By ASIF HAROON RAJA
PRESIDENT Obama on his short hop to Kabul on 01 May to sign US-Afghan strategic accord tendered an apology for burning copies of Holy Quran by the US soldiers at Bagram airbase and for the reckless US Sergeant killing 16 innocent Afghans in a village in Kandahar province. He, however, didn’t deem it proper to hop into Pakistan and tender an apology for Salala massacre to pacify the anger of Pakistanis. The US is refusing to apologize since it truculently claims that 26 November incident was two-sided and Pakistan was equally guilty.
Hillary Clinton on her visit to India stated in Kolkata on May 7 that Washington believed that Al-Qaeda’s new chief Dr Ayman Al-Zawahiri is somewhere in Pakistan. Leon Panetta was the first US official to indulge in this kind of loose talk on July 9, 2011. He had stated in Kabul that Zawahiri was living in FATA. His pronouncement was repeated by Pentagon’s spokesman George Little on September 14, 2011. Hillary’s statement is in consonance with the US policy of ambiguity. Since the US is in the dark about his whereabouts, she has made a wild guess that he could be in Pakistan and nowhere else.
Having placed him in Pakistan without specifying which city, town, house, cave of the country, the US has so far not specified as to why he should be in Pakistan where al-Qaeda has been severely mauled, all its high profile leaders arrested and handed over to the US, and where OBL was killed a year back. It has not been clarified as to why Zawahiri should prefer Pakistan, which is under the spotlight of five top intelligence agencies of the world and satellites, over Arabian Peninsula where his organization has strong bases in Yemen, Iraq, Somalia and North Africa and where he got elected as new al-Qaeda chief on June 16, 2011.
Does the US think that he has sense of balance to abandon relatively safe environs of Egypt, Yemen, Iraq, Somalia, Maghreb where he has thousands of his dedicated followers and instead opt for Pakistan where he may be having handful of sympathizers? The only possibility is that he could have been lured in and sheltered by pro-US or pro-India terrorist groups like TTP, BLA, BRA and BLF, or handful of al-Qaeda elements to put Pakistan in the dock at an opportune time. He could be already in the custody of CIA and brought to pre-selected venue inside Pakistan to enable the US Special Forces to launch one more false flag operation and not only add another feather in their cap but also further embarrass Pakistan.
If Hillary is so confident about the fugitive Zawahiri whereabouts, why is it that the US is not sharing intelligence with Pakistan, as asked by Hina Rabbani? Or is it that the US is bracing for another unilateral strike similar to 2 May to degrade Pakistan’s security agencies? Hillary didn’t mince her words in cautioning Pakistan that the US will resort to similar unilateral action like that of ‘Operation Geronimo’ to get Al-Zawahiri. To maximize pressure, the US has hinted that it will extend invitation to Pakistan to attend Chicago summit and will release economic and military assistance only if Pakistan restores NATO supplies. The US Congress has proposed a bill to make economic and military assistance conditional. The US House Committee on Armed Services has approved a bill restricting US funds to Pakistan until supply routes are reopened. Our mumbling Defence Minister feeling the heat has squeaked that if we fail to honor our international commitments, Pakistan will come under international sanctions.
The US has been applying suchlike nasty pressures on Pakistan from the very beginning and has always taken Pakistan for granted. Pakistan has been subjected to never ending unsubstantiated accusations and humiliations and we have been taking the insults timidly since our rulers are morally corrupt and too aid hungry. On the issue of drones, the US refuses to stop the heinous practice since it feels it is ethical, just and legal. It refuses to provide drone technology or Predators or even to share intelligence since it distrusts Pakistan. The US wants Pakistan to erase the Salala incident from its memory and continue to extend one-way concessions and cooperation. It treats Pakistan as a rental state and gives it no right to protest. Counter measures taken after 2 May and 26 November incidents have vexed Washington and it has started hurling threats of aid stoppage, sanctions and unilateral military action. Close support fund to the military has been stopped.
Washington is creating hype about Chicago Summit and portraying that anyone not attending it would miss the bus as far as future road map of Afghanistan is concerned. This summit is no different to all the previous summits held by NATO each year. Similar apprehensions were expressed for the Bonn conference which Pakistan had boycotted. Nothing worthwhile came out of all the meetings, which were typical of Persian saying, “We sat, talked, ate and dispersed”.
Similar will be the fate of Chicago Summit in the absence of two main stakeholders – Afghan Taliban and Pakistan. Without their participation and agreement, the Gordian knot cannot be untied. If other countries in the north allowing passage to NATO containers have been invited and they have gladly accepted the invitation, the US-NATO forgets that none has been betrayed, humiliated and mauled as in the case of Pakistan or Afghan Taliban.
Going by its track record, the US for sure will strike Pakistan again either to disable our nuclear program or to get wanted terrorist so as to undermine Pakistan. If so, should we again lower our guards under the misplaced hope that it is our ally and wouldn’t strike Pakistan again and would make up our huge losses we suffered in fighting its war? Haven’t we had enough, or we will continue to be haunted by the doomsday perspective that stoppage of American aid will sink Pakistan and regular inflow of US aid will ensure survival and prosperity of Pakistan.
Should we not wake up from our stupor and understand that we have suffered the most in terms of human, material and social costs fighting someone else’s war. Are our rulers still thinking that the US and its strategic partners are sincere towards Pakistan and do not harbor dangerous designs against Pakistan? If so, what is the basis for such an optimistic frame of mind? The US having stabbed us several times without any compunction is brazenly hurling threats that it will again resort to another unilateral action. If so, should we wait for another disaster to take place or prepare ourselves for future unilateral action to avoid getting embarrassed?
Should we not pick up moral courage to say that war on terror, drone war and covert war are sinking Pakistan? Isn’t it true that provision of supplies to ISAF through Pakistan is not in our national interest? Should we not tell Washington to stop the blame game and stop beating about the bush and come out with specific information if it has any about Al-Zawahiri, or else shut up? After sharing intelligence, if Pakistan dithers and fails to nab the intended prey, Washington should then have genuine reason to make hue and cry.
Unlike the US, UK and India who are known for sheltering runaway terrorists and patronizing them, Pakistan has no such track record. It has been fighting the foreign and Pakistani terrorists with full commitment and is continuing to do so even when the ISAF has announced its plans to depart from Afghanistan and the US is in parleys with Taliban. Pakistan cannot shelter a terrorist like Al-Zawahiri who is on warpath and has inflicted lot of harm to its people.
The writer is a retired Brig and a defence and security analyst. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org