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Opinion

Fleeting moments

January 22, 2018

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The perfect scapegoat

Fleeting moments

After Donald Trump’s New Year tweet in which he accused Pakistan of lying and being deceitful, the relationship between the two countries nosedived.

Pak-US relations had been strained for quite some time before the presidential tweet put a final stamp on them. Responding to the tweet, Foreign Minister Khawaja Asif stated in unequivocal terms that, “Our alliance with the US is over.” Some criticised Khawaja Asif’s reaction for being abrupt and abrasive and for lacking in diplomatic niceties. But he spoke in plain words, representing the feelings of majority of the nation, when he declared an end to the alliance with the ever demanding and intimidating superpower.

The US’s predicament is that governments of smaller and indefensible countries follow its dictates for reasons of political exigency but their people at large detest the American hegemony. A vast majority of Pakistanis think that if an ally like the US ditches us, we should be more relieved than worried.

However, as soon as the US State Department realised the impact their ‘tweet-happy’ president’s tweet would have on the worsening situation in Afghanistan, its Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs’ Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary Alice Wells arrived, offering a mantra of a new relationship. She said the new relationship with Islamabad depends on striving for peace in Afghanistan - high demand this! To achieve peace in a country occupied by foreign boots for more than 16 years. Peace will remain elusive until the American troops don’t withdraw from there. Despite being termed the longest war in American history, that resulted in the killings of thousands of innocent Afghans and rendered millions homeless, about 45 percent of the area in Afghanistan is still controlled by the Taliban.

Some feel that the ‘Taliban’ is a misnomer that the US uses to describe all Afghans who oppose the occupation of their country by foreign troops.

When Pakistan decided to support the US war in Afghanistan, Gen Pervez Musharraf ruled the country. A dictator’s intrinsic desire is to validate his illegal rule over the country, and playing ball with the Americans was a godsend opportunity for him. He relented more than the Americans had asked for. The majority of the Pakistanis did not endorse his decision at the time mainly for two reasons. First, Afghanistan was in no way involved in the 9/11 attack on New York’s Twin Towers and, second, supporting the US war in Afghanistan would destabilise our own country. Sixteen years later, those who opposed the decision have been proven right. And that’s not all. After having suffered huge losses of life and property, what we get in the end is Trump’s tweet as a reward for our sufferings.

At the time the US invaded Afghanistan in 2001, many said that the war would ultimately end in failure. There were no intricate calculations involved in predicting the future outcome of the war; the history of the Afghan people was enough to reach that conclusion. Historically, the fiercely independent Pashtun of Afghanistan have never lived under the yoke of any foreign power. Who would know it better than the British and later the Russians?

As part of its war strategy, the US unleashed massive military power to massacre civilian population in Afghanistan. The extent of devastation inflicted was never reported because of a media blackout. Only those journalists who were embedded with the troops were allowed to file their reports, that also after thorough vetting. So far, there’s no official count of how many Afghans were killed in the war. When asked, the then Secretary of Defence Donald Rumsfeld scornfully said, “We don’t count the dead.”

At the peak of the war, 100,000 US troops were deployed in Afghanistan besides the coalition troops. The present strength of US troops holed up in garrisons is about 8,500. The war on terror was as unwinnable, with more than a hundred thousand troops in 2001, as it is now. And who could better serve as a perfect scapegoat for the defeat of the supercilious superpower at the hands of the Afghans than poor Pakistan?

The writer is a freelance columnist based in Lahore.

Email: [email protected]

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