All independent countries in the world formulate their national security policies as per their requirements and constraints. While sometimes it is difficult to negotiate the maze of formulation, implementation and realization of policies in the backdrop of pressure from mighty world capitals, any dictation from abroad that moves against a country’s national interests has to be resisted.
At present, the Pak-US relations are suffering from divergent perceptions on critical issues. More than that, there is little realization in Washington that Pakistan will follow policies that suit its national interests and would not tow the US line on each issue.
Consider the case of Dr Shakil Afridi, who was sentenced to 33 years in jail because of his involvement in anti-state activities as he was in league with Mangal Bagh, the head of Lashkar-i-Islam, a banned terrorist outfit.
The issue here is not the killing of Osama bin Laden or Afridi’s links with the CIA; had the Pakistani intelligence known about the presence of Osama, it would have immediately struck at the compound. But unfortunately hawks in the CIA convinced the Obama administration to go alone.
The US should get their facts straight; Afridi has not been sentenced on links with the CIA but was given the jail term for being in league with terrorists.
On the other hand, it is abundantly clear that Dr Shakil Afridi surreptitiously used a fake vaccination campaign to obtain DNA samples of Osama bin Laden’s family that was residing in Abbottabad. A person no less than US Defence Secretary Leon Panetta confirmed in January this year that Dr Afridi was working for the CIA and had obtained DNA from the Osama family but he “was not in any way treasonous towards Pakistan. For them to take this kind of action against somebody who was helping to go after terrorism is a real mistake.”
The truth is that the CIA is following double standards by supporting Dr Shakeel Afridi. Would the Americans tolerate such incidents on their own soil and look the other way?
More significantly, the sordid episode has again brought into focus the CIA spy network in the country, which is against the norms of diplomacy and not acceptable to any independent and sovereign state. The relationship of a state is with another state and not with individuals of dubious character. In the case of Pakistan, the message that has gone to Islamabad is that the US prefers Afridi to the state.
While Afridi has not been sentenced yet on sedition, it is clear that he violated the law of the land and committed treason. Is there any other name for working as an agent for a foreign intelligence service?
It is critical to remember that Dr Afridi belittled the profession of medicine and there has been worldwide criticism on his actions. In the US alone, around 100 NGOs protested against him for abusing this noble profession.
While the US and Pakistan should strive to find a common ground and move forward following the Salala episode, following the harsh and uncalled-for US reaction to sentencing of Afridi, the task it seems will be immeasurably more difficult.