Parliament backs review of Pak-US ties

By S.M. Hali

Following an in-camera briefing by the ISI and Pakistan Air Force to the joint session of the Parliament, it was unanimously decided to review Pak-US ties. It is ironic that since 1954, when Pakistan entered the US fold firmly, becoming a strategic ally, joining defence pacts like SEATO and CENTO, its relations with the US have swung like a pendulum from one extreme to another. Despite sticking its neck out for its arch ally US, Pakistan has not only been left in the lurch but to add insult to the injury, sanctions have been slapped on it, thus making Pakistan the most allied ally of the US to the most sanctioned one. The 1960 U-2 incident, which occurred during the Cold War on May 1, 1960, during the presidency of Dwight D. Eisenhower and during the leadership of Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev, when a United States U-2 spy plane was shot down over Soviet Union airspace, is one example. The U-2 was being operated from Pakistan’s airbase at Peshawar clandestinely to spy over Soviet territory without taking Pakistan into confidence. It was only when the U-2 was shot down, its pilot Gary Powers made a Soviet prisoner and Nikita Khrushchev threatened Pakistan of dire consequences that Pakistan became alive to the situation. In 1965 and 1971 Pakistan-India Wars, despite being a member of SEATO and CENTO, the US did not come to the aid of its ally Pakistan and instead imposed sanctions on it. In early 1971, Pakistan played an important role in the US-China rapprochement, by organizing a secret visit of US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger to Beijing, which became the forerunner of then US President Richard Nixon’s historic visit to China, which broke the ice of Sino-US relations.

In April of 1979 the United States suspended all economic assistance to Pakistan in accordance with the 1977 Symington Amendment to the US Foreign Assistance Act of 1961 over concerns about Pakistan's nuclear program. The irony is that in 1979, immediately after the invasion of Afghanistan by the Soviet Union, the US was on Pakistan’s doorstep once again, when it sought its support to defeat the Soviets. Pakistan not only agreed but became a front-line state, providing its territory for CIA to train Afghan Mujahedeen to launch a guerrilla war against the Soviets. For the next ten years, subsequent US Presidents continued to provide waiver towards Pakistan’s nuclear ambitions so that US aid could continue to Pakistan. No sooner the war ended, the US invoked the Pressler Amendment to slap sanctions on Pakistan and stop all military transactions. So much so that weapon systems and platforms including F-16 fighter aircraft, for which advance payment had been made, were embargoed by the US and Pakistan again became a pariah state. The situation worsened with Pakistan’s nuclear tests in May 1998, which were made in retaliation to the Indian nuclear explosions.

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9/11 changed the scenario and Pakistan reappeared on the US radar of allies and friends. Pakistan bent backwards to accede to US requests.

The same Afghan Mujahedeen and Arab Jihadis including Osama bin Laden, who were recruited, trained and equipped by the CIA, became Frankenstein and a threat to the world.  After 9/11, Pakistan, led by General Pervez Musharraf, reversed course under pressure from the United States and joined the "War on Terror" as a U.S. ally. Having failed to convince the Taliban to hand over bin Laden and other members of Al Qaeda, Pakistan provided the U.S. a number of military airports and bases for its attack on Afghanistan, along with other logistical support. Since 2001, Pakistan has arrested over five hundred Al-Qaeda members and handed them over to the United States; senior U.S. officers have been lavish in their praise of Pakistani efforts in public while expressing their concern that not enough was being done in private. However, General Musharraf was strongly supported by the Bush administration – a common theme throughout Pakistan's relations with the U.S. has been U.S. support of military dictators to the detriment of democracy in Pakistan.

In return for their support, Pakistan had sanctions lifted and has received about $10 billion in U.S. aid since 2001, primarily military. In June 2004, President George W. Bush designated Pakistan as a major non-NATO ally, making it eligible, among other things, to purchase advanced American military technology. It is ironic that even the 28 F-16 fighter aircraft embargoed in the 1990s, were returned to Pakistan.

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Pakistan has lost thousands of lives since joining the U.S. war on terror in the form of both soldiers and civilians, and is currently going through a critical period. Suicide bombs are now commonplace in Pakistan, whereas they were unheard of prior to 9/11. The Taliban have been resurgent in recent years in both Afghanistan and Pakistan. Hundreds of thousands of refugees have been created internally in Pakistan, as they have been forced to flee their homes as a result of fighting between Pakistani forces and the Taliban in the regions bordering Afghanistan and further in Swat. In addition, the economy is in an extremely fragile position, since Pakistan has expended over US $ 65 billion in the war on terror. 

To make matters worse, when the US-led allies and NATO forces faced stiff resistance from the resurgent Taliban in Afghanistan, they turned on their ally Pakistan to do more. Not only did its demands reach unreasonable limits, it appears that Pakistan became passé for the US as what were earlier media reports, became pronouncements by US administration that certain elements in Pakistan’s premier intelligence agency ISI were in contact with Afghan Taliban. The discovery of the Raymond Davis network, a CIA operative, who was clandestinely garnering contacts with detractors of Pakistan, the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan, the Al-Qaeda and other miscreants to the detriment of Pakistan, soured relations further. The May 2 operation Geronimo to clandestinely enter Pakistan and transport Osama bin Laden’s dead body was the straw that broke the camel’s back. Not only was Pakistan’s security breached, but intimidation and threat is being exercised through coercion to pressurize Pakistan to do more in the war on terror.

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Donald Trump, the prime Republican candidate for the next Presidential elections has openly come out to threaten Pakistan to give up its nukes if it wants the renewal of its aid. President Obama, in his interview in the TV program “60 Minutes” admitted that he had directed the US forces “to fight their way out” in face of possible Pakistan retaliation to the US raid. This is not how allies are treated. In the face of continued hostility, humiliating treatment and barbs and snide comments, the unanimous acceptance of the proposal by the Pakistani Parliament to revisit the Pak-US ties is a sensible approach. 

Pakistan must redefine the rules of engagement. There is no need to snap ties or turn hostile, but the level of cooperation and coercive diplomacy tactics adopted by the US must be brought to an end. The drone attacks, which are causing collateral damage to innocent Pakistanis and have become a source of serious concern, must be terminated. The presence of CIA personnel under the guise of diplomats, operating in Pakistan should cease forthwith. The use of Pakistani airspace, bases and ground routes of the logistic supply to US troops in Afghanistan need to be renegotiated.  Pakistan is a sovereign country, whose sovereignty must be respected and it should be treated with equality and on egalitarian basis.

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