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In the midst of fury

November 30, 2011

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Illustration by Faraz Aamer Khan

Pakistan doesn’t often know what’s best for it. Although still a young country, it has adopted the nature of a very old woman who spends her time conspiring, imagining threats, throwing tantrums and only invests her energy in keeping defenses ready for real and imaginary woes.

Where Pakistan has been criticized for letting its “ally” in the war walk all over its sovereignty, this time we see a very different reaction to an incident that rightfully so outraged the whole nation. For once we can see that the loss of 24 Pakistani lives is not being taken lightly and is drawing apologies and support from all corners – and what a waste of putting up a strong front it would be if Pakistan were to go soft now. Yes, the dollars – it always comes down to the dollars – but to what extent? There has to come a time when deaths will stop being just mere statistics in a muddled up war.

Shutting off supply routes and asking for withdrawal from the Shamsi base should just be the beginning of the establishment showing its firmness and it should not stop there. But while Pakistan attempts to put the international community in its place, it also needs to tackle internal and external terror elements to eliminate the loss of lives because repeatedly labeling deaths caused by the “ally’s” drone strikes as collateral damage is just as bad as the wrath militants have unleashed upon us. The US, Nato and all the others working hard on being Pakistan’s “friend” would perhaps have little justification for dropping in for a strike every other day if we could only clean up our mess ourselves.

However, while Pakistan stands its ground and continues to dismiss apologies as not being enough, it should not further dig itself deeper into the hole it is already in. Not attending the Bonn conference may be one such mistake. The agenda of the conference will focus on the transition from Nato to Afghan control and long-term international engagement. Although the agenda will not be focusing on the Taliban and Pakistan, but given its attempt at maintaining a strategic partnership, geographical location and historic ties, Pakistan’s absence in this conference may not be the most prudent decision the unhappy chiefs could make right now.

As a neighbour with historic ties to the Taliban, Pakistan is considered integral to ending the decade-long conflict, however, that may not matter as much now that the Taliban will not be attending either. But if there is even a slight possibility that Bonn may turn out to be “a defining moment in so-called endgame in Afghanistan”, it is imperative that Pakistan should be represented there. Or for that matter, since any decision or strategy regarding Afghanistan’s long-term stability is directly related to Pakistan as well, it may help to re-consider its current stance on the conference.

The US launched its bloody war to ensure the security interests of its country. Given the fact that all the deaths since then have been taking place in this region, Pakistan cannot be criticized now for aligning its policy looking at its own national interest. When the Western policy remains a murky mixture of a back and forth tirade between “let’ talk to the Taliban and kill them” – why is Pakistan’s policy on wanting to talk then seem as unacceptable? You cannot find common ground when a policy is contradicted continuously. The US has failed in convincing Pakistan on what it actually wants and vice versa. Pushing, negotiating and retreating needs to stop now before we are back to square one again. The US will not be able to achieve any miracles in Afghanistan by 2014, looking at the mess the past 10 years were. With a high possibility of an insurgency continuing, it is also a high possibility that failure of suppressing that would be blamed on Pakistan. So before we are blamed for being responsible for yet another failure, we might want to sit on the very table that devises strategies which will directly or indirectly impact us.

Security in Afghanistan will mean security in Pakistan – as much as Pakistan is trying to make a big and bold statement here, it needs to realise that in the end its absence may only prove to be counter-productive in this mess of a war.

The writer is the Deputy Editor at Dawn.com