Pressing the ‘reset’ button

US Senator John Kerry visited Pakistan in an obvious attempt to continue with the US’s carrot and stick policy. The mistrust between the two sides had always been there, before and since 9/11, but after Osama bin Laden was killed in the garrison town of Abbottabad, the gulf has further widened. Senator Kerry has been one of the few ‘friends’ of Pakistan in the US. Thus it is all but obvious why he would have been chosen to deliver the ‘friendly fire’ in light of the Abbottabad raid. While assurances were given from both sides of bilateral cooperation in the war on terror, Senator Kerry warned the Pakistani authorities: “The road ahead will not be defined by words. It will be defined by actions.” This was diplomatic parlance for ‘put your money where your mouth is’. Senator Kerry made it clear that many in the US Congress are “raising tough questions” about the US’s economic assistance to the government of Pakistan “because of the events as they unfolded and because of the presence of Osama bin Laden in Pakistan”. Even though it has not yet been proved if the civilian or military leadership in Pakistan had any idea about bin Laden’s presence on our soil, many in the US think the Pak-US relationship cannot be repaired. But Senator Kerry emphasised that it is important to press the “reset button” to put this relationship back on track in order to combat terrorism.

Senator Kerry told our leadership that the secrecy surrounding the Abbottabad operation was not due to mistrust of our military but for reasons of operational security. Mr Kerry’s ‘assurance’ may well be a face-saving exercise to appease our military top brass. While he was here, two US drone strikes killed at least nine people in Pakistan for which the Americans quietly apologised. Despite the Americans’ papering over these issues, Mr Kerry’s statement in Afghanistan should not be forgotten where he said that another unilateral operation could take place in Pakistan in case of a high profile target like Mullah Omar. Pakistan has denied the presence of Mullah Omar and his ‘Quetta Shura’ on our soil and the whereabouts of Gulbuddin Hekmatyar are not known, but surely we know that the Haqqani network is very much present in North Waziristan. If Pakistan genuinely wants to deliver results, it has to take action against the Haqqanis. In such a scenario, there has to be a guarantee that the Haqqanis will not be tipped off and shifted elsewhere. In that case, an operation in North Waziristan may not bear any fruitful results. Pakistan has to understand that the gulf of mistrust cannot be overcome just because Senator Kerry has tried to pull the relationship back from the brink when it was on the verge of collapsing. If we do not act honestly now, the US will deal with Pakistan with redoubled toughness. Our leadership assured Senator Kerry that it will take action against the sanctuaries on our soil but we must keep in mind that the original sin was in providing these ‘safe havens’ to terrorist organisations. This came about because of our double game of which the Americans have now had enough. Has this policy been re-evaluated? If not, we are in for more trouble.

As far as our sovereignty is concerned, the Americans have seen that they can get away with violating it at their whim and will. If we do not deliver the results they want, they can do so again with impunity in their own interest. It is time to take stock of the situation and stop living in denial. We played a double game, we paid. Now we need to admit this flaw and move on by ridding our soil of all internal and external terrorist elements.

(my editorial in Daily Times)

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