Dancing with the wolves

At last the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf Chairman, Imran Khan, has taken a definite policy stance against the continuation of the US drone attacks on Pakistani territory and against its citizens. In a National Assembly speech on Monday, Khan categorically set the November 20th date for the PML-N government to resolve the drone strike issue: “(But) if drone strikes continued then we will block Nato supplies after November 20 and go to the UN Security Council,” warned the PTI Chairperson.
The vital questions in today’s Pakistan are: How long will we continue to dance with the wolves in the killing of our citizens and decimating peace, stability and political tranquility in this country? How long will our successive governments let the Americans decide on our political options, foreign policy directions, domestic policies discourse and be complacent to the US demands to serve their implicit ideological (anti-communism, anti-Islam, pro-corporate capitalism interests) and global policy objectives? How long will the people of Pakistan allow their own ruling class and political leadership to keep lying to them on vital national issues? How long will our ruling class’ secretive diplomacy with the US and its allies continue unabated to the detrimental impacts on this nation’s potentials? When will we take control of our own destiny? When will we be independent, self-reliant, self-confident and self-directed in our policy decision-making process?
Enough is enough! The time has arrived for less rhetoric and more action – more determination to resolve our issues as we feel fit and in our national interests. The time has arrived to stop taking dictates from Washington, London, Paris and Bonn or play to the tunes of the Western powers on our relationship with New Delhi and how we decide to deal and engage with the Taliban to bring peace to our country. It is unfortunate that the incumbent Pakistani Prime Minister did not go to Washington last month with a single item agenda demanding that the Obama Administration decide to immediately cease drone strikes on Pakistani territory.
The so-called Pakistani liberals and the American apologists need not continue the debate on the legitimacy of drone strikes. That debate sets aside the real problem and puts a spin on the issue. The core and central issue is that the US drone warfare against Pakistan has decimated and torn away this nation’s social-economic-political-psychological and cultural edifice, and we need now to restore it and resolve the issue. Drone strikes are an “act of war” against a historical ally, an independent and sovereign nation, and as such are blatant violations of the UN Charter, international humanitarian laws and fall within the category of war crimes. Now let us move forward from this stated position and universally credible view to resolving the said conflict with one of the world’s most powerful countries. Pakistan will need strategic in-depth understanding of American political behavior and how to deal with it. Added to this will have to be a fundamental change in Islamabad’s political discourse towards Washington and London, in particular, and the rest of Western Europe in general.
This columnist has already written 4 articles on US “drone warfare” against Pakistan with explicit strategic political policy directions to confront and engage the US in managing a fundamental change in American political behavior towards Pakistan and the modus operandi of our response to continued US belligerence.
On June 6, 2013, I wrote in The Nation: “Hence, the imperative questions here are: …Are the incoming civilian leadership and the present day military establishment in Pakistan in absolute agreement for a unified strategic approach to engage with the US to finally end drone attacks on Pakistani territory? … Can the new democratic regime negotiate with the Americans from a position of strength?  Is the Pakistani civilian-military leadership on the same page to deal effectively with the US belligerent drone policy towards Pakistan?
… Let us admit some basic facts: The US is a deadly adversary… American policy-makers only understand the language of power.  To begin with, the incoming administration in Islamabad, with the collaboration of all political parties, should arrange massive million people marches and demonstrations all over the country in a show of national solidarity against drone strikes.   Imran Khan’s role in this kind of political strategy becomes paramount and should be acknowledged as such.
…Let us put our cards on the table about our explicit conditions for the US forces’ safe exit from Afghanistan via Pakistan.  For this, Pakistan’s political establishment would need an articulate and determined team of experts, historically knowledgeable of US foreign policy and linguistically expressive in English, and who have never been in a subservient role to the US, to negotiate with the Americans.
Let us be assertive. Let us assure Obama of the US forces’ safe exit next year on our conditions – which are based on 3 primary demands: 1) end drone strikes immediately, 2) arrange an immediate political reconciliation with the Taliban, both in Pakistan and Afghanistan, and 3) immediately stop the so-called war on terrorism on Pakistan and Afghanistan territories.
Indeed, it is an extremely complex process, and yet a “Constructive Conflict Engagement” with the US is the only way out of this quagmire.”
On June 13, 2013, I wrote in The Nation:  “… let me ask …a hypothetical question:  if the Pakistanis were terrorizing Texas [USA] with Predator drones, [wouldn’t you] expect Obama to send the US Air Force into immediate action? Obviously, he would, as no government can legitimately authorize the murder of its own citizens and thus the Air Force would shoot down the Pakistani drones.  Isn’t that true?”
On June 20th. 2013, I wrote in The Nation:  “Stopping drone attacks on Pakistan is the first and foremost step towards bringing peace, and a major challenge to Sharif’s government is to effectively deal with domestic terrorism in Pakistan. Islamabad must prevail on Obama’s Administration to stop carrying out aerial warfare against this country – supposedly a front-line ally of this global superpower.
…Islamabad will have to amass massive public demonstrative support for its anti-drone initiative to impress on Washington that democratic Pakistan can no longer afford a dual government policy on this issue (as has been done in the past decade).
…Islamabad will have to create a “Threat Perception” for US interests for next year’s withdrawal of its forces from Afghanistan. A co-partnership is a process in which all parties have equal stakes: Islamabad must be categorically unambiguous in communicating to Washington that Pakistan will do its part to ensure the safety of American troops as long as the Americans remove the main impediment to the said conflict immediately: Stop drone strikes on Pakistani territory. Stop violating this country’s sovereignty. Stop the covert and overt so-called “war on terrorism” against Pakistani citizens.”
On June 27, 2013, I wrote in The Nation:  “It seems imperative now that making a final or fundamental policy decision on the status of US drone strikes on Pakistani territory has assumed a central stage for bringing peace to this nation. Not only that, it is a vital issue on the basis of which Pakistan can re-establish its control over a nearly decade-old violation of its territory and sovereignty. Also, a firm decision to stop drone attacks by fresh diplomatic initiatives and possibly military intervention, Islamabad can manage to remove a major impediment to peace talks with the insurgents in the northern part of the country and gain considerable control over ever-growing domestic terrorism. A policy decision has to be made by Islamabad now.”
How long will we continue dancing with the wolves? It is time to assert ourselves and free ourselves from the yoke of the US and its allies’ neo-imperialism.
Time is running out – we have been fighting others’ wars – and now it is time to fight for our peace!

The writer is UAE-based academic, policy analyst, conflict resolution expert and author of several  books on Pakistan and foreign policy issues. He holds a doctorate and a masters degree from Columbia University in New York.

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