The government of Pakistan having fiercely reacted to the Salala attacks took a very bold decision first time in the history of Pakistan against the US and decided to block supply routes, got the Shamsi base vacated and boycotted the Bonn Conference on Afghanistan. The aim was to obtain a US apology for such brutal aggression. Unfortunately, the US top leadership took it lightly and suggested Obama to be tough with Pakistan disregarding their demands of apology. Hence, they started a campaign against Pakistan in discrediting Pakistan’s civil-military leadership and criticising their policy decisions and threatening them with sanctions. As a result, relations between the two countries suffered a great setback and at one time it appeared as if US is abandoning Pakistan. Closure of NATO supply route unnerved the US as it affected their financial base.
Pakistan on the other hand continued to support US on GWOT. Pakistan only wanted an apology for the loss of lives and giving assurance to people of Pakistan that such acts will not be repeated and Pakistan’s sovereignty would be respected. Pakistan did not care about the threats and stood firm on its stand. It was Pakistan’s parliament that suggested refreshing the terms of engagement with US and getting an apology before opening the routes. The armed forces fully backed the government decision. Gen Kayani rejected an apology from ISAF commander Gen Allen saying that the matter was between the two states and not between the two armed forces, and if the government so decides, the routes will be reopened.
Opening of GLOC after obtaining US apology on Salala is rational and based on logical reasons. The US has accepted all the new terms of engagement and it is pointless to show signs of disrespect to the government decision. The decision to block GLOCs was of the government and it is the same government that took decision to open so what is the fuss about. The armed forces have no choice except to stand by with their constitutional obligation. Opening of the routes would help early withdrawal of the US-led forces from Afghanistan. Pakistan will receive payments under the Coalition Support Fund amounting to almost 1.1 billion dollars. This would also help in repairing the damaged relations with the superpower. Let this be stated clearly that military and civilian authorities are on the same page on this issue and the army fully backs the government decision. The opposition needs to adopt a rational approach on the issue instead of politicising it
The government’s decision to reopen the NATO supply routes would serve Pakistan’s interests over a longer period vis-à-vis the short term interests of the foreign forces that are itching to get out of the Afghan quagmire. It had to be done sooner or later and the government did well in reaching an understanding with the US on the issue. There was no point in prolonging the issue of re-opening of supply lines to NATO’s use since many of the coalition partners enjoy fraternal relations with Pakistan. The closure affected their respective forces’ security, operations and will to repatriate their soldiers as soon as possible.
The sentimental segment of our society that was strongly opposed to the re-opening of the NATO route has announced to protest the government’s decision. Some of the opportunist political parties and their known leaders trying to exploit the issue probably due to lack of understanding of the situation in Afghanistan, a neighbouring country whose security situation has direct impact on Pakistan. These forces also indicate their failure to understand global dynamics with respect to Afghanistan and the region. Nevertheless their protestation would reveal their understanding of sensitivities involved in re-opening of NATO supply lines at this critical juncture of Afghan war where the latter is trying to quit Afghanistan as soon as possible.
The heartening aspect of the scenario is the fact that its decision has been fully backed by the state institutions. The armed forces have also backed the decision of the government. As there has been no formal agreement between the two states and only the understanding reached on re-opening of NATO supply lines nevertheless indicate that finer points for a sustained relationship in line with the set of conditions placed by the PCNS are being discussed. Re-opening of the lines, therefore, does not mean that all the blocks towards resurrection of the relationship have been removed. Killing of 24 of Pakistan’s finest soldiers by the Americans should never have happened. Also, an automatic apology that ought to have been made over the brutal killings never came through despite the outgoing US ambassador Cameron Munter specifically conveying of the need to the US administration. This speaks much about the US’ arrogant approach towards Pakistan.
But in the current global security and economic environment, the government’s decision is rational. Being intransigent any more on an issue that potentially could have turned many of our friends away from us could have potentially isolated us. A clear massage has been given to the US. Pakistani nation deserves respect not for only being sovereign but also that it has made great sacrifices in this war on terror that remain unmatched.
ENGINEER JAVED IQBAL