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Pakistan ‘frontline’ role

By Ahmed Quraishi
Mr Richard Armitage might have threatened to bomb Pakistan back to the Stone Age. We dodged the threat by accepting to be bombed in installments over eight years instead of at one fell swoop. Over $64 billion in losses, thousands maimed, injured, displaced and orphaned, we might as well have gone to war from day one.
And yet Pakistan’s political and military elites remain reluctant to recognise how fast the United States has moved from a so-so friend to a sworn enemy. We have no reason for enmity with Washington. But the new seeds of discord were sown by the US itself: ignoring Pakistani counsel in Afghanistan and doggedly ensuring that Kabul turns into a base for anti-Pakistanism in the region.
That our spooks are now surprised by the new demands is surprising for the rest of us. The unnamed Pakistani intelligence officials quoted by Washington Post’s Greg Miller on Saturday see the American request for CIA drone attacks in and around Quetta as an ‘affront to our sovereignty’. Our spooks are second to none. But their successes of the past thirty-six months are dwarfed by the failures of the past eight years. These are probably the same people who blindly followed US intelligence and wrongly bombed Pakistani civilians in our tribal belt on two different occasions in just this year; faulty American intelligence that resulted in tens of dead innocent Pakistanis. Granted that our military had the courage to apologise in a commendable shift from Gen Musharraf’s days. But we continue to swallow all kinds of US intelligence ‘findings’ without questioning their reasoning.
I was insulted, as a Pakistani citizen, when I read an unnamed Pakistani official tell WashPost in the same report that Quetta cannot be bombed because it’s a ‘core part’ of Pakistan. Is our tribal belt not part of Pakistan? Are our valiant tribal Pakistanis expendable?
A year ago Washington was insisting Islamabad grant visas to hundreds of US intelligence operatives to enter Pakistan. A US security company was busted secretly recruiting hundreds of retired Pakistani military officers with insider connections in sensitive military units. Agents carrying diplomatic immunity were busted inside the red zone around some of the most critical Pakistani nuclear installations.
Pakistani appeasement knows no bounds. Last year, junior and senior US diplomats in Islamabad played ping pong with the Pakistanis as they took turns to publicly warn that the US will bomb Quetta to target the alleged Afghan Taliban leadership there. It was almost a declaration of war by junior diplomats of a foreign country on our soil. And what was our reaction? A timid silence by Pakistani politicians, government and the military while the Foreign Office was tasked to repeat its stale line, ‘if you give us evidence, we’ll act’ or bomb Quetta ourselves, or something to that effect.
We’ve allowed the Americans to set up a consulate in Quetta and now an expanded CIA presence is in the offing. This is the same failed Pakistani policy that, one year ago, granted hundreds of visas to US agents and let a US security company, DynCorp, and its local collaborators off the hook just because our political and military leaderships were jubilant over a promised ‘strategic dialogue’ with US, where we made an ass of ourselves by running to US government with long lists of demands virtually asking Washington to run Pakistan for us and end up be shunned.
Pakistan’s political and military leaderships should convene a policy review over Afghanistan and make drastic policy changes:
• It is not in Pakistan’s interest to fight a sizeable segment of the Afghan population resisting a messy foreign occupation
• There is no evidence that limited covert support by Pakistani tribesmen to their Afghan kin is responsible for America’s defeat in Afghanistan
• It is America’s and Afghan government’s failures inside Afghanistan that are cause for failure, solution lies inside Afghanistan and not in Pakistan
• Pakistan’s legitimate strategic interests in the region will not be decided according to the plans of others
• Extremism and violence in the region must be contained in tandem with resolving disputes in Afghanistan and Kashmir
• Pakistan’s extremism problem is a Pakistani issue; foreign forces in Afghanistan should not link it to their Afghan problems
• Pakistan should question ‘findings’ that link Kashmiri groups and others in Pakistan to purported foreign terror plots; we can’t allow non-state actors to attack others but we can’t be blackmailed over a complex situation involving sources of conflict beyond our borders
There have been many cases where enough evidence existed to show Pakistan had been deliberately framed in alleged foreign terror plots as a way of extracting strategic concessions. Unfortunately, we played along to keep our ‘frontline’ role intact and continue receiving aid in its name. Even if Pakistan is compensated for its $64 billion losses, we have no business to be part of a war against ourselves.

The writer works for Geo television.
Email: [email protected]

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