Thursday, October 14, 2010


Three Security Persons were martyred and three others wounded when NATO's Helicopters targetted a Security Check Post in Kurram Agency at Afghan Border early Thursday morning. Injured persons were shifted to Hospital.
It is second violation of rules in Pakistani territory by NATO's Helicopters.

by Dr. Manzur Ejaz

Despite internal frictions, Pakistan’s ruling elite is still wedded to a non-workable religious ideology, which is supposed to provide the central thread for the survival of the country. The public is fed on such illusions that it does not see any contradiction between begging from the world and conquering it at the same time

The standoff between Pakistan and the US and NATO was kind of a war game in which both sides were testing each other’s tolerance level. The US was testing how much interference Pakistan can stomach and Pakistan was testing the ultimate price of non-cooperation with the US. The reopening of the supply routes was almost assured. However, the confrontation may have triggered processes that carry long-term effects. Not only has the Pak-US dynamic changed but the incident may also affect the balance of power within Pakistan.

The standoff was always waiting in the wings because of inherent contradictions between the US and Pakistan. The US mindset is fixed on short- term gains: the US capitalist system revolves around quarterly profits, where business entities are always more concerned about the next quarter rather than next year, or decade. Similarly, politics are also run on quarterly bases in which every eighth quarter — two-year election cycle — dictates strategy at home and abroad. No wonder the Obama administration is in a haste to wind up the Afghan war and help the eighth quarter politics. 

On the contrary, Pakistan is obsessed with largely self-inflicted insecurity besides anarchy, instability and perpetual crises. Its alignment of institutions is unusual and always remains skewed in one way or the other. Despite internal frictions, its ruling elite is still wedded to a non-workable religious ideology, which is supposed to provide the central thread for the survival of the country. The public is fed on such illusions that it does not see any contradiction between begging from the world and conquering it at the same time.

Given the mismatch between the US and Pakistani thinking, standoffs are quite expected. However, after the devastating floods the lukewarm response from Washington and its NATO allies was going to invite a Pakistani retaliation sooner or later. The military had to take care of the floods’ wreckage and it must have felt the squeeze. The flood damage ran into billions of dollars and a few hundred million dollars of western aid was really peanuts. Incidentally, a billion dollars in US aid seems a lot but in Pakistan’s economy of 185 billion (2009) it does not go very far. Therefore, Pakistanis may have felt betrayed.

One may argue that, based on past experiences, the world was disgusted with possible misappropriation of aid money and the demand for transparency was legitimate. But the problem is that the ruling elite that was most likely to misappropriate aid is the greatest US partner. Therefore, when the US or the Europeans do not help in such a dire situation, the ruling elite puts the blame on foreign powers rather than taking the responsibility itself. In any case, if the Pakistani military concluded that they have been left on their own to handle such a huge disaster, then they do not owe the world, particularly the US, anything. Furthermore, while Pakistan was going through the unprecedented crisis of the floods, the US rhetoric to ‘do more’ never took a breather.

Besides Pakistani disillusionment for being left alone at a real bad time, Bob Woodward’s book added fuel to the fire. Going through Obama’s Wars, one comes out with a deep impression that the US is obsessed with Pakistan’s nuclear warheads. If President Zardari is reported to have propounded a theory that Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) is funded by the US to create a crisis in which it can go in and take out the Pakistani nuclear warheads, he must have been briefed by some section of the security establishment. Therefore, when NATO destroys a Pakistani check post bordering Afghanistan, and kills three soldiers, the Pakistan Army may be taking it as the beginning of a large operation to rob Pakistan of its nuclear warheads. Given Vice President Joe Biden’s never-ending obsession with the Pakistani nuclear programme, the Pakistani military may not be retaliating just because of paranoia. Therefore, any hint of a US and NATO military operation is not going to be taken as a mere mistake in the future.

The US and Karzai government’s direct talks with the Taliban are also unsettling for the Pakistani military, which has invested heavily to have a place at the negotiating table. If the US drone attacks are meant to loosen up the Taliban to bring them to the negotiating table, Pakistan may go along with it as long as it is assured a place at the table. However, if turns out that Pakistan is left out, there will be countrywide protests against drone attacks and the military will find the rationale to resist the US.

For now, the status quo of supply routes has been reinstated, but it may have intended or unintended effects on the power balance within Pakistan. One thing is clear: in confrontation with the US, the Pakistan military has further enhanced its power to control foreign policy. As a matter of fact, Pakistan’s Afghan policy is back to where it was in the Musharraf era. Incidentally, Bob Woodward’s book makes it abundantly clear that the US Afghan policy is also monopolised by the Pentagon. The difference is that the Pentagon remains limited to war making, while the Pakistani military’s enhanced power has serious consequences for other institutions of the state.

The US should take into account Pakistani apprehensions when embarking on an action along the Pak-Afghan border. However, as it suffers from the self-perpetuation addiction to quarterly election results, the US administration will continue its war game strategy to win support at home.

The writer can be reached at
Source: Wichaar
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