Recently, a report by the Parliamentary Committee on National Security (PCNS), headed by Senator Raza Rabbani, tasked to compile recommendations for “new terms of engagement” with the US in the aftermath of Nato’s attack on the Salalah checkposts that killed 24 Pakistani soldiers on November 26, 2011, was tabled in the joint session of Parliament. It consisted of 40 recommendations.
Parliament, being the sovereign legislative body of the state, is fully empowered to carry out such exercises. It is, however, unfortunate that the august body during successive governments, both civil and military, has paid little or no attention to resolve the challenges and issues faced by Pakistan. Anyway, it is “better late than never”, since the present Parliament has rightly decided to “frame new rules of engagement” with the US. It is a welcome step, as this would help to remove the road blocks or irritants causing the standoff and pave the way for a better relationship between the two countries.
Take the Salalah tragedy. The Nato helicopters penetrated into Pakistani territory from Afghanistan and continued the insane, almost barbaric, attack on two checkposts for two hours. Despite the fact that the US and Nato authorities have admitted that the tragic incident should not have happened, it is time that Washington offered an unqualified apology to end the unnecessary stalemate, as rightly demanded by the PCNS. In this way, the best interests of both countries will be served. The American administration must understand that it cannot achieve its mission in Afghanistan and the region without Pakistan’s support.
As regards the Abbottabad raid, the US needs to ponder over the consequences of violating the Pakistani territory. Perhaps, it would not dare to do this in India or any other democratic country. So, why did it underestimate Pakistan? However, it is now proved that Pakistan should not be taken lightly, despite the aid that Washington has promised to provide. The US leadership must respect its sovereignty and ensure that no Abbottabad or Salalah-like unilateral action is taken in future.
As far as the supplies to US/Nato/Isaf forces in Afghanistan are concerned, it is an issue involving almost more than 40 countries and should not be taken merely to teach Washington a lesson. Pakistan cannot afford to lose its goodwill among the international community. Therefore, no decision should be made in haste by the joint session due to be held today, resulting in an unnecessary damage to its image at the international level.
As a final word, America must realise the great losses suffered by Pakistan in terms of human lives, infrastructure and economy during the last 10 years, as a result of its role as “frontline state” in the ongoing war on terror. While the US and West is spending billions of dollars on the war, they should generously compensate for the losses incurred by it without delay. Pakistan, too, needs to review and redesign its foreign policy that is based purely on its own requirements and national interests.
n The writer is President of the Pakistan National Forum.