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June 17, 2008

Attacking Pakistan


June 17, 2008

Now the Mayor of Kabul wants to invade Pakistan. Six years of Pakistani appeasement in the face of gradual loss of our legitimate security interests in the region have come down to this: the weakest leader in modern Afghan history warns Islamabad he will not only invade Pakistan but will also "rescue" the Pakistani Pashtun population--a thinly veiled threat to claim our northwestern regions as part of Afghanistan.

Hamid Karzai should not be blamed for making statements that far exceed his status as a weak ruler propped up by warlords and a foreign power, and whose authority hardly surpasses the city where he is bunkered.

Islamabad's real problem lies not with him. It's with Washington, whose military sided last week with Mr Karzai's rag-tag army in a border dispute where it used massive aerial power to pound a Pakistani border post and kill eleven of our soldiers. This disproportionate use of power was so senseless it could only be a deliberate hostile act against Pakistan. The explanation given by Dr Condoleezza Rice to our foreign minister – whom she tried to convince this was a case of friendly-fire – has no buyers in Pakistan.

If a war is being imposed on Pakistan – and all indications are that this is the case – then Islamabad should retaliate. To regain respect, Pakistani military should henceforth hold the government in Kabul and the Afghan military directly responsible for any act of aggression emanating from Afghan soil. In last week's case, Pakistani military should have launched a retaliatory strike targeting the nearby Afghan army posts. The prime minister could have sanctioned the attack after seeking, and receiving, parliament's consent on urgent basis, even after the operation.

A Pakistani counterstrike would have tested and exposed the intentions of the American-led NATO troops. A subsequent attack on Pakistan would have confirmed this was no misunderstanding. The Americans have been saber-rattling for months

now and the June 10 attack fitted a pattern of US official statements, media leaks, and cross-border violations.

In every sense of the word, an undeclared war is being waged against Pakistan from the Afghan soil since 2004. Islamabad is in possession of plenty of real and circumstantial evidence to this effect. The purpose of this war is to set off ethnic and religious wars inside Pakistan to weaken the country and precipitate its disintegration. In the past four years, separatist activity in the entire Pakistani region next to Afghanistan jumped from nil to levels not seen since the 1980s, when the Soviets used Afghan soil for the same purpose.

Afghanistan has a political problem that the US and its puppet regime in Kabul have been unable to resolve for the past seven years. This failure is destabilizing Pakistan, not the other way around. The Pakistani foreign minister should have used the Afghan donor conference in Paris last week to make it clear that Islamabad – and NATO for that matter – cannot be held responsible for Washington and Kabul's inability to end the Afghan civil conflict.

It's also time to turn the tables. Pakistan should issue a list of demands to the regime in Kabul. The list should ask for a halt in all cross-border terrorism originating from Afghan soil into Pakistan. This includes the closure of training camps for terrorists who are sent into our provinces of Balochistan and NWFP and the expulsion of all terrorist elements recruited from Pakistan and sheltered at safe houses provided by the Afghan government. Failure to meet these legitimate demands should result in punitive measures; including restricting both Afghanistan's overland trade and US fuel supplies through Pakistani land and airspace.

Washington has been double-crossing Pakistan from the moment Islamabad joined America's war on terror. In the seven years since 9/11, Washington has deliberately ignored Pakistan's legitimate security needs and concerns in Afghanistan on every count. Under American watch, rabidly anti-Pakistan warlords and exiled elements with Indian connections going back to the days of the Soviets have been encouraged to wield influence in Kabul. The narcotic trade has been allowed to recover from near-total eradication under the previous regime, giving a boost to organized crime affecting both Pakistan and Iran.

Pakistani officials have long been suspecting that some Indian and Afghan elements operating in Afghanistan have an interest in inciting a confrontation between Pakistan and the United States. But it is also true that Washington has accorded little importance, by design or by coincidence, to the legitimate security and strategic interests of its Pakistani ally.

We should win together in Afghanistan. Washington's victory should not become a Pakistani loss.

The writer works for Geo TV. Email: [email protected]

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