PAK­ISTAN

Hopes are rife that af­ter a re­cent visit to Pak­istan by U.S. Sec­re­tary of State Hil­lary Clin­ton, the rocky re­la­tion­ship be­tween Washington and Is­lam­abad may be headed for a pe­riod of sta­bil­ity.

Southasia - - News - By J. En­ver

The U.S. is like a Mother-in-law who is just not sat­is­fied.

Hil­lary Clin­ton has had her ups and downs on her var­i­ous trips to Pak­istan and ev­ery time she has vis­ited the coun­try, she has come with a shop­ping list of wishes that she wants the Pak­ista­nis to de­liver for the U.S.

By the time the U.S. Sec­re­tary of State’s re­cent visit to Pak­istan (Oct 20) came about, much more water had flowed un­der the bridge, many more US drones had wreaked havoc in the lives of in­no­cent Pak­ista­nis, Ray­mond Davis had had his day, Osama bin Laden had been ‘taken out’ and Washington’s trou­bled re­la­tion­ship with Pak­istan had hit a new low.

There­fore, when the Sec­re­tary of State at­tended a town hall meet­ing in Is­lam­abad, a fe­male par­tic­i­pant stood up and had no qualms in terming the U.S. as Pak­istan’s im­pos­si­ble-to-please mother-in-law.

Quipped Shamama, a young lady who works for a women’s group in Khy­ber Pakhtunkhwa: “We all know that the whole of Pak­istan is fac­ing the brunt of what­ever is hap­pen­ing and try­ing to co­op­er­ate with the U.S. and some­how the U.S. is like a mother-in-law which is just not sat­is­fied with us.” Her spon­ta­neous re­marks were met with a hearty round of ap­plause from around the room.

“We are try­ing to please you, and ev­ery time you come and visit us you have a new idea and tell us, ‘You are not do­ing enough and need to work harder,’” she said.

Driven into a laugh­ing fit, Clin­ton said she could per­son­ally re­late to the lady’s per­spec­tive be­cause she, too, was a mother-in-law. The Sec­re­tary of State’s daugh­ter, Chelsea, mar­ried an in­vest­ment banker last year in New York.

“I think that’s a great anal­ogy I have never heard be­fore,” said Clin­ton. “Now that I am a mother-in-law, I to­tally un­der­stand what you’re say­ing and hope to do bet­ter pri­vately and pub­licly. “I per­son­ally be­lieve this re­la­tion­ship is crit­i­cal, im­por­tant to us both, and there­fore we can­not give it up,” said Clin­ton. “Once a mother-in­law, al­ways a mother-in-law, but per­haps moth­ers-in-law can learn new ways also.”

How­ever, Hil­lary Clin­ton is not Pak­istan’s first mother-in-law to have played tough with the coun­try. This daugh­ter-in-law has been meted out sim­i­lar treat­ment by Hil­lary’s pre­de­ces­sor, Con­doleezza Rice as well as other se­nior US of­fi­cials. The US chant of ‘Do More’ has be­come the theme song of the Us-pak­istan re­la­tion­ship ever since 9/11 and the deci­bel level of the song has grown to a loud shrill over the years, much to the ir­ri­ta­tion of the govern­ment, mil­i­tary and peo­ple of Pak­istan.

In a pub­lic in­ter­ac­tion some two

years ear­lier, Hil­lary was asked why the United States mi­cro­man­aged Pak­istan’s af­fairs and why was there such a deep “trust deficit” be­tween the two coun­tries?

The trou­bled U.s.-pak­istan re­la­tion­ship, al­most al­ways on the rocks, has be­come con­sid­er­ably rougher this year, fol­low­ing the ar­rest of CIA con­trac­tor Ray­mond Davis who gunned down two Pak­istani youth in the streets of La­hore and was later re­leased un­der a hush-hush deal be­tween the US and Pak­istan gov­ern­ments. The covert raid by US Seals in­side the city of Ab­bot­tabad that pur­port­edly killed Osama bin Laden and re­cent al­le­ga­tions that Pak­istan’s ISI had aided at­tacks on Amer­i­can tar­gets in Afghanistan fur­ther fu­elled the sit­u­a­tion.

The U.S. may have given Pak­istan a few bil­lion dol­lars in mil­i­tary and civil­ian aid over the past decade to buy the coun­try’s co­op­er­a­tion on the Afghan war, but the Pak­istani peo­ple have never been quite happy with the ap­proach adopted by the United States. The U.S. has ap­peared to be only in­ter­ested in pur­chas­ing the coun­try’s co­op­er­a­tion in its ‘an­titer­ror­ism’ of­fen­sives and not quite both­ered in in­vest­ing in a long-term bi­lat­eral part­ner­ship to build the peo­ple eco­nom­i­cally.

This time again, the fo­cus of the visit by US Sec­re­tary of State along with the new CIA chief, David Pe­traeus and the new Chair­man of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Martin Dempsey, was to push Pak­istan to step up pres­sure on its side of the Afghan bor­der and flush out the Haqqani net­work from North Waziris­tan, not in months but in ‘days and weeks.’ The Amer­i­can de­mand, in essence, is that forces from Pak­istan and the coali­tion in Afghanistan should “squeeze” out the Tal­iban and al­lied ex­trem­ists, such as the Haqqani net­work, which op­er­ates on both sides of the bor­der.

Ms. Clin­ton, how­ever, did praise the re­cent co­op­er­a­tion by Pak­istan against al-qaeda as a model in how to crack down on the Haqqa­nis as well as the Tal­iban, re­port­edly based in Quetta, the cap­i­tal of Balochis­tan. “Be­cause of in­tel­li­gence shar­ing and mu­tual co­op­er­a­tion, we have tar­geted three of the top al-qaeda op­er­a­tives since bin Laden’s death. That could not have hap­pened with­out Pak­istani co­op­er­a­tion,” she said.

The Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion is not ask­ing Pak­istan’s mil­i­tary to oc­cupy its rugged bor­der re­gions, the base for ex­trem­ist groups that at­tack U.S., al­lied and Afghan forces on the other side, Clin­ton said in an in­ter­view af­ter her two days of meet­ings in Is­lam­abad. There are “dif­fer­ent ways of fight­ing be­sides overt mil­i­tary ac­tion,” she sug­gested.

Hil­lary Clin­ton said she pressed Pak­istan to fully share in­tel­li­gence with U.S. forces in Afghanistan to pre­vent at­tacks and choke off money and sup­ply routes. Bet­ter co­or­di­na­tion might pre­vent in­ci­dents like the Sept. 20 as­sault on the Amer­i­can Em­bassy in Kabul, which the U.S. blames on the Haqqani net­work.

How­ever, Clin­ton said the U.S. mes­sage to Pak­istan was that the same in­sur­gents who have launched lethal at­tacks against U.S. and Afghan tar­gets may again un­leash their vi­o­lence and this time in­side Pak­istan. She said she had urged Pak­istan to take ad­van­tage of the roughly 130,000troop, U.s.-led NATO force cur­rently sta­tioned in Afghanistan while they were still there as both the U.S. and NATO had be­gun pulling out troops and planned to hand over full se­cu­rity con­trol to the Afghan govern­ment by the end of 2014.

Did Hil­lary Clin­ton’s two-day visit to Pak­istan help Washington bet­ter un­der­stand Is­lam­abad’s po­si­tion? The Sec­re­tary of State did seem to ac­knowl­edge that help with a ne­go­ti­ated set­tle­ment is per­haps the best the US can hope for from Pak­istan. Po­lit­i­cal an­a­lysts be­lieve that the re­la­tion­ship be­tween Pak­istan and the US is now head­ing to­wards some kind of sta­bil­ity – at least for the time be­ing.

“I think we’ve done a lot to clear the air,” Clin­ton told re­porters dur­ing her stay in Pak­istan. Quot­ing Kayani, she said that the two sides are “90% to 95% on the same page.”

In a rad­i­cal shift, the US has agreed to meet the Haqqa­nis across the ta­ble. So far, Washington had been urg­ing Pak­istan to take mil­i­tary ac­tion against the Haqqani net­work in­side North Waziris­tan, which the lat­ter has been re­sist­ing though now Gen. Kayani is said to have agreed to go af­ter the Haqqani group in a way that it would limit their space in North Waziris­tan.

The ex­pec­ta­tions of the US are that all groups in­volved in the so-called rec­on­cil­i­a­tion with the Afghan govern­ment should re­nounce vi­o­lence, dis­avow al-qaeda and rec­og­nize the con­sti­tu­tion of Afghanistan. How­ever, the Pak­ista­nis don’t agree be­cause there is still a lot more ground to cover be­fore things can come to this point. It is ob­vi­ous that con­sid­er­ing the dif­fi­cult sit­u­a­tion Pak­istan finds it­self in deal­ing with the in­sur­gents on its north­ern bor­ders, it will have to play with fire for much longer be­fore it can bring mil­i­tants of var­i­ous hues to the ne­go­ti­at­ing ta­ble.

Pak­istan may have some­thing to cling onto in the fact that the US is at last com­ing round to lend­ing an ear to its gen­uine con­cerns re­gard­ing the fall­out of the Afghan con­flict. But you never know when the mother-in­law may re­turn – and ask Pak­istan to ‘do more’! The writer is a free­lance jour­nal­ist and takes keen in­ter­est in Pak­istani pol­i­tics. He also writes on so­cio-eco­nomic and se­cu­rity is­sues of the re­gion.

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