Time for Maturity
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