Mending Pak-US relations

At the 140th Corps Commanders’ Conference held at GHQ, Pakistan’s military top brass was trying to be all macho by saying that our military could do without US assistance by depending on its own resources. This was a response to the US suspension of $ 800 million in military aid to Pakistan. Whether this is a permanent aid cut or just a “pause” as has been said officially, only time will tell. China, it seems, has come to the rescue – for the time being. “China has always provided assistance to Pakistan, helping it improve people’s livelihood and realise the sustainable development of its economy and society. China will continue to do so in the future,” said a spokesman of China’s Foreign Ministry. China has been providing military assistance to Pakistan for many years now but the jury is out if we were to expect it to match or increase aid in view of US aid suspension.

Pakistan is in a deep flux. Drone strikes are continuing with ferocity in Waziristan, both South Waziristan and North Waziristan. Pakistan Army has launched an offensive in Kurram Agency, which does not make much sense given that the real problem lies in North Waziristan. According to an ISPR statement, “The aim of operation in Kurram Agency is to clear the area of miscreants involved in terrorism, kidnapping, killing of locals and blocking of road connecting lower with upper Kurram.” Has the army just woken up to the fact that the road was blocked? The army paid no attention when Shias were being abducted and killed left, right and centre in Parachinar by the Taliban. An operation in Kurram Agency has led to a massive increase in the number of internally displaced people (IDPs). This is another crisis in the making.

On the other hand, the Haqqani network and Mullah Omar have not been able to convince the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) to quit attacking Pakistani security agencies and civilians. The TTP was provided safe havens in North Waziristan at the assurance of the Haqqani network but so far this deal has not worked out. Now the TTP has found safe havens in Afghanistan, which is why mortar shells are being fired from across the border and coordinated attacks are also taking place. It seems that the Kurram offensive is just our military’s way of clearing Kurram Agency for their proxies based in North Waziristan. An operation in North Waziristan will then be carried out once the Haqqani network and their affiliates are shifted to Kurram. The people of Kurram, especially the Shias, have seen so much hardship over the years at the hands of sectarian monsters created by the military establishment.

The relations between Pakistan and the US are getting worse day by day. DG ISI General Shuja Pasha is in Washington to “co-ordinate intelligence matters”. The problem with Pak-US relations is that there is a pattern of pulling it back from the brink every time but this cannot be papered over for long. The stakes are too high for both countries to actually have a breakdown of relations. The only ones to gain from this will be the terrorists. Differences notwithstanding, this relationship has to be mended. The fundamental threat to it remains the military establishment’s duality in policy vis-à-vis terrorist networks.

(my editorial in Daily Times)

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