Redefine Pak-US ties
Pakistan’s Parliament has unanimously voted for a redefinition of Pak-US ties following the breach of its sovereignty by the US, which clandestinely entered its territory to conduct an operation to take out Osama bin Laden. Pakistan has been religiously carrying out its end of the bargain in the war on terror, having sacrificed over 35,000 people including security personnel and apprehending over 600 Al-Qaeda operatives. It is ironic that since 1954, when Pakistan entered the US fold becoming a strategic ally and joining defence pacts like SEATO and CENTO, its relations with the US has swung like a pendulum from one extreme to another. Despite sticking its neck out for its arch ally, the US, Pakistan has not only been left in the lurch, but to add insult to injury, sanctions have been slapped on it, making it the most allied ally of the US as well as the most sanctioned one.
The 1960 U-2 incident, which occurred during the Cold War on May 1, 1960, when an American spy plane was shot down over the Soviet Union airspace, is one example. The plane was being operated from Pakistan’s airbase at Peshawar clandestinely to spy over USSR’s territory without taking Pakistan into confidence. It was only when the spy plane was shot down, its pilot Gary Powers arrested, and the Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev threatened Pakistan of dire consequences that the then government became alive to the situation.
In 1965 and 1971 Indo-Pak wars, the US did not come to the aid of its ally and instead imposed sanctions on it, despite its being a member of SEATO and CENTO. In early 1971, Pakistan played an important role in the US-China rapprochement by organising a secret visit of US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger to Beijing, which became the forerunner of then US President Richard Nixon’s historic visit to China, heralding the thaw in Sino-US relations.
In April 1979, the US suspended all economic assistance to Pakistan, in accordance with the 1977 Symington Amendment to the US Foreign Assistance Act of 1961, over concerns about its nuclear programme. Ironically, in 1979 – immediately after the invasion of Afghanistan by the Soviet Union – the US was on Pakistan’s doorstep once again, when it sought its support to defeat the Soviets. Pakistan provided its territory to CIA to train the Afghan mujahedeen to launch a guerrilla war against the Soviets. For the next 10 years, subsequent American Presidents continued to provide waiver towards Islamabad’s nuclear ambitions so that the US operations in Afghanistan could continue from Pakistan. No sooner the war ended, the US invoked the Pressler Amendment to sanction Pakistan and stop all military transactions.
But later 9/11 changed the scenario and Pakistan reappeared on the US radar of allies and friends. After the Soviet defeat in Afghanistan, the ‘same’ mujahideen and Arab jihadis including Osama bin Laden, who were recruited, trained and equipped by the CIA became Frankenstein’s and a threat to the world. After 9/11, President General (retd) Pervez Musharraf under US coercion joined the war on terror as a US ally.
Pakistan provided the US a number of military airports and bases for its attack on Afghanistan, along with other logistical support. In return, sanctions were lifted and it has received an amount of $10 billion in US aid since 2001, primarily military. Pakistan has lost thousands of lives after it joined the war on terror, and is currently going through a critical period. The Taliban have been resurgent in recent years in both Afghanistan and Pakistan. In addition, the economy is in an extremely fragile position since Pakistan has expended over $65 billion in the war. To make matters worse, when the US-led allies and NATO forces faced stiff resistance from the Afghan Taliban, they began pressurising their ally (Pakistan) to “do more”. Not only did the US demands reach unreasonable limits, but Pakistan also became passé Washington accused certain elements in Pakistan’s premier intelligence agency ISI of having contacts with the Afghan Taliban. Now that Senator John Kerry has pronounced that the US had proof of Pakistan’s complicity in sheltering Osama, Washington could terminate its aid to Islamabad.
Pakistan definitely needs to redefine the rules of engagement with the US, including the termination of drone attacks, continuation of logistic transit and the human intelligence being provided to the CIA and demanding a diminished role for India in Afghanistan.