On Pak-US relations
While the proposals formulated at the ambassadors’ conference have yet to be taken to the Parliamentary Committee on National Security and then considered by Parliament, Nato Commander in Afghanistan Gen John Allen has indicated he has already “a sense of progress” regarding the possible lifting of Pakistan’s communication blackout imposed after November 26 Nato attack. The General revealed that in his telephonic conversation with Gen Kayani, both sides expressed a commitment to work through the incident even though a statement by the ISPR has stated that the issue of the reopening of the supply routes did not come up in the telephonic conversation. These at-odds statements will fuel speculation rather than put them to rest.
Defence Secretary Leon Panetta, too, has talked on the telephone with Gen Kayani, instead of his Pakistani counterpart Defence Minister Ahmad Mukhtar, which indicates that the issue is being settled mainly through military channels, keeping the civilian setup out. The clarification by State Department Spokesperson Victoria Nuland that the $700 million freeze in US aid to Pakistan was not meant for the civilian component of the aid indicates that the measure was meant specifically to put pressure on the military.
The proposals submitted by the ambassadors’ conference are quire realistic. The unusual favours granted to Washington by the COAS-cum-President in 2002 were meant to provide an incentive to the US to continue to support his quasi-military rule. There is absolutely no sense in why Islamabad should not be adequately charging the NATO for the wear and tear of Pakistan’s highways caused by thousands of Nato containers and for amenities provided to the trucks and their drivers. The NATO enquiry should be credible enough to allow the resumption of the container traffic and mutual coordination. The drone strikes must not be undertaken without a prior understanding with Islamabad and the Afghan refugees should be repatriated at the earliest.
While many would welcome a way out of the untenable confrontation between the US and Pakistan, the media hype has created unrealistic expectations that neither the government nor the army is in a position to fulfil. The end of the confrontation, whenever it comes, should be seen to be a joint decision of the civilian government and the armed forces. It must not lead to another blame game.