The spy chiefs have a lot to sort out
While Lt-Gen Zaheerul Islam pays his maiden visit to Langley as the ISI chief, Islamabad and Washington are publicly discussing what they expect from one another. Rehman Malik wants Washington to call off the drone attack, share drone technology and intelligence with Pakistan. Ambassador Sherry Rehman has already underlined the need on the part of ISAF to go after the militants who have launched attacks inside Pakistan’s tribal areas from the Afghan side. Washington wants action against the Haqqani network, LeT leadership and release of Dr Shakil Afridi. The issues are highly important and unless they are seriously addressed the relations between the two countries would further deteriorate. Some of these are likely to turn up during the talks. It is, however, unrealistic to think that the visit would produce any dramatic results. Crucial policy decisions are taken by political authorities rather than the spy chiefs.
The most important issue facing the two countries is lack of mutual trust. Mistrust reached unprecedented heights after the Salala killings, virtually turning the erstwhile allies into adversaries. Islamabad perceives drone attacks as undeclared acts of war. The American officials maintain that the ISI is covertly aiding the insurgents. An example of the level to which the ties have degenerated is the undiplomatic rebuttal by some ISAF official in Afghanistan of a recent statement from Ambassador Rehman. A write up in the NYT maintains that the US is “one major attack” away from unilateral action against Pakistan — diplomatically or perhaps even militarily. This is a dangerous situation for both countries, more so for Pakistan.
It is time both turn back from the brink. The DG ISI travelled to hold talks with Gen. Petraeus when Pakistan and the US were preparing to sign an accord on Nato supplies. The moves should be seen as attempts by Pakistan to mend the ties. The US needs to realise that while drone strikes might have eliminated some of the key al-Qaeda figures, they have also caused the deaths of innocent people leading to widespread resentment all over Pakistan. The sentiment has helped the militants to make fresh recruitments. A way out has to be found by Washington with the help of Pakistan. Islamabad has to realise that there is a need to get rid of the militants of all hues and colours to ensure peace and stability at home and in the region. Both sides have to enter into a give and take to put an end the cross-border attacks along the entire Pak-Afghan border. The US and Pakistan have no alternative but to join hands to eradicate extremism and militancy.