By Sajjad Shaukat
It is owing to Pak-US mutual interests that regarding the issue of Raymond Davis, on March 1, this year, while urging lawmakers earlier not to reduce US aid, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told the House Foreign Affairs Committee that our assistance to Pakistan, a nuclear-armed nation with strong ties and interests in Afghanistan “is in our own interests.” She further explained, “We are working to deepen our partnership and keep it focused on addressing Pakistan’s political and economic challenges as well as our shared threats.” Clinton was responding to the US Congress which has said that the Pakistan government should resolve the issue at the earliest or it could impact other bilateral initiatives including a whopping American aid which is bankrolling cash-starved Pakistan.
However, controversy seems to be intensified between Pakistan and the United States over the issue of Raymond Davis who has proved to be an under-cover secret agent of American CIA as reported by renowned newspapers such as Washington Post, The New York Times, the Guardian etc. Particularly, Washington Post and some other American media, while quoting US national security officials have recently revealed that progress is being made to persuade Pakistan to free a CIA contractor held on murder charges but Washington could take punitive diplomatic and financial action if the case is not resolved soon.
In the end of February, this year, several officials told Reuters of detailed discussions within President Barack Obama’s administration about coercive measures being considered if Pakistan does not free Davis. The punitive steps could include slowing disbursements of US aid to Pakistan and the issuing of US entry visas to Pakistanis. A more distant possibility would be to declare some Pakistani diplomats “persona non grata” and expel them from the United States
Meanwhile, high-level strategic dialogue among the United States, Pakistan and Afghanistan set for scheduled in February 23-24, 2011 in Washington have been postponed. In this regard, political experts say that US postponed the talks amid a growing crisis sparked by the arrest of Raymond Davis.
It is mentionable that especially since 9/11 when Washington started a different war against the non-state actors, and occupied Afghanistan, Pak-US ties are based upon mutual interests. Notably, whenever American high officials visit Islamabad since 9/11, some of foreign and our domestic media anchors propagate that they are going to put more pressure on Pakistan’s civil and military leadership. Perhaps these so-called anchors do not know the art of negotiations and diplomacy in its true sense. At present, the US has badly entangled in Afghanistan as the prolonged war on terror and the stiff resistance of the Taliban have proved. While the US-led NATO forces cannot fight this different war against the non-state actors without the cooperation of Islamabad. This fact has repeatedly been verified by the US President Obama, Foreign Secretary Hillary Clinton and other high officials. In these terms, if Pakistan depends upon America for economic and military aid, the latter also depends upon the former for war on terror. So it has become a matter of mutual interest and mutual dependence. In this respect, Islamabad does not bow down to American pressure.
Despite all of this whenever, America tried to put pressure on Islamabad, the latter did not accept every condition of the former. In this respect, in the recent months, there has been duress from the US that Pakistan should launch a military operation in North Waziristan. Particularly, after Faisal Shahzad attempted to bomb Times Square in New York on May 1, 2010, the pressure increased. US President Barrack Obama had dispatched White House National Security Adviser Jim Jones and CIA Director Leon Panetta who visited Islamabad. In that context, our media anchors and reporters misperceive that these American high officials had urged Islamabad to immediately start military offensive in North Wazirstan in order to eliminate the Haqqani network which has provided the militants of South Wazistan with safe-havens.
The fact of the matter is that being a sovereign country, Pakistan has refused to bow down to the US duress. In this respect, Pakistan’s foreign office responded by saying, “Be it the tribal areas or any other part, Pakistan will proceed in accordance with its own priorities and plans.” In the recent past, ISPR spokesman Major-General Athar Abbas had stated that Pakistan’s military is engaged in eliminating militancy in other tribal areas in accordance with its programme and military operation in North Waziristan has not yet been decided.
Nevertheless, quite opposite to the ill-conceived thoughts of some political experts, it looks clear that the US has agreed with Pakistan’s stand in the matter. In this connection, on May 20, last year, the Pentagon expressed confidence that Pakistan would mount on offensive in North Waziristan, but Islamabad itself would decide on the timing of the operation. US Defense Secretary Robert Gates had also remarked that it was up to the Pakistan Army and the government to decide the timing of the offensive since the military was already stretched by operations in other tribal areas.
Besides, Admiral Mike Mullen, Chairman of the US military’s Chief of Army Staff also said that Pakistan’s Chief of Army Staff Kayani had indicated to him more than a year ago that he had “plans to execute that mission in North Waziristan, but the timing was really up to him.” Mullen further pointed out that he (Kiyani) “has got two fronts. He has got a military that has lost a lot of soldiers, sacrificed a great deal, and so it makes a lot of sense to me that he does get to pick this timeline.” Gates maintained that Pakistan already had seven divisions and 140, 000 troops in and around the tribal areas, calling it “a huge effort.”
However, it is wrong to envisage that Pakistan has been under American duress in connection with war against terrorism. The fact of the matter is that Pakistan’s security forces have been fighting against the militants for the safety of its own citizens and national interests. A continued wave of suicide attacks and subversive acts in the country have endorsed this logic.
It is of particular attention that in the recent past, there was disinformation by some Pakistanis and western media that the Swat-Malakand military operations which had been launched by our security forces in Dir, Buner and other adjoining areas against the Taliban were the result of American pressure. This misperception developed due to the irresponsible statements of US and European high officials who have been pointing out that Taliban’s advancement in other regions beyond Swat would result in total control of Pakistan by these militants. In fact, there was strong logic behind the Swat-Malakand military operations. When writ of the government is being challenged and when civil authorities become unable to restore the same, the army is called as the last resort. In this regard, Pakistan’s Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani had clarified that the military operations in Swat, Dir and Buner were meant to re-establish the writ of the constitution and this was the only way to defeat the designs of the extremists who violated the Swat peace agreement, which compelled the civil government for conducting military operations. Setting aside, American concerns, President Asif Zardari had approved the Nizam-e-Adl Regulation, and Chief of Nifaz-e-Shariat-e-Muhammadi (TNSM) had asked the Swat Taliban to lay down arms in accordance with the peace deal as their promise for enforcement of the Islamic law was fulfilled. But various transgressions by the Swat Taliban clearly proved that they violated the ceasefire and peace agreement. So instead of American pressure, it was in these circumstances that the civil government was forced to call army to re-launch military operations.
As regards Raymond Davis, on February 15, 2011, like other US high officials, even President Barack Obama urged Pakistan to free Raymond as he has diplomatic immunity under the Geneva Convention. Meanwhile, in the recent past, the visiting Chairman of the US Foreign Relations Committee, John Kerry in Lahore remarked that issue of “Davis has nothing to do with local courts as diplomats enjoy immunity…we cannot allow that one incident can break the strong relationship between the two countries.”
Notably, legal experts in Pakistan are of the opinion that Raymond Davis is a murderer who has no diplomatic immunity. Many Pakistanis are suspicious about Davis, who was arrested with loaded weapons, a GPS satellite tracking device, photographs of Pakistan’s defence installations and tribal areas, while American authorities are still silent about his role in Pakistan. In fact, the incident has become a symbol of anti-American resentment in Pakistan because of the dreadful murder of two innocent Pakistanis in Lahore and subsequent suicide by the wife of one of his victims.
No doubt, US has been using various tactics of shrewd diplomacy in order to pressurize Pakistan so as to free Raymond Davis, but Islamabad will not come under American pressure without any mutually acceptable solution of the matter. Nonetheless Pak-US relations are based upon mutual interests as the two countries depend upon each others.