By Imtiaz Alam
May 26, 2016
Redlines have indeed been crossed too often by adversaries-in-partnership against terrorism – terrorism that they have been sponsoring and countering to their own convenience. What is new in this crossing of limits is that a defiant Amir of the Afghan Taliban has been taken out by US drones that have been used for the first time in southern Pakistan.
Will this affect the Pak-US more than the killing of Osama bin Laden that took place quite embarrassingly close to Pakistan’s capital in 2011?
Drone strikes have been taking place against some of the most wanted terrorists with Pakistan’s consent most of the times – and in certain cases regardless of our willingness or without prior intimation. However, at crucial times the drone strikes have put us in a most embarrassing position when the world saw notorious terrorists being taken out from our soil, despite our official pledge not to allow terrorists to operate from our territory.
A lame-duck Foreign Office was allowed some room for self-serving denial and condemnation of the violation of our otherwise dependent sovereignty that has remained pledged to the US and other multi-donors or has been gradually subsumed by globalisation.
The US has undoubtedly violated our sovereign geographical space. And we have also been violating international covenants and the UN Security Council resolutions by not eliminating all sanctuaries of those who have been using Pakistan territory against Afghanistan and other countries.
In fact we have been compromising our sacrifices and struggle against terrorism because of this discriminatory approach, allowing our adversarial partners to twist our arm amid their continuing demands to ‘do more’. When nobody is ready to trust your words, because too often you act otherwise, no diplomat or public representative can take the burden of telling white lies to the world which knows the difference between our words and deeds in any case.
This is not to absolve the US and others for double-speak or double-standards. But in a transactional relationship with the US, the Pakistani establishment and our governments have been agreeing to certain targets and deliverables against a certain amount of funds – such as the Coalition Support Fund and other US grants under the Kerry-Lugar-Berman bill. What should not be ignored is that the US president has vowed to continue to go after those who threaten the security of the US and Afghanistan, and this US is also committed to do so under the US-Afghan accord.
We were stunned when Bin Laden was found and killed in Abbottabad. Instead of taking cue from Zardari’s intelligent article in the New York Times that focused on cooperation in nabbing Bin Laden, the security establishment took it as an offence – despite having faced huge embarrassment. The civil-military tension over that led to the Memogate scandal.
This time the civilian leadership has come up with a rejoinder to the US while having any say about the sordid matter. On the one hand, we say that yes we provide the Afghan Taliban with some succour and have some influence over them and can try to persuade them into negotiations if the Afghan government concedes some of the preconditions of Taliban.
On the other hand, we insist that we don’t have any control over them and they are inaccessible. That did provide us some limited room to manoeuvre for small tactical gains, but jeopardised our strategic goal of an inter-dependent peace in Pakistan and Afghanistan. The irony of the killings of Mullah Mansour and Bin Laden on our soil is that it puts us in the company of terrorists; and by crying foul we further increase our international isolation as well as embarrassment for our diplomats.
Mullah Mansour’s killing is even much more disturbing for Pakistan than Bin Laden’s elimination. It has happened at a time when the conflict in Afghanistan has entered a crucial phase. Instead of succeeding in persuading the Afghan Taliban to come to the negotiations table, we are being seen to be allegedly facilitating their summer onslaught on Kabul and elsewhere. On the other hand, Pakistan is also rightly accusing Afghanistan of providing sanctuary to the Pakistani Taliban.
Mutual suspicions and use of proxies against each other serves the purpose of the outlaws that threaten these two nation-states. In fact, Afghanistan’s anarchic conditions and the abundance of vagabond terrorists there provide a most lucrative market for recruitment by adversaries to run their proxy wars. If Pakistan’s concerns are genuine then it must engage its neighbours to bring an end to this dangerous brinkmanship.
Serious questions are also being raised about our strategic designs regarding not only Afghanistan but also our other neighbours. If we do not want strategic depth in Afghanistan, what exactly do we want? Should we be pushing Iran against us for no reasons? If China and India, despite fierce competition and increasing tension, can trade and compete for markets in Saudi Arabia, Iran, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Afghanistan, Nepal, Maldives and elsewhere, why can’t we do the same? If the US doesn’t see its relationship with Pakistan through the prism of India, why should we view the US, Afghanistan, Iran, Bangladesh and other countries in the region through India’s presence there?
If India is able to equally cultivate relations with both Saudi Arabia and Iran, why can’t we do that too? Learning from the enemy is not as bad as we assume. And why should we be taking the Chabahar port facility as a counterweight to Gwadar? Don’t we know that under the ‘One Belt One Road’ strategy China is already linked with Iran by railroad, and also intends to raise its business with Iran to $500 billion as compared to India’s $500 investment in the port there?
Closing the world around us only serves our enemies. Will our parliament ever consider the plausibility and desirability of our suicidal paradigms?
Imtiaz Alam is a senior journalist.