By Brig Farooq Hameed Khan (Retd)
The US has crossed the redline. The cowardly, unprovoked and unjustified US/NATO attack on Pakistan Army post in Mohmand Agency in FATA in the darkness of night is yet another blatant violation of Pakistan’s security and sovereignty. This was a deliberate attack since US/NATO forces had all details of the military /FC posts along the Pak- Afghan border including this particular Sallala post.
I was apprehensive the Americans might undertake some form of adventurism designed to take the country including security establishment’s focus off Memogate crisis. The Americans were infuriated at the loss of Husain Haqqani, supposedly Pakistan’s Washington Ambassador, also their trusted friend and supporter, who was forced to resign amidst allegations of playing a key role in the anti Pakistan ‘memo’ conspiracy that had also roped in former US National Security Advisor General Jones, the memo’s courier and Admiral Mike Mullen its final recipient.
This attack which resulted in loss of valuable lives of Pakistani military officers and soldiers, appeared to deflect public attention from the Memogate conspiracy. This attack may also be aimed to serve warning to Pakistan’s security establishment to stop pursuing Memogate.
Pakistan Army’s close military cooperation with our all weather Chinese friends and reduced dependence on US military assistance is now a major cause of concern for Pentagon. Pakistan Army and China’s People’s Liberation Army conducted joint military exercises recently on Pakistan’s soil which goes against American interests in the region.
If US/NATO have betrayed and stabbed their ally in the back, then Pakistan is on a high moral ground and has the right to hit them where it would hurt them the most. The decision to stop NATO supplies should be permanent and not be taken back even if President Obama apologizes to the Pakistani nation for this act of naked aggression against Pakistan.
It is a matter of national shame that innocent Pakistanis including our military personnel were attacked by the US/NATO forces through drone and helicopter strikes using the very fuel and military equipment/supplies that we allowed to be transported through Pakistan in Pakistani oil tankers and trailers. Not only should NATO supply route be cut, but all off loading/ loading operations should be ceased forthwith at Karachi port.
Pakistan must also warn Afghanistan that Afghan Transit Trade through Pakistan could be affected if American puppet Karzai allowed use of Afghan soil for attacks against Pakistan. Karzai must keep in mind that Americans will ultimately leave this region and Afghanistan’s economic survival depends heavily on trade with and through Pakistan.
I do not advocate that Pakistan enter into an armed conflict with United States. But as a self respecting and sovereign nation we reserve the right to defend ourselves in an appropriate manner. If Pakistan is attacked overtly, there are legal/ covert means to give a befitting response . Make no mistake, Afghanistan has remained a grave yard of foreign invaders and the US/NATO may be no exception.
The Pakistani leadership needs to warn the Americans of a possible retaliation in self defence, if US/NATO forces attacked Pakistani post in future. Pakistan Army troops deployed in FATA should be equipped with the Army’s standard shoulder fired ‘Anza’ surface to air missiles to shoot down any attacking US/NATO helicopter/drone . Remember how those 200 odd CIA supplied shoulder fired Stinger missiles to Afghan Mujahideen through the ISI during the Afghan Jihad changed the course of history, when these missiles took a heavy toll of Soviet attack helicopters.
Shamsi airbase has been a dark chapter of deceit and deception in our history. Will the US vacate Shamsi by the fifteen days deadline? I doubt if the CIA / Blackwater operatives who occupy Shamsi would easily give up this strategically located airbase so easily. This airfield provides a discreet launch pad , 200 miles south west of Quetta , where the US believes that the Afghan Taliban shura is in hiding.
Shamsi lies about 100 miles south of the Afghan border overlooking militants infiltration routes from/into Afghanistan and 100 miles east of the Iranian border enabling US to conduct covert intelligence missions into Iran. In case of possible US/ Israeli attack on Iran, then Shamsi airbase would give a strategic edge to the US Air force to launch airstrikes against Iran .
But most importantly, Shamsi is not too far from Pakistan’s nuclear testing sites in Chagai mountain ranges which remain under active US monitoring. Few hundred kilometers in the south lies the Balochistan coast, and off its shores remains stationed a US Naval and amphibious landing force.
Shamsi also gives the Americans the advantage to monitor Chinese presence in Balochistan including their role in development of Gwadar port and other mineral exploration projects in this province.
The Shamsi airbase must be got vacated within the given deadline despite pressure from UAE or the US Administration. All US/CIA/ Black water personnel who are/ have been operating surveillance/attack drones be expelled from Shamsi . The lease agreement with UAE regarding Shamsi airbase be cancelled and control of the air base should revert to Pakistan.
Pakistanis also demand that they be told the truth about Shamsi. Who was that President/PM who approved the leasing out of Shamsi to UAE Government in early nineties? Did General Musharraf agree to let UAE allow the Americans to take over and establish a military logistics/drones base at Shamsi? Why has the PPP government kept deceiving Pakistanis about the real status of Shamsi?
Pakistanis are also demanding to know if other airfields like Jacobabad or Dera Ismail Khan are in any way under US use. There is also an increasing public demand that in case US continues to ignore Pakistan’s vital interests, the concession of airspace corridor through Balochistan that was gifted to US by ex President , General Musharraf post 9/11, be subsequently withdrawn.
Pakistan needs to take additional steps on the political and diplomatic front to register its protest over the Sallala post massacre as well as drone attacks against our tribal brethren. Sending a letter to UNSC Secretary General is not enough, Pakistan must call for an emergent session of the UN Security Council to condemn US/NATO aggression. A special OIC foreign Minister’s Conference be summoned in Islamabad to deal with this blatant violation of sovereignty of an Islamic nation.
We must maintain our decision to boycott the International Bonn conference on Afghanistan, put on hold Ambassador (designate) Sherry Rehman’s departure to Washington and restrict the movement of US/NATO officials and that of the US Ambassador/ embassy officials who roam around on cultural/PR activities in Pakistani cities and visit shrines of saints, doling out huge sums of US dollars.
The Pakistani nation including political parties, civil society, lawyers etc continue to protest against US/NATO /CIA drone and helicopter attacks against Pakistani citizens including the military. There can be no business as usual if United States messes around with a nuclear armed nation of 180 million Pakistanis, that will defend its sovereignty and integrity at all cost. Pakistan holds the key to a safe and honorable US/NATO exit from Afghanistan and the United States understands this very well.
No ally has sacrificed so much for United States as Pakistan has done, but it remains ungrateful as ever. In line with our Parliament’s resolutions, Pakistan needs to redefine and review the terms of political, diplomatic and military cooperation with United States. The new Pak – US relationship must be based on respect of Pakistan’s national interests, sovereignty and independence.
This is Pakistan’s defining moment.The nation has suffered enough. Pakistan should walk out of America’s war; this unholy war was never ours and was unjustly thrust on us.