October 15, 2010

While you continuously boss us around…

The American War Machine in Afghanistan is losing;
and blaming Pakistan for the loss. (Photo: Dawn.com)
The thing is, I’m a proud Pakistani, and like all proud Pakistanis, belittling my country gets my blood roiling. Therefore, despite the legitimacy of American claims and demands, their outrageous actions and words spark a torrent of bubbling anger in my gut.

First of all, we’re not man-servants of imperialist goons. We are independent despite the clichéd opinions of cynical intellectuals. Then we have a democratic government, which despite being the champion of subjugation still allows us to bash it on every front. This freedom to form opinion on a personal level is quintessential in explaining the notion of anti-Americanism that pervades our daily lives.

Despite the legitimacy of American claims, and counter claims, we always assume the worst about it. Why? Well when writers such as John Moreau urge the American government to stop caring what the Pakistani government’s interests are, then they should also have the decency of understanding that the Pakistani government is not honor bound to American whims. It has its own agenda just like the US has its own agenda, and therefore it is entitled to follow it, just like the American government expects to follow its own.

The bone of contention is the Haqqani Network which has ample presence in Afghanistan, and which continues to be a thorn in the side of the American war machine in Afghanistan. While America urges Pakistan to dismantle the network at their end (North Waziristan in FATA) because not doing so is proving counterproductive to American interests in Afghanistan, the Pakistan military and government are reluctant to do so. For some odd reason, the military insists upon viewing India as a threat and therefore needs a stronghold in Afghanistan to fall back on in case of an India – Pakistan war.

The safeguards in this scenario appear to be the Haqqani Network which will act as the Pakistani lobby in the Afghani establishment once the Americans withdraw. What the Americans fail to realize, or address, is the fact that Pakistan feels threatened by the increasing influence of India in Afghanistan and in the American policies. The American reluctance in isolating India is easy to understand given that India has emerged as the new economic hub of the world, and the world’s lone superpower would be stupid to ignore it. But that does not mean that it can outright deny the concerns of Pakistan.

The need of the hour is for both governments to chalk out a roadmap, because they both love doing that, and proceed with it. Pakistan does not want terrorists operating from its soil, and the increasing drone attacks (many of them emanating from within Pakistan) prove so. On the other hand, it would be stupid of the Americans to expect Pakistan to alienate a major power bastion in Afghanistan after the American troops’ withdrawal.

So contextually, the recent statement by Mike Mullen stating that Pakistan will soon launch an operation in North Waziristan, followed by an immediate rebuttal from the Pak army saying that it will do what its interests demand and not foreign dictates, is cause for major concern. It represents the growing concerns that have engulfed the two allies with serious repercussions for both countries, particularly Pakistan. Statements by top officials of the Obama administration have even gone so far as to say that the AfPak policy should be changed to PakAf, and writers such as John Moreau want full land and air invasions in Balochistan and FATA if Pakistan is unwilling to bow down to American pressures.

I think that the one thing we can all agree on is that bombing Afghanistan was one thing, but poking Pakistan in the eye with a stick will open a Pandora’s Box here and that is no one’s interests. American misadventures previously have cost the whole world dearly, and now is not the time to inflict more pain on it. Now having said that, the Pakistan government would be well advised to think through its long term policy and objectives. It would be utterly stupid, that in the quest of gaining an upper hand in Afghanistan, we end up isolating ourselves from the entire world. Saner voices need to prevail on both sides if Project Afghanistan is to succeed.