Display of American arrogance
Mohammad Jamil


Pakistanís Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar said that an apology by the US administration for the Nato air strike at Salalah would not satisfy the Pakistani government, but it requires a reassessment of Islamabadís partnership with Washington. ďThis did require a complete relook at the terms of engagement with the US,Ē she said. On March 18, PM Gilani had also expressed similar views, when he stated that Pakistan was not seeking an apology from the US on the Salalah incident, but looking for new directions in relations with Washington on key issues. The new terms of engagement are before our law-makers to debate and vote upon these terms, among other things include charging fees for Nato goods transported through Pakistan, an end to US drone strikes on Pakistani soil, and an unconditional apology for the deadly Nato air strike.

But America has not tendered an apology to give a soothing effect to the sufferers. Meanwhile, the decision of US military not to take action against the officials involved in attack at Salalah has added fuel to the fire, and such arrogance would not help in improving the Pak-US relationship already at its lowest ebb. But knowing the superpower, it is not surprising at all; not infrequently but many a time, the American soldiers have been caught for committing the most heinous war crimes. Their military commanders and political leaders are always stubbornly loath to put their delinquent personnel through their own justice system, let alone the international criminal law, to face the consequences of their criminal acts.

Therefore, the publication of the second report placing blame on Pakistani soldiers for having resorted to firing first, after the first one was rejected by Pakistan, has made it difficult for the government to reopen the Nato supply routes and resume cooperation in the war on terror. It is a well known fact that US troops in Afghanistan have several times violated international conventions; the latest one to add to their list of criminal acts is the massacre of Afghan civilians in Kandahar. Of course, the Staff Sergeant soldier, Robert Bales, has been formally charged for killing 16 people in a pre-dawn shooting rampage that further eroded US-Afghan relations already frayed by a decade of war. Premeditated murder is a capital offence under the US military justice code, so Bales could face the death penalty if convicted; but there is a perception that he could be given life sentence or shorter. For instance, the horrific cold-blooded massacre of innocent South Vietnamese in March 1968 is a case in point. Scores of US soldiers, who had descended on helicopters on a village of about 700 people on the fateful day, had killed 500 innocent children, women and elderly persons with savage gunfire. The US commanders and the political leaders were at first in total denial of this mass slaughter. But after incontrovertible evidence started coming to the fore, both the military and political bosses presented all sorts of excuses. Under the heat of global outrage and some domestic pressure, the US administration had to institute an investigation and a trial was held albeit for formís sake. Almost all the 26 soldiers put on trial were exonerated from the charge and released. Only a second lieutenant was convicted. And although he was found guilty of slaughtering 29 Vietnamese villagers, including several toddlers, his life sentence was reduced to three and a half years imprisonment by the then President, which he spent not in jail but his own home with his family. So, it could be an incorrigible optimist in Islamabad who thought it was going to be any different with Salalah holocaust from what it was with the My Lai massacre by the trigger-happy American soldiers?

Having all said, Pakistan seems to have adopted a pragmatic policy that Parliament would decide about the future of Pak-US relations, and national interest would be safeguarded. The Parliamentary Committee in its recommendations covered many points, but it ought to have mentioned Pakistan armyís response in case the US/Nato forces trample our sovereignty again. Certainly, Salalah is not going to be the first and last naked aggression on a Pakistani military post.