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North Waziristan question

June 30, 2012

I AM writing in response to your editorial ‘America’s frustration’ (June 24), advising the government to launch a military operation in North Waziristan.

It caused unease and despair as this advice came at a time when all parties to this doomed exercise are trying to wind up the military phase.

As citizens of a democratic country we are all entitled to our opinion, but while giving advice to the government we must look at the long-term interests of Pakistan. The least we can do is to try to make this country less insecure. While I disagree with your advice on several grounds, I will mention only four.

Like I said earlier, it is time to wind up the operation we started in South Waziristan under US pressure. The only thing we have ‘achieved’ from this operation is alienation of the local people to such a degree that now it is possible for the US, India and Afghanistan to send their operatives to kill our soldiers and retreat to their safe havens in Afghanistan.

You have stated in your editorial that even if US allegations of Pakistan’s links with the Haqqani network are incorrect, the fact of the matter is that they believe these charges to be true and this feeling is responsible for the current crisis in Pakistan-US relations. I believe it will be unfair to Pakistanis if we allow the US to succeed in using Pakistan as a scapegoat. Yes, we have behaved like mercenaries at times fighting other nations’ wars, particularly since the 1980s. But now the time has come to say no to all such pressure tactics.

While we have been busy fighting US wars ever since 1980, there has been no real development in the country. The insurance rates for our imports and exports are higher because we are in the war zone. There has been no FDI, and bomb blasts and suicide killings have ruined the tourist industry. India, in the meantime, developed its IT industry and is now in the process of achieving food and water security at our expense. People in the US are safer because we have invited the wrath directed against them to ourselves.

The US has long-term interests in the region which include isolating Pakistan (according to some evidence, encouraging dissident elements to undermine the integrity of the country), promoting India as a major regional power, reducing the influence of China – to name just a few. These goals are reminiscent of the cold war and they show that US strategic thinking in some ways is still a hostage of the past. No matter how many fronts we open in collaboration with the US, these strategic goals will not change; only our options will further reduce.

As a people who want security for ourselves and others, we need to resolve that in future we would not allow any foreign power no matter how strong and how ‘attractive the package’ to use us as mercenaries. If Pakistanis have to shed their blood, then it should be only to protect our country, our interests and our values.