The reaction in Pakistan to the moving of a resolution in the US House of Representatives calling for self-determination for the Baloch in Pakistani Balochistan was, as easily guessable, strong. The reaction showed that it did nothing for Pakistan-US ties, which have been rocky for some time, and hit a new low with the killing of 23 soldiers when NATO helicopter gunships attacked the Pakistani border checkpost at Salalah. The Pakistani Ambassador to the USA, Ms Sherry Rehman, pointed this out, describing it as ‘meddling’ and saying it was detrimental to bilateral ties. Talking to the press on Saturday in Karachi after inaugurating a development project at the Karachi Port Trust, Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani said that the resolution was a blow on Pakistan’s sovereignty. He pointed out that after the Salalah attack, Pakistan stopped NATO supplies, boycotted the Bonn Conference and retook Shamsi Airbase. The Prime Minister was backed by his Foreign Minister, Ms Hina Rabbani Khar, who issued a statement in Islamabad saying that the resolution was against the principles of the UN Charter and violated international law. She also said that the resolution was aimed ‘to create distrust between the two peoples’. Meanwhile, Foreign Office spokesman Abdul Basit also said that those who moved the resolution were ‘driven by arrogance and ignorance.’
It thus is not difficult for Pakistan to agree to Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s suggestion to Pakistan, made during the Trilateral Summit, not to allow the USA a consulate in Quetta. While the Iranian President was obviously concerned about the US putting up a centre near his country’s border, Pakistan would be extremely foolhardy to give a country which has gone public with its intention of dividing Pakistan, a base in the very province it has announced it will break off. Though the Obama Administration will claim that it does not control the House, expression of American interests through such activities by Congressmen, think tanks and the media, among others.
One immediate consequence is that the expected restoration of NATO supplies will not take place in the near future. The case for abandoning the US alliance entirely is getting stronger, because the USA has now posed an existential threat to Pakistan, by suggesting the secession of Balochistan. Pakistani ruling classes, politicians and civil and military officials alike are asking the question: “With friends like these, who needs enemies?” The same ruling class must also wake up to the situation: the USA wants Balochistan to separate. Refusal to face just such a reality led to the secession of East Pakistan. Let there be no repetition.