It’s as we suspected. The unquiet American has been manoeuvring uncharacteristically quietly behind-the-scenes to secure Pakistan as the US get-out-of-jail card in case his intended troop surge to Afghanistan goes belly up.
The big news of the day is that Pakistan is willing to do its part to help secure Afghanistan. It has now put on the table the idea of joint border operations with Kabul. Moreover, the COAS has agreed to the US assuming the role of third-party monitoring verifier, something that our western neighbour has long been urging.
Yet true to script, the visiting US delegation — whom our boys in khaki had taken on a partial tour of the country’s tribal badlands to demonstrate the extent to which we have dismantled militant sanctuaries — waited until it was safely across the border in American-occupied territory before letting us have it.
It was a case of the usual. Pakistan must cooperate with Washington in the fight against the Afghan Taliban and the Haqqani network, both of which are believed — with good reason, we might add — of using Pakistani soil to launch cross-border attacks. And then came the usual threats. Namely that if we don’t change our ‘behaviour’ then they will think about changing theirs.
To this we say: easy, tiger. And we really don’t mean to be overly flippant. This is, after all, the most sophisticated military in the world. One that has threatened to bomb us back to the Stone Age. One that has been raining down drones on our most restive areas for the last 13 years. One that Trump’s predecessor had twice put on notice regarding striking Quetta, a populous urban centre. If we may be so bold — it is the US that needs to commit to some out-of-the-box thinking. Pakistan has been onsistent throughout.
If Washington is serious about having Pakistan as a true for partner for peace it needs to drop once and for all the carrot-and-stick posturing. We say this despite being mindful of the double game on terrorism that successive leaderships have played. Yet more mindful are we of the simple truth that Pakistan is still a sovereign nation. We have done our best, too, in the face of US State Department and IMF moves to gain certain control over our economy.
So what is to be done?
We suggest that a good place to start is for the Americans to remember that Afghanistan, too, is a sovereign nation. And not some outpost of neo-colonial militarism. And linked to this must come the recognition that the occupation of Afghanistan fuels the problems in Pakistan. Both the Afghan Taliban and the Haqqani network attack what they see as the puppet regime in Kabul installed by way of a militarised American foreign policy. It is no use to simply tell the Pakistani state to flush the militants from its soil. The US must do its part to de-legitimise their mandate.
In short, we ask that it does, indeed, change its behaviour. Or else we will have no option but to conclude that Washington is not serious about peace.
Daily Times, July 6, 2017