Time for Ma­tu­rity

Southasia - - Comment -

It is quite dis­turb­ing to note that in its run-up to a planned exit from the Afghan war the­atre in the next three years, the US/NATO-ISAF com­bine is stoop­ing to such acts of bla­tant ag­gres­sion as the Nov 26 aerial at­tack on a Pak­istan Army bor­der post, killing some 24 of­fi­cers and men. The at­tack left a trail of anger and dis­be­lief across Pak­istan and trig­gered a strong of­fi­cial and pub­lic re­ac­tion. With the vi­tal NATO-ISAF sup­ply line run­ning through Pak­istan im­me­di­ately cut off and the bor­der be­tween Pak­istan and Afghanistan sealed in re­sponse to the at­tack, there was a cat­e­gor­i­cal de­mand from the Pak­istani au­thor­i­ties for va­ca­tion of the Shamsi air base (pur­ported to be used for drone at­tacks over Pak­istan) by US forces. It was also de­cided that Pak­istan would not at­tend the in­ter­na­tional con­fer­ence on Afghanistan be­ing held in Bonn in De­cem­ber.

Fol­low­ing the in­ci­dent, there was an ex­change of charges of provo­ca­tion from both sides but it had be­come abun­dantly clear that the aerial in­cur­sion was a pre-med­i­tated one and the bla­tant vi­o­la­tion of Pak­istan’s sov­er­eign ter­ri­tory could have been avoided. While anger at pub­lic and of­fi­cial lev­els may have been riled up by the un­for­tu­nate in­ci­dent, these are times when Pak­istan must act with more re­straint and ma­tu­rity. It must not al­low it­self to be­come a vic­tim of an im­pul­sive re­ac­tion by its mil­i­tary es­tab­lish­ment since any es­ca­la­tion in the de­te­ri­o­rat­ing re­la­tions be­tween Pak­istan and the US may lead to fur­ther com­pli­ca­tions and may even in­vite the trig­ger happy US-NATO forces to make deeper for­ays into Pak­istani ter­ri­tory in the name of ‘hot pur­suit’ of the Tale­ban. Who knows, they may even use their hi-tech mil­i­tary might to strike Pak­istan’s strate­gic as­sets.

On the part of the US, which is now look­ing for a re­spectable de­par­ture from the re­gion, it is all the more im­per­a­tive that its stand-off with Pak­istan not be es­ca­lated since the lat­ter is key to this exit. Amer­ica should be­have in a man­ner that be­fits the role of a re­spon­si­ble global power. As be­fore, Pak­istan has again paid heav­ily in this war. The time has come when the huge sac­ri­fices made by the coun­try be viewed in their true per­spec­tive and its army and peo­ple not be sub­jected to the same short-sight­ed­ness that was dis­played when Amer­ica and its al­lies left the re­gion in tat­ters af­ter the So­viet with­drawal. As for Pak­istan, rather than ratch­et­ing its con­fronta­tion level with the US, the demo­cratic govern­ment must assert be­fore all con­cerned that the coun­try’s national in­ter­est comes be­fore any other in­ter­est. It must not give the NATO-ISAF forces more rea­sons to make ac­cu­sa­tions against its army of look­ing the other way to trans­gres­sions by mil­i­tants based on its side of the bor­der and it must en­cour­age a tri­par­tite di­a­logue be­tween it­self and the US and Tale­ban, rather than al­low­ing the army to choose the sui­ci­dal path of armed ex­changes.

Syed Jawaid Iqbal

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