Pakistan and the United States are at odds over the continuation of the war on terror. The new leadership is now showing their teeth to the US leadership. According to one report, Pakistan's new government will review the country's role in the US-led "war on terror," former premier Nawaz Sharif said Tuesday after holding talks visiting US Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte.
Sharif said he wanted peace around the world but did not want Pakistan turned into a "murder-house" to achieve that aim. "We discussed terrorism, we informed them our point of view is that since 9/11 all decisions were made by one man," Sharif told reporters. "Now the situation has changed, a truly representative parliament has come into being.... every decision will be presented before the parliament, they will review Musharraf's policy in the last six years," he said. Sharif said that a parliamentary committee would be set up "which will examine this and international concern and then keeping in view national aspirations will give recommendations." Negroponte and US Assistant Secretary of State Richard Boucher also held talks with Musharraf, although details were not immediately available. They were also set to meet prime minister Yousuf Raza Gilani. "Pervez Musharraf used the "war on terrorism" to perpetuate his rule.
No cabinet and no parliament was taken into confidence in any of his decisions. That is why it did not have popular support," Sharif said. He said both the US and Pakistan want to see the world "free of terrorism" and for innocent people not to suffer. "We want to see peace in every corner of the world and we want to see peace in Pakistan also. We do not want that in order to give peace to others we turn our own country into a murder house," he said.
According to The News editorial, the news reports in the US media that some officials in Washington have expressed annoyance over remarks made by Asif Ali Zardari and Nawaz Sharif in separate interviews to The New York Times are disturbing. The two leaders had said merely that they intended to review the present policy in the troubled northern areas of Pakistan -- comments that should certainly not have ruffled any feathers. Pakistan remains a sovereign country, its new political leaders have expressed perfectly justified concern regarding raids by US aircraft over its territory. For most citizens, the indications that Washington is eager to enforce its own writ in parts of the country or dictate policy decisions are highly distressing. This is particularly so as it is obvious that US-led policies in the Middle East have contributed to the growth of hatred for the country and those it supports. Inside Pakistan, that includes President Pervez Musharraf. The spate of terrorist attacks that have taken place, and indeed continue in an unceasing wave, indicate an urgent need to alter strategies and devise policies to save people from the wrath of the killers.
The broad coalition of parties that have won a big popular mandate from people are well placed to take decisions regarding such changes. The ANP, drawing its base of strength from NWFP, has the local expertise and the undoubted will to make a genuine bid to tackle terror. It has indeed spoken of its well-thought out plans to deal with extremism by involving local communities and tribal leaders on many occasions. The PPP and PML-N too seem well aware that answers cannot lie in strategies that use force alone. The suggestion of some leaders of the need to integrate FATA within the mainstream of Pakistan makes good sense. If it is genuinely committed to defeating terrorism, Uncle Sam needs to take its hands off Pakistan.
Washington must realize it has no moral or political right to attempt to intervene in the internal decisions made within any other country. Its belief that it can eliminate the militants by moving in on a larger scale into Pakistan is dangerous. It stems from the narrow, fundamentalist thinking that currently holds sway at the White House. It is this thinking too that has apparently convinced US leaders that President Musharraf is essential to the war on terror. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Only Pakistan and its democratically elected leaders can solve the problems of their country. Terrorism after all is tied in to other issues including socio-economic deprivation. A multi-pronged plan is therefore needed to vanquish the militants. This necessarily means some exercise of state power to deal with dangerous men of violence, but that alone is not enough. A far more thoughtful plan of action is needed, and US leaders must realize the need to give the democratic government in Pakistan time and space to put it in place without any effort to intervene in their working or curtailing their right to independently decide what is best for Pakistan and its people.