by many in his country as he appears to impulsively fire off policy suggestions over Twitter.

For instance, the financial assistance cut-off to Pakistan has been a hasty response to a presidential tweet. But Pakistan is doing the right thing by apparently keeping the lines of communication open with the US.

The public response by the Pakistani state has been far from consistent or easily understood — perhaps because of political distractions on the civilian government’s side and the military leadership’s unwillingness to be forthright about the relationship with the US.

Encouragingly, though, it seems that Pakistan’s combined leadership is suggesting that the US should not cross red lines even as this country seeks to find areas of cooperation with a more belligerent American administration.

Certainly, the threat of unilateral action inside Pakistan by the US is intolerable and could create impossible-to-contain tensions.

The abortive Angoor Adda incursion in South Waziristan Agency by the US during the last months of the George W. Bush administration and the Salala incident during the first term of Barack Obama suggest that even without the cynical fanning of anti-US sentiment among the public by elements within the Pakistani state, unilateral US military actions can stoke fierce public opposition that no government, or indeed the state itself, would be able to defuse easily.

Unilateral military actions are also a preposterous and self-defeating idea. If it ever does come to that, does any rational US policymaker believe that it would be worth more than the continuing Pakistani cooperation, which would hardly be possible in such circumstances?

The undeniable failures of US policy in Afghanistan under three separate presidents cannot and should not be foisted on Pakistan. It is welcome that at least some US officials have attempted to downplay or deny the possibility of unilateral military action inside Pakistan.

As to the cooperation that Pakistan can extend to the Afghan government in the regional fight against militancy and terrorism, the authorities in this country ought to recognise that neither have Pakistani protestations of having done enough convinced the outside world, nor is the latter’s demand likely to recede.

No foreign country that has been involved in the UN-sanctioned and US-led war in Afghanistan has accepted Pakistan’s version of events, and successive Afghan governments have also refused to do so.

There is surely an element of heaping blame on Pakistan for the failures of strategy and military action by other powers, but all the complaints can’t be treated as a figment of an anti-Pakistan imagination.

What was true in 2001 is true in 2018: Afghanistan, Pakistan and the US are the principal powers that can help forge a path to peace and stability in Afghanistan. Unnecessary provocations by the US should not obscure that reality.

Published in Dawn, January 14th, 2018

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