American media had been hinting at Washingtons devious intentions against Pakistan for quite some time. Likewise, the Pakistani civil and military leadership was not oblivious to the gathering storm over its national security.
Against this backdrop, the latest message conveyed by Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar, after meeting with her counterpart in Washington, revealed no serious concerns. Perhaps, since there have been many ups and downs in the Pak-US relationship in the past, it doesnt raise alarm bells anymore. The common perception, however, is that the two countries need each other, particularly when the US has already announced its Afghanistan exit strategy.
Yet, it is a fact that presently tensions are mounting leading to mistrust between the two nations, especially after USAs unilateral action in Abbottabad. Recently, top American and Pakistani military and government officials met in Spain, New York and Washington to bridge the widening gulf between the two allies engaged in the war on terror. Despite this, US Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Mike Mullen told a US Senate panel: The Haqqani network.acts as a veritable arm of Pakistans Inter-Services Intelligence Agency (ISI). He made these accusations against the only non-Nato ally, Pakistan, in the Afghan war, and against its military and intelligence services whose soldiers had shed more blood and scarified lives than the US and Nato forces combined. Secretary of Defence Leon Panetta has also warned Pakistan of unilateral action in North Waziristan. Meanwhile, the US Senate Committee has voted to make economic and security aid to Pakistan conditional on its cooperation in fighting militants such as the Haqqani network. Several political and current affairs experts in Pakistan have described all this as pressure tactics to force the government and GHQ to immediately take military action against the Haqqanis in North Waziristan, while some assume them as a formal declaration of war. However, the US should not add fuel to the fire by resorting to such dirty tactics, if it wants a safe exit from Afghanistan and peace in the region.
So, what options does the Obama administration has after a blistering attack on the ISI and the so-called double role of the Pak Army? Probably, not much as it thinks It is easier to say than actually mount an aerial and ground attack in North Waziristan on the pattern of Abbottabad, since there is a big difference between the two situations. Especially, because the Haqqani network does not exist in North Waziristan or anywhere else Pakistan; reportedly, it is based in Afghanistan.
On the other hand, all this seems irrelevant because when Washington in the 90s declared that Iraq possessed Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD), it attacked the country. Till today, the WMD have not been discovered. Then the 9/11 attacks provided a perfect justification for the US to invade Afghanistan, while Pakistan was coerced in the so-called war on terror. But now it (America) must realise that times have changed and it will be difficult for the White House, State Department and Pentagon to adopt their old strategy of threatening to bomb Pakistan back to the Stone Age. If so, it will prove counterproductive and the Obama administration is unlikely to achieve its goals at home or in Asia.
But what are the options for Pakistan? So far, the army and ISI have correctly rejected USAs allegation on Pakistan of having links with the Haqqani network. Interior Minister Rehman Malik, too, has rejected them, however, leaving the door open for further discussion/negotiation by conceding to conduct operations against the militants on the provision of adequate information.
As a final word, we need to completely rethink our foreign policy in the larger strategic interest of Pakistan and both political and military leadership should be on one page in their determination to frustrate any evil designs against the country.
The writer is President of the Pakistan National Forum.