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Opinion

December 12, 2011

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Men of honour and courage

Men of honour and courage

Historically, capitulation always sealed the fate of nations: they perished. Nations which value honour and show courage outlast nations lacking these qualities. Perhaps William Shakespeare had Afghans, the Israelites and the Persians in mind when he said: “If we are marked to die, we are enough to do our country loss; and if to live, the fewer men, the greater share of honour.” In one or other manner they always resisted the superpowers of their eras. They resisted everyone; beginning with the armies of ancient Egypt, Alexander the Great, Genghis Khan, the Soviets and now Nato. Regrettably, no longer does Pakistan stand among nations which value honour or show courage.
Nato’s eighth unprovoked attack on a Pakistani forward check post has resulted in the usual bickering between Pakistanis who want to forget and forgive and move on and those who are against forgetting and forgiving. The latter are further divided into those who want to pursue the issue so long it does not involve military entanglement and those who demand an eye for an eye. Arguably, there is a level of wisdom in each position. However, the solution may lie in the middle.
The ruling party supports the position of forget and forgive, because that preserves the status quo, which suits its own interests. The rulers refuse to take the bull by the horns, because they don’t want the US military and financial aid pipeline to go dry at any cost. They argue that any retribution would result in an aid cut-off, diplomatic isolation and imposition of international sanctions. However, such an outcome is highly improbable. Because America wants to stay in the region for the foreseeable future, an impossible task without Pakistan’s cooperation.
Incidentally, Pakistan is a future conduit for oil from the Central Asian states to the rest of the world. These states hold the world’s largest proven oil reserves.
The shortest route to the Central Asian states runs through Russian ally Iran. As long as the mullahs run Iran, America will not allow a single drop of that oil to run through it. Oil pipelines from Central Asia already run through Russia, which is another unacceptable proposition for the West: using the Russian route would mean handing Russia absolute control over the world’s oil lifeline.
The next best oil route runs through Afghanistan and Pakistan. Hence the American desire for permanent presence in the region. This is the time for Pakistan to establish its role and place among the parties involved in the pipeline. If Pakistan remains a silent partner and does nothing to claim a higher position among them, then it will always remain subservient to the dictates of the West.
How can Pakistan secure a respectable position without engaging in full-fledged military confrontation? By selectively flexing its muscles. For instance, a strong message that no longer will Pakistan accept violation of its sovereignty could be the shooting down of an unmanned drone. It certainly wouldn’t start a military confrontation, because no lives will be lost. Pakistani nuclear assets will ensure that a limited scope military conflicts will not turn into a war. Nor will it trigger the dreaded sanctions, because America can’t afford to lose the sole leverage of financial and military aid it exercises over Pakistan.
But even if America places military sanctions on Pakistan the worst outcome will be the grounding of its F-16s. The last time America placed such sanctions through the Pressler Amendments Pakistan’s F-16s remained airborne. Similarly, this time too they can remain airborne with a little ingenuity on Pakistan’s part, availability of parts in the black market and with the cooperation of nations like Turkey. By imposing monitory sanctions on it America will be doing a huge favour to Pakistan. It will enable Pakistanis to get rid of its dependency on the foreign donors. And if the West would dare to place international sanctions on Pakistan for defending its sovereignty, all indications are that China and Russia would veto any such attempts.
By claiming its rightful status of an equal partner Pakistan has to lose nothing but gain a lot, like courage, honour and an equal place among its partners. A nation which forgets the quality of courage is not likely to insist upon quality in its chosen leaders and is easily forgotten.

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