Thursday June 30, 2022

Why is Pakistan not grateful to US?

By MAK Lodhi
May 25, 2016

Mulla Mansour’s death


LAHORE: The death of Afghan Taliban leader, Mulla Akhtar Mansour, last Saturday is a matter of great satisfaction for the people of Pakistan and Afghanistan, who remained victim of terrorism for more than two decades.

His killing by a US drone attack in the farthest reaches (Naushki, near Afghan border) of Balochistan, Pakistan, is very much in line with Pakistan Army’s campaign - Zarb e Azb – to annihilate all types of terrorisms from the country. It’s a declared and avowed policy for which Pakistan army and its successful operation has received accolades from far and wide.  

After Osama bin Laden, killed on May 2, 2011 by US Seals’ covert raid in Abbottabad (Pakistan), Mulla Mansour’s killing is the second best trophy the US has earned in Pakistan. If there’s no discrepancy and ambivalence in Pakistan army’s campaign, Pakistan should be grateful to a friendly country (read the US) for helping it in its most crucial task.

Indeed, Mullah Mansour’s death is a setback to the ‘enemy within’, which posed an existential threat to Pakistan, just as Bin Laden’s killing  had disoriented and weakened Al-Qaeda and Taliban network in Pakistan.

Why doesn’t Pakistan acknowledge the vital US support especially when it is established that the stubborn Taliban leader was opposed to the peace process? It is high time Pakistan accepted that it could not push Afghan Taliban to come to the table and take part in talks initiated by four countries including China and the US.

Indeed, the US drone attack came after Pakistan’s repeated failures since 2011 to broker any meaningful dialogue with Afghan Taliban who, in the meanwhile, have upped the ante and started attacking Afghan and US positions with more vigor and ferocity in Afghanistan. The attack in Kabul last month was the deadliest since 2011.

Mulla Mansour’s death also indicates that Pakistan’s territory and perhaps Iran’s also, is being used against Afghanistan, which, if it remains destabilized, would be detrimental to peace in the entire region.

It is indeed laudable that the US forces, despite reduced footprint in the region, were able to gather intelligence about Afghan Taliban leader roaming in Pakistan and killed him in a precision drone attack.

Why can’t Pakistan’s intelligence apparatus gather information and do it itself? Or, is it that Pakistan allows some of the diabolic remnants and relics deliberately? If Pakistan is pushing the new policy i.e. total elimination of terrorism from its territory, it should be reflected not only in deeds but also in statements issued by the Foreign Office officials and political leaders.

The ambiguity in what Pakistan professes and what is found on the ground is already causing Pakistan a huge loss. The obstruction of $450 million aid by the US Senate for the supply of F-16s to Pakistan is the latest setback. Pakistan could remove at least two of the three irritants 1) Haqqani network’s presence in Pakistan, re-established by Mulla Mansour’s killing; 2) Dr Shakeel Afridi’s incarceration.

The statements issued by Prime Minister’s adviser on Foreign Affairs, Sartaj Aziz and the Foreign Office that the drone attack in Pakistan was a violation of Pakistan’s territory gives a lie to the ground reality. Such statements, which were similarly issued when Osama Bin Laden and other Taliban leaders were killed in Pak territory, indicate as if Pakistan is against elimination of Afghan Taliban from its soil. Though the US acts for its own safety and interests in Afghanistan, such acts are in no way against regional peace. It seems that the Foreign Office takes out the same statement that it had been issuing since Pakistan was covertly supporting proxy wars in the region. If Zarb-e-Azb is a departure from the past practices, the Foreign Office should also work in consonance with it.

The fallacy that Pakistan can bring Afghan Taliban to a negotiating table should have been realized by now. It was the failure of this policy with Pakistani Taliban that Pak army had to launch Zarb-e-Azb in the first place.

The campaign has successfully shown to the world how much it weeded out terrorism from Pakistan’s soil. Pakistan will have to demonstrate the same will to eliminate Haqqani footprint in Pakistan.

Similarly, Pakistan needs to think over Dr Shakeel Afridi’s detention. His work to genetically prove Bin Laden’s presence was heroic, to say the least. His effort was for a noble cause, of course. Can anyone think how much Al Qaeda would be a potent threat today if Osama were still alive? How much bigger loss the nation could suffer in limb and life? Dr Afridi’s work was, in no way, against Pakistan’s national interest and regional peace.

If the two irritants are removed to smoothen Pak-US relationship, Washington may overlook Islamabad on the third issue i.e. proliferation of nuclear fissile material. The US may realize Pakistan isn’t much wrong on the issue, keeping in view the regional situation. But even on this issue Pakistan should not go all-out to match what a rival country is doing. A stockpile of nuclear arms for a country like Pakistan where food and health problems abound isn’t a good strategy. Keeping a minimum nuclear deterrence is, though, unavoidable.   

While Pakistan is relying more on China for a strategic balance in the region, it should not distance itself from its old ally, the US, for no rhyme or reason. The fact of the matter is that Haqqani group and Dr Shakeel Afridi can be good bargaining chips to keep a balanced relationship with the US and work together for greater regional peace.