By Brig Asif Haroon Raja
Before the attacks on Kabul on 13 September 2011 and murder of Burhanuddin Rabbani on 20 September by the Taliban, the US was counting on Pakistan for a breakthrough in talks with Haqqanis led by Sirajuddin. Some meetings between Sirajuddin and American officials had been arranged by ISI in some Gulf States to arrive at a political settlement. But no headway could be made since Mullah Omar had been kept out of the loop. Sirajuddin had disagreed to the US plan of sharing power minus Omar. Already disappointed by his refusal, Kabul attacks torpedoed the secret parleys and Haqqani’s fell from America’s grace and ISI was blamed for having a hand in the attacks. Salala attack by US military was probably launched to avenge Kabul attacks allegedly by Haqqani network based in North Waziristan and assisted by ISI.
In the backdrop of series of offensive actions by the US in 2011 culminating in the massacre of 24 Pak Army’s officers and men on 26 November at Salala, which outraged the nation, the government decided to bring a slight change in its totally submissive posture by way of expressing its deep concern. Some of the acts of defiance were closure of Shamsi airbase, closure of NATO supply routes, boycott of Bonn Conference and suspension of military and intelligence cooperation with USA. Had the matter been left to the military which was the main aggrieved party, things may have proceeded well. However, the government decided to form a Parliamentary Committee for National Security under Senator Raza Rabbani in December 2011 to reset Pak-US relations and put up concrete recommendations so that grey areas which contributed towards erosion of Pak sovereignty are identified and addressed. The Committee comprising members from ruling parties and opposition took its time to prepare its report and put it up for debate by the parliament. After hard debate the 14 recommendations were passed by the joint session of the two houses and the cabinet also endorsed the report.
Important recommendations were: One; unless the US rendered a formal apology for Salala attack and culprits taken to task, NATO supplies wouldn’t be reopened. Two; only non-perishable items will be allowed and each container will be charged transit fee. Three; no secret written or verbal agreements will be made with foreign countries in future. Four; no airbase will be handed over to another country in future. Five; the US will respect Pakistan’s sovereignty and will not launch another 26 November type unilateral attack in future. Six; drone war being counterproductive and against international laws should be stopped. Seven, the US to provide civil nuclear technology to Pakistan, similar to the one awarded to India. Eight; greater access to EU markets be granted to Pakistan. Nine; foreign elements secretly involved in subversive activities will be deported. Ten; fresh terms of engagement with the US military and NATO will be written and Pak-US relations will be governed by mutual respect and trust.
Notwithstanding hard work put in by the Committee, the fact is that it took too long to complete its report which put further strains in Pak-US relations. The scope was unnecessarily broadened and too many wishes added thereby raising the level of hopes of the people. None took in to view the fate of previous joint parliament resolutions and decisions of parliamentary committees. It was wishfully assumed that the US placed in a very difficult situation would be too willing to cede to Pakistan’s demands. It took the US threats too lightly and thought that it was indulging in psychological war to extract a better deal. Notwithstanding the US fragility, Pakistan forgot its own socio-politico-economic-
military fragility and its total dependence on foreign aid. Our policy of appeasement and obsequious behavior had given heart to Washington to treat Pakistan like a satellite. With its dismal economics, messy politics, weak leadership, weak governance and volatile domestic security situation, it was in no position to dictate terms and yet it chose to show eyes to the sole super power.
Our parliamentary committee in its exuberance to extract maximum gains instead of winning the sympathy of the international community not only wasted time but also constricted Pakistan’s diplomatic space and made things messy. Washington took advantage of the mess and garnered support of the entire western world including some Muslim countries on the issue of NATO supply routes to isolate Pakistan.
We abruptly decided to lock horns with USA after Salala incident without dwelling upon its repercussions and long term implications. Probably the idea was to give a strong message that suchlike act will be unacceptable. We had experienced the discriminatory and belligerent attitude of USA not only during our earlier honeymoons but also during our current association after 9/11, which remained mired in misgivings and distrust. Despite suffering the most in fighting the US imposed war on terror, Pakistan was treated unfairly. After applying diplomatic, political, and economic and media pressures in concert with covert war, the US became physical and started bruising Pakistan’s sovereignty through drone attacks, airspace violations and air raids on border posts. Abbottabad and Salala intrusions were worst but even worse were its arrogance after committing the aggression. Having served the interests of USA slavishly for a decade, sudden defiance ill-suited the psyche of NRO cleansed and US installed rulers and hence difficult for the US to reconcile with. Hence it continuously arm twisted Pakistan to have its way knowing that the rulers didn’t have the will and moral courage to maintain its defiance.
Future relationship parameters with the US could only be drawn realistically if we had first identified mistakes committed by those in authority from 2001 onward which facilitated the US to play about with the sovereignty of Pakistan and take the country and its rulers for granted. Without the consent and willing cooperation of our rulers, the US couldn’t have made such deep-rooted penetration in our internal affairs. The Parliamentary Committee should have found out the details of all the secret written and unwritten agreements made by Musharraf regime and by the current regime to ascertain whether those were legal and beneficial for the country or were in the interest of the US and the ruling coterie but against national interests. Although the Committee had recommended that no secret agreements – written or verbal – will be made in future, no airbase will be leased to other country, and foreign operatives will not be given free reins, unless we take legal action against those who performed these illegal and harmful acts and caused immense harm to the country, parliament resolutions would be of little use.
An inquiry must be held to make the office holders who abused their authority accountable. 2 May incident wouldn’t have occurred if Hussein Haqqani had not allowed entry to over 7000 undesirable US citizens. He was the main character in the memo scandal and probably had a hand in the stealth raid. As an absconder and refusing to return to Pakistan and appear before the memo commission on the plea of his personal safety, he continues to shoot arrows at premier institutions of Pakistan.
Among the 14 recommendations made by the Parliamentary Committee duly approved by the cabinet and the parliament, major emphasis was on apology and drones. Reopening of supply routes was linked with official apology from USA, and end to drone war. It was also emphasized that transit fee will be charged and only perishable items will be allowed. However, the MoU signed between Pakistan and the US at the Ministry of Defence on July 2012 brushed aside Parliament’s recommendations and accepted the US demands including the last minute demand of transporting lethal items without extracting anything in return. Sudden deflation has disappointed the nation already enduring multiple problems.