The long-awaited, revised report of the Parliamentary Committee on National Security as presented by its Chairperson Raza Rabbani to a joint sitting of the National Assembly and the Senate was unanimously approved. Some of the earlier recommendations were dropped and a few new ones added.
i The US footprint in Pakistan must be reviewed. This would mean an immediate cessation of drone attacks inside Pakistan and cessation of infiltration into Pakistan territory on any pretext, including hot pursuit.
i No verbal agreement regarding national security shall be entered into by the government or any department or organisation with any foreign government or authority.
i Active pursuit of gas pipeline projects with Iran and Turkmenistan.
i Pakistan’s nuclear programme and assets, including its safety and security, cannot be compromised.
i The US-Indo civil nuclear agreement has significantly altered the strategic balance in the region. Pakistan should seek from the US and others a similar treatment/facility.
i The strategic position of Pakistan vis-à-vis India on the subject of FMCT must not be compromised and this principle be kept in view in negotiations on this matter.
i The Government of Pakistan should seek an unconditional apology from the US for the unprovoked incident of November 26, 2011, in Mohmand Agency. Those held responsible for the attack should be brought to justice.
i The Ministry of Defence/PAF should formulate new flying rules for areas contiguous to the border.
i For negotiating or renegotiating agreements/MOUs pertaining to or dealing with matters of national security that all agreements, including military cooperation and logistics, will be circulated to all concerned ministries and the Parliamentary Committee on National Security.
i The international community should recognise Pakistan’s colossal human and economic losses and continued suffering due to the war on terror.
i There is no military solution to the Afghan conflict and efforts must be undertaken to promote a genuine national reconciliation and to strengthen security along the Pakistan border.
i Pakistani territory shall not be used for any kind of attacks on other countries and all foreign fighters, if found, shall be expelled from our soil.
i The dialogue process with India should be continued in a result-oriented manner, including the efforts for the solution of Jammu and Kashmir dispute in accordance with the UN Resolution. Strategic partnership with China must be deepened in all its dimensions; relationship with the Russian Federation should be further strengthened; Pakistan’s support for the promotion of peace and stability in Afghanistan remains the cornerstone of its foreign policy; country’s special relationship with the Islamic world should be reinforced, its full membership of SCO be actively pursued; Pakistan’s bilateral relationships in the region and its institutional partnership with ASEAN and GCC must be upgraded and Pakistan should actively pursue the gas pipeline projects with Iran and Turkmenistan.
The leader of the opposition in the National Assembly, Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan, expressed his concerns about the fate of these recommendations in view of the past poor record. Prime Minister Gilani assured that recommendations would be fully implemented “in letter and in spirit”.
Nisar’s apprehensions have a lot of weight. Reading between the lines while going through the reports of meetings held by the President and the PM with the US Deputy Secretary of State, Tom Nides, and armed forces high command, one can perceive that the government had already made up its mind to allow the restart of supplies to Afghanistan and let drones strikes continue on certain conditions.
One may here refer to the news about Foreign Minister Khar having differed with the views expressed by Mr Zardari in a meeting where certain aspects of the future shape of Pakistan-US relations were being discussed and the subsequent rumour about her moving to another job or ministry.
One has to wait for some time for the Pakistan-US meetings to reach an agreement to reset the new terms of engagement. The initial reaction of the US Embassy in Pakistan has been - “we respect the seriousness with which this review has been conducted. We look forward to discussing these recommendations with the government.” The reports in New York Times and Washington have described the parliamentary recommendations as “guidelines”. It was noticed that the Pakistani lawmakers had not made cessation of drone strikes a “prerequisite” for the reopening of supplies to Nato troops, as was apprehended. Only 30 percent of the Nato supplies come via Pakistan and the rest from the northern route. Yes, the alternative approach was more expensive.
The newspaper comments also suggest that the Obama administration will not stop the drone strikes although the advance notice or intelligence sharing could be worked out. Another significant point made is that Pakistan is vulnerable, dependent as it is on the US and other Nato countries for its “economic survival and development.”
The fact of the matter is that the Zardari-Gilani government has all along lacked the will to resist the US dictat. The Salala killings of Pakistani soldiers broke the barrier and gave a tremendous boost to the already countrywide anti-American sentiment. The blockage of supplies remained partial revealed by Ambassador Munter and Defence Minister Mukhtar. Supplies via air continued all along. Drone strikes, too, kept killing Pakistanis though a little less frequently.
Now that we know that possibly only one-third or so of the supplies would be going through Pakistan, will it be practicable to monitor and scrutinise the contents properly and regularly. And what kind of action will the present government take if drone strikes not only continue, but also are stepped up in the months to come?
It is good to read some of the morale boosting provisions in the parliamentary resolution. How far these will be used in “letter and spirit” remains to be seen.
The general message one derives from our relations with the USA is that, rhetoric aside, our foreign policy is, to a large extent, heavily influenced by the US agenda. If this presumption is even partially correct, the enigma of a sudden “private” visit to India by our President begins to make sense as one can see by joining the dots, a clear picture emerging.
The next big stop is Chicago. The way Pakistan relates itself to the American/Nato exit from Afghanistan and plays the endgame will determine, to some extent, how benign or troublesome the ensuing conditions will be for our luckless country. It is time a National Roundtable Conference on Afghanistan is held to chalk out a viable approach and a purposeful future course of action.
The writer is an ex-federal secretary and ambassador, and political and international relations analyst.