After 9/11 Pakistan-US ties have experienced many ups and downs. However, a marked policy shift was seen with the election of President Obama. The new administration attached Afghanistan’s affairs with “Af-Pak,” and delivered a new list of objectives concerning this region. For Pakistan this new package brought many do’s and don’ts. The monitoring stage of this new policy ended in 2010 and it was decided by the US that Pakistan needed to be dealt more firmly. The Kerry-Lugar Bill was an expression of the same pressure involving the carrot-and-stick approach. After the May 2 operation in Abbottabad, US advisers in Washington, who wanted a firm dealing with Pakistan, gained more attention. Accusations regarding the Haqqani Network, the statements of Mike Mullen and other tactics of the same kind of pressure were used.
However, this pressure proved counterproductive. The Pakistani establishment refused to give in. In addition to the detention of Raymond Davis, the activities of the CIA were restricted, and the US request for an operation in North Waziristan by the Pakistani military was also refused. This infuriated the US even more and together with the stoppage of aid, the amount under the collation support fund was also frozen, an amount that Pakistan has already spent on its activities to combat terrorism. Pakistan neglected its monitoring of the Taliban in Afghanistan and, to convey displeasure to the US, Pakistani officials visited Iran, China and Russia. The matter did not end here; the US increased its support to anti-Pakistan militants and Baloch nationalists in Afghanistan.
The Salala check-post incident pushed Pakistani-US relations further downwards. Pakistan used its only remaining card, that of blocking the Nato supply routes. At first the US tried to use Afghanistan, however this time Karzai refused to be utilised against Pakistan. At this the US used the India card to blackmail Pakistan. After the punishment of Ghulam Nabi Fai, Hafiz Saeed was declared a wanted person with a huge head money for his capture. Each visit of Pakistani or Indian delegates to each other’s country was followed by a US official in India issuing a provocative statement. However, this time India played with caution and Pakistan too dealt with India with care. In Afghanistan the US tried its best to use anti-Pakistan elements. However, this time Pakistan, with the active use of its relations with the leaders of northern Afghanistan, minimised the risk. Besides all this tug-of-war between the US and Pakistan, the US was confident that Pakistan would give in before the Chicago Conference.
However, on the internal front the issue changed into an interesting but dirty game between the establishment and the government. It was assumed by the Pakistani establishment that even they could adopt a hard line against the government due to its financial and diplomatic limitations. Zardari had two concerns: the upcoming elections and the risk of public defamation by the establishment and the Difa-e Pakistan Council. So this time they did exactly the opposite and went two steps ahead in their anti-US statements. They scheduled visits for Russia and China and made active dialogues on the Pakistan-Iran pipeline.
The media was given the wrong perception that Zardari requested participation in the Chicago conference. This is also wrong that Pakistan demanded $5,000 dollars per container. The only fault of the Pakistani government is its failure to properly use the international media in presenting its stance. In fact, the proposal for tri-lateral negotiations at the Chicago conference was presented by President Obama at the Seoul conference to Prime Minister Gilani. Later, the US denied the invitation and conditioned it with the opening of the supply routes of Nato. Pakistan refused any conditional participation and thus Pakistan was invited by the Nato secretary general unconditionally.
At that stage the US expected the opening of the supply route before the Chicago conference. However, when Pakistan showed no intention, the US refused to participate in the trilateral meeting at Chicago. Besides, in his meeting with Hillary Clinton at Chicago, Zardari not only reaffirmed Pakistan’s stance on an official apology on Salala but also stressed other demands. This resulted in an uproar in Washington against Pakistan. Now the US is determined to achieve all its objectives in Pakistan, including reopening of the Nato supply route, but not with concessions.
The Pakistani response indeed has disturbed US and stunned the international community. However, the most disappointing aspect is its spontaneous nature. All this is not the result of some calculated effort and set objectives. Rather, it is a by-product of the institutional tug-of-war and the effort to gain political mileage. Before the Chicago conference, statements issued by the Cabinet Defence Committee and certain officials resulted in the impression that once again Pakistan has surrendered. While at Chicago our president demanded an apology from the US, our prime minister declared that an apology could not bring back our soldiers. In this tense situation, about two dozen CIA agents were caught. However, they were handed back to the US silently. Though there was an option that those agents could be presented to the media.
The situation is tense and sensitive. Indeed, at any time our government could surrender and show its willing to work on previous terms and conditions.
The writer works for Geo TV. Email: saleem. email@example.com