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Pakistan Still at the Crossroads: a Conflicted Ally in the War on Terrorism

By       Message Muhammad Khurshid       (Page 1 of 1 pages)     Permalink    (# of views)   1 comment

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Many people may not agree, but a convincing case can be made that the main reason for terrorism in the world today is the corruption of the rulers of Pakistan, who seek to use the menace of terrorism for their personal enrichment. The notion that democracy has been restored to Pakistan is totally unfounded. In reality, the people of Pakistan have never been given a fair chance to elect a genuinely representative government. This is because only a single group has been in control of the country since its creation.

Up to now, the presumed champion of democracy and human rights, the United States, has always supported Pakistan's corrupt rulers, because they have served America's interests. At present, however, given a changing situation, it is very difficult for the U.S. to maintain those policies. Pakistan, a country that once declared the Taliban to be an enemy of the whole world, has now given it both cash and power. It in fact wants to achieve its goals through the Taliban, even though members of that group are now the most hated people in the tribal region.

Pakistan Tehrik-i-Insaaf workers holding sit-in against US drone strikes in tribal region of Pakistan.
(Image by Dawn Newspaper)
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Now, a blockade of the main supply route to Torkhum, a tribal area on the Pakistan/Afghanistan border, has complicated matters. The blockade was imposed by the Pakistan Tehrik-i-Insaaf party (PTI), which has been ruling the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Province (KPK) of Pakistan and has a majority in the KPK assembly. Its president, Imran Khan, has been running a campaign against U.S. drone attacks in the tribal region. By using the PTI to block the main supply route to Afghanistan, he has created problems for NATO forces, which will be leaving Afghanistan next year.

In contrast to Imran Khan, the prime minister of Pakistan, Mian Nawaz Sharif, wants good relations with the U.S. There are reports that he has made a secret deal with the U.S. about drone attacks in the tribal areas. He has also criticized Imran Khan numerous times for blocking the route to Afghanistan, an action extending over several days that has infuriated the U.S.

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The U.S. Congress is presently on the verge of passing a National Defense Authorization Bill that places conditions on military aid to Pakistan, including Coalition Support Fund reimbursements. The aid has been made contingent on certification to Congress by the U.S. secretary of defense that NATO's supply route through Pakistan is open and that Pakistan is taking demonstrable action against al Qaeda and other militant groups active along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border. 

On his recent visit to Pakistan, U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said that there are many options open to the U.S. for withdrawing equipment from Afghanistan, and that it is making use, more or less, of all of them. However, because the route passing through Pakistan is less expensive and less cumbersome than the alternatives, it must be kept open and unhindered to facilitate the withdrawal. 

Hagel also warned Pakistan about the changing mood in Congress regarding blocking of the supply line as a protest against drone strikes. Up to now, Pakistan's national government has done nothing about the PTI blockade. But with matters now coming to a head, it is imperative that it intervene and stop the PTI from making things more problematical for the country. It is clear that the PTI wants the U.S. to leave this region. But as the time approaches for the scheduled departure of NATO forces, Imran Khan's preying on NATO supply routes to put pressure on the U.S. smacks of impatience and of meddling in Pakistan's foreign policy. 

As a constitutional matter, Pakistani parties that hold power in the provinces are not permitted to interfere in matters that can affect the relationship between Pakistan and other countries. This is an important limitation, especially in preventing adverse effects in international relations. Moreover, as far as the NATO supply lines are concerned, any presumed justification for shutting them down cannot be considered an open and shut case. Layers of legal and strategic complexities bind Pakistan's hand from moving against the NATO routes. In addition, the country's strategic position is simply too weak to allow it to demand treatment of choice from the U.S. This is especially so in light of the leverage Pakistan has lost by its failure to fulfill its commitment to eradicate militancy within its own borders.

As a frontline U.S. ally in the war against terrorism, Pakistan's first obligation was to assist the U.S. in defeating terrorism in Afghanistan. Now, quite to the contrary, Pakistan itself has become a safe haven for the Afghan Taliban. Pakistan's credibility when it comes to fighting militancy is in fact now so poor that the current U.S. defense authorization bill for Pakistan makes demands on the Pakistani government that represent a very tall order. In addition to seeking certification from the U.S. defense secretary that Pakistan is taking demonstrable actions against al Qaeda and other militant groups active along the Pak-Afghan border, it requires that the military and other aid to be provided will not be used against ethnic groups such as the Baloch, Sindhi and Hazara or against religious minorities such as Christians, Hindus and Ahmedis. The bill also requires Pakistan to diminish the threats posed by improvised explosive devices and cross-border firing to U.S. coalition and Afghan security forces in Afghanistan. 

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Muhammad Khurshid, a resident of Bajaur Agency, tribal areas situated on Pak-Afghan border is journalist by profession. He contributes articles and news stories to various online and print newspapers. His subject matter is terrorism. He is also (more...)

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