CASA Map: Our com­pro­mised pol­icy?

Pakistan Observer - - OPINION - Ali Ashraf Khan

Pak­istan’s For­eign Affairs Ad viser Sar­taj Aziz has re­cently ad­mit­ted that there has been a ‘stale­mate’ in re­la­tions with Washington for the last three months. A glimpse of it has been seen in the US Congress de­ci­sion to deny sub­sidy on the sale of F-16 jets to Pak­istan,” he said while wind­ing up a de­bate in Se­nate. Now this in­for­ma­tion was sup­ported by El­iz­a­beth Trudeau, Di­rec­tor Of­fice of Press Re­la­tions State De­part­ment who dur­ing a press brief­ing dis­closed that “Key mem­bers of US Congress are not pre­pared to sup­port mil­i­tary aid to Pak­istan”. The prob­lem those ‘key mem­bers’ have is that Pak­istan is not do­ing enough to round up the Haqqani net­work whose lead­er­ship is sup­posed by the Congress to be lo­cated in Pak­istan.

There have been many com­ments and re­jec­tions of this al­le­ga­tion by the mil­i­tary and law en­forc­ing in­sti­tu­tions of Pak­istan and we needn’t add an­other one. What makes this sit­u­a­tion in­ter­est­ing is the fact that it of­fers (an­other) op­por­tu­nity to Pak­istani for­eign and de­fence pol­icy mak­ers to re­con­sider our al­liances in those sec­tors. In 2001 when asked (or pres­sur­ized) by Pres­i­dent Bush to join the war against ter­ror, Pak­istan joined with­out mak­ing any pre­con­di­tions. Since then Pak­istan has done and sac­ri­ficed much more than the US in this war, given the fact that we are the neigh­bour­ing coun­try and we share not only a long bor­der but a long com­mon his­tory and cul­tural tra­di­tion though have not en­joyed very cor­dial re­la­tions dur­ing peace times with Afghanistan.

While the US counted metic­u­lously the num­ber of US sol­diers killed - it has re­port­edly reached some two thou­sand only - Pak­istan has suf­fered tens of thou­sands of mil­i­tary and civil­ian deaths in the same war that we fought on US be­half. In ad­di­tion, we suf­fered im­mea­sur­able more by that war; ma­te­ri­ally it de­stroyed our roads and in­fra­struc­ture, it dam­aged our econ­omy. But much more pre­car­i­ously it dam­aged our so­ci­ety by up­set­ting its bal­ance not only in the tribal bor­der ar­eas but ev­ery­where. Mil­lions of Afghan refugees and in­ter­nally dis­placed swept through Pak­istan set­tling from La­hore in the East to Karachi in the South chang­ing the eth­nic and cul­tural bal­ance and cre­at­ing so­cial strife and con­trol­ling the ma­jor chunk of goods trans­porta­tion busi­ness by road apart from smug­gling of arms and drugs. It was again un­der US pres­sure dur­ing Mushar­raf rule that even Pak­istani travel doc­u­ments were is­sued freely to Afghan refugees to fa­cil­i­tate their travel to West and US.

The US is known for cre­at­ing world-wide tur­moil for its own petty per­sonal in­ter­est; take the Ji­had against Soviet forces in 1979-80, when Soviet troops were in­vited to Afghanistan by the then law­ful gov­ern­ment to as­sist in law & or­der sit­u­a­tion, Osama bin Laden loaded with US dol­lars and arms was in­ducted in ji­had with General Zi­aul Haq’s ac­tive role, which was not in the in­ter­est of Pak­istan. When the US pur­pose was served, Afghanistan and Pak­istan were aban­doned. Again dur­ing the nineties when US started ey­ing Cen­tral Asian oil and gas and min­eral re­sources in this re­gion the so-called 9/11 was plot­ted and Osama bin Laden was made a scape­goat for US plan of col­o­niza­tion of re­sources through this so-called war against ter­ror­ism un­der pre-emp­tive war­fare plan of Ge­orge W. Bush that is now tak­ing its toll from US and rest of the world. Since then it has cre­ated the hand­made ban­ner of “Daesh” threat which is noth­ing but part of Chris­ten­dom’s Mil­len­nium agenda.

Now you look at US arm twist­ing on Afghan peace re­quire­ment; ap­par­ently Pak­istan is not only be­ing asked to do more but much more, In­dian supremacy in the re­gion is also to be guarded by Nawaz Sharif and a few months back the much trum­peted TAPI gas pipe­line was in­au­gu­rated jointly by the In­dian Vice Pres­i­dent, Hamid An­sari, Turk­menistan Pres­i­dent, Afghan Pres­i­dent and Nawaz Sharif in De­cem­ber 2015. It is claimed that the five projects as­so­ci­ated with TAPI would change the des­tiny of Afghanistan and Pak­istan but so far it only gained bor­der ten­sion from both In­dia and Afghanistan for US. Then our gov­ern­ment and for­eign of­fice con­tin­ued si­lence on un­earthing of a highly provoca­tive spy net­work of RAW in­dul­gence in ter­ror­ist at­tacks in Pak­istan, when an In­dian naval of­fi­cer Gul­bashen Yadev was ar­rested who gave clue of hun­dreds of his other op­er­a­tives of which thirty five to forty were ap­pre­hended. Spies were ar­rested even from Ramzan Sugar Mill, which be­longs to Nawaz Sharif fam­ily, but it seems un­der US pres­sure the mat­ter has been pushed un­der the car­pet. Then re­ports are com­ing of Amer­i­can at­tempts to lease air bases in In­dia. Even it was heard that two ma­jor ho­tels in Is­lam­abad were the tar­get of a RAW of­fen­sive meant to si­lence the Panama papers scuf­fle of PML (N) with Op­po­si­tion par­ties that ap­pears to have reached some other set­tle­ment.

Now the CASA project for the pur­chase of 1300 MW elec­tric­ity by Pak­istan and Afghanistan from May to Septem­ber pe­ri­ods has been in­au­gu­rated and the con­struc­tion of Trans­mis­sion lines of 455 Km in Afghanistan and 755 km in Pak­istan to cost an enor­mous amount of over $ 1.5 bil­lion! What a waste­ful ex­er­cise, the only pur­pose be­hind the tim­ing of this drama ap­pears to be show­ing at the in­au­gu­ral site wall mounted map of the re­gions coun­tries, where four heads of gov­ern­ment with their high-ups were per­form­ing the open­ing cer­e­mony. In such a sit­u­a­tion it can’t be called just a mis­take that Pak­istani ter­ri­tory of Kash­mir and Gil­gitBaltistan was shown as In­dian ter­ri­tory on the same line as In­dia claims that so as to es­tab­lish bor­der link and road ac­cess with Afghanistan. Strangely the Pak­istani Prime Min­is­ter and his high pow­ered del­e­ga­tion re­mained tight lipped on this and no protest was launched; had they done so, it could have been changed in hours or this map could be black­out for me­dia.

Na­tional in­ter­est has been com­pro­mised for per­sonal in­ter­est again and such an em­bar­rass­ment is not con­sid­ered any big is­sue by the co­terie of such pup­pet regimes. I vividly re­mem­ber in my youth days when Shah of Iran was the US po­lice­man for the East, a sim­i­lar sit­u­a­tion used to dis­turb the for­eign of­fice over a map when the Pak­istan gov­ern­ment used to keep chang­ing our ocean map show­ing some time the same as Per­sian Gulf and some­time as Ara­bian Gulf. I have read that in 49 BC, a de­fi­ant Julius Cae­sar stood in front of his army at the River Ru­bi­con and made the big­gest de­ci­sion of life, it was strictly for­bid­den by Ro­man law for a General to lead his army out of its Prov­ince and into North­ern Italy to fight against forces of Pom­pey, as Ru­bi­con had marked the bound­ary - “Alea iacta est” He said ( mean­ing The die is cast) and he led his army across the river into civil war and phrase “cross­ing the Ru­bi­con” sig­ni­fies a risky and dan­ger­ous point of no re­turn. Nowa­days many pow­ers are cross­ing that limit, be­cause Cae­sar con­sid­ered this step in the best in­ter­est of Ro­man Em­pire though later he faced the con­se­quences of such a risky de­ci­sion that would have and in fact liq­ui­dated the Ro­man Em­pire.

Know­ing all this, Ad­viser on For­eign Affairs Sar­taj Aziz who is a Pash­tun him­self and the gov­ern­ment of Pak­istan should take this stale­mate in our un­for­tu­nate re­la­tion with the US to re­con­sider this al­liance and find bet­ter part­ners closer to home. In the first place that means im­prove our re­la­tions with neigh­bour­ing Iran, put our Afghan pol­icy on a re­al­is­tic foot­ing and strengthen our com­mit­ment in the Shang­hai se­cu­rity pact. That makes it rea­son­able to look for F16 re­place­ment in Rus­sia. Have you seen the mil­i­tary pa­rade on Red Square in Moscow on 9 May? If not it is avail­able on Youtube. Rus­sia is known to be a much more re­li­able po­lit­i­cal and mil­i­tary part­ner; just see Syria and Iran ex­am­ples. Closer re­la­tions with Rus­sia would also be help­ful in re­or­ga­niz­ing our Afghan pol­icy. Let’s take this ‘stale­mate’ as an op­por­tu­nity for the bet­ter and not as a dis­as­ter which it is not. Sur­vival of Pak­istan is the need of time that needs im­me­di­ate re­vamp­ing of state ap­pa­ra­tus and bury the sta­tus quo for ever from our body politics. GOD Bless Pak­istan and Hu­man­ity. —The writer is a se­nior colum­nist based in Karachi.

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