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July 15, 2008

Time to get tough


July 15, 2008

Russia and China have just done it. Turkey did it on the eve of Iraq invasion. Even a Pakistani battalion commander pulled it off last week. Pakistan too has a choice. It does not have to take US posturing lying down. This is the best time for Pakistanis to renegotiate their relationship with Washington. The Afghan resistance is strong and the occupation government is desperate. Hamid Karzai's puppet regime is staring defeat in the face. The world is not very impressed with the American performance in either Iraq or Afghanistan and is reluctant to help. If Pakistan cannot exploit this moment, it might as well surrender without firing a shot.

We want the best of relations with the United States. Pakistani officials need not be apologetic. We have been loyal allies. We helped them win the Cold War. But we won't be a scapegoat. It's time to say no to a friend, especially one who has already bombed us several times since early this year and has gravely damaged our strategic interests in our own neighborhood.

To those Pakistanis who think we can't say no to America, please get a heart. Don't be intimidated by its impressive scare campaign targeting Pakistan, synchronizing a warmongering US media with matching diplomatic and military movements. This is the Pentagon mimicking Hollywood. In the real world, Washington was snubbed on several fronts last week. Russia and China foiled the Anglo-American gang-up on Zimbabwe; an occupied Iraq asked Washington to leave; Syria made a big hole in its US-imposed diplomatic isolation, and Hezbollah became part of a new Lebanese government.

But the best example came from a Pakistani battalion commander on the border with Afghanistan, who – for the first time – opened fire on American and Afghan soldiers violating the border on the night between July 10 and 11. The first thing that Washington needs to hear – publicly – from Islamabad is that, if this is a partnership, US interests cannot be secured alone

in Afghanistan at the expense of Pakistan's regional interests. It has to be a win-win for both sides.

Second, the intrigues and conspiracies against Pakistan from Afghanistan's soil have to stop forthwith. Failing this, Islamabad should be ready with a range of available punitive measures that only require political will. Pakistani officials have been sitting on a mountain of evidence that shows how Afghanistan is exporting terrorism, separatism and sectarianism to Pakistan in an organized way. And this is not about Taliban or Al Qaeda. This is the work of elements in the Afghan ministries of defence and interior and the intelligence service.

Then there is the Indian role. Advisers and intelligence from India are actively helping Karzai's Kabul in infiltrating and destabilizing Pakistan's tribal region. In fact, the prime minister's adviser on interior on July 12 publicly accused Afghanistan of supporting Baitullah Mehsud. In addition to this, attacks on Chinese citizens in Pakistan have been proven to be planned in Afghanistan and Islamabad has evidence of Indian involvement in at least one case where three Chinese citizens were killed near Peshawar. The Chinese government is cognizant of this evidence. Money and weapons have been fed into the religious movements and Al Qaeda remnants in Pakistan's tribal areas to fight Pakistani government and military. The entire western region, from Gwadar to the Chinese border, has been destabilized in less than four years.

The fact is that Washington has given India a generous space in Afghanistan and then did nothing to stop covert Indian attacks on Pakistan from the Afghan soil. In comparison, Pakistani offers for help in Afghan reconciliation were always sabotaged. This deliberate expansion of Indian influence should not be acceptable to Pakistan. The almost theatrical US hints about an impending invasion of Pakistan should be taken, in the light of the above evidence, as a serious threat to the integrity of Pakistan.

Islamabad should start talking about punitive actions such as cutting off supplies to the coalition forces if the US continues to violate its territory. In the worst case scenario, we should revive our ties to Afghan Taliban. We need friends in Afghanistan. We already have enemies there.

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

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