By Dr Raja Muhammad Khan

There have been many vicissitudes in the history of Pak-US bilateral relationship. However, despite snags and hitches, both countries have managed their bilateral relationship even during the difficult and challenging times. In the recent history, owing to sovereignty issues and some other incidents of distrust this relationship witnessed its lowest ebb in 2011. The undesired activities of US spying network, OBL episode, Raymond Davis and Salala attack were some of the discernible nuisances in this bilateral relationship of Pakistan and United States.

Beginning with the middle of 2012, there started improvements in this relationship, once United States realized that, discriminating and isolating Pakistan through violation of international norms perhaps may not serve its purpose.  Otherwise, as history proves, a chill in the Pak-US relationship has not benefitted either side. Respecting sovereignty and integrity of each other is the starting point of any long-term and firm commitment in the bilateral relationship.

In the midst of this resuscitated relationship, the news that CIA drone campaign will be exempted from rules is a serious concern for the Pakistani nation and all those civilized nations, who believe on the UN Charter, human right and fair play. According to the report of Jennifer Rowland in the Foreign Policy magazine, “The Obama administration is reportedly close to finishing the codification of its drone policies in a “playbook” that delineates clear rules governing the use of targeted killing around the world, but declares the CIA’s drone campaign in Pakistan exempt from these restrictions.”

In the so far history of US drone attacks in the Tribal belt of Pakistan, there have been over 400 drone attacks, killing over 3300 people. Except a few, the majority of those killed include innocent citizens and children. In fact, this is a human rights violation and U.S needs to reconcile its policy of giving free hands to CIA for undertaking these attacks. The Government of Pakistan has shown its serious concern over the discriminatory sanctions and has decided to take up the case with United Nations. Mr Ben Emmerson, the UN Special Rapporteur is otherwise undertaking an inquiry on the issue of US drone attacks in Pakistan.  He has been assigned this task by the UN Human Rights Council to examine the human rights abuses during counter terrorism.

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The Foreign Office spokesperson, Mr Moazzam Ali Khan, has confirmed that, “the UN investigation will cover the targeted killing of civilians in drone attacks in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Yemen.” These drone attacks are a serious violation of Pakistan’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. These attacks have been counterproductive and there exist no legality of conducting these. On the issue of Afghanistan, Pakistan is providing all out assistance to United States and NATO.  It is facilitating the US and Afghan Government in negotiating with Taliban for the restoration of peace and stabilization of that country. For the success of these negotiations, Pakistan has released the Taliban leaders, who were in the Pakistani jails.

Away from the bad patch in the Pak-US relationship, nomination of Mr John Kerry as the new US Secretary of State is being viewed as a welcoming step. Mr Kerry has long been working for the betterment of Pak-US relations. He has always supported the just Pakistani cause. In the wordings of Ms Sherry Rehman, the Pakistani ambassador to US, “He (Kerry) has been a steadfast friend of Pakistan and is keenly aware of the strategic importance of a democratic, economically viable and stable Pakistan. Senator Kerry has demonstrated through the years an extraordinary understanding of the complexities of South and Central Asia.” Being an architect of Kerry-Lugar-Berman bill (later law), Mr Kerry has lot of acceptance in Pakistan. After his nomination, he opposed the US lawmakers’ plans to reduce the Pakistani economic aid.

Under the rapidly changing regional and global security and political environment, there would be many challenges for the Pak-US relations to remain on track. The driving factors however would be the sincerity, determination, and mutual respect on both sides. While Pakistan is providing all out assistance to US in its scheduled drawdown from Afghanistan, US too need to reciprocate by promoting good will and respect for the sovereignty of Pakistan.  Doing away with the drone attacks in Pakistan would be the most tangible confidence building measure for the people of Pakistan. This would help Pakistan a lot in the reduction of extremism and terrorism; an outcome of discriminatory drone attacks.  Besides, this would largely reduce the anti-Americanism in Pakistan. Senator John Kerry’s new assignments would a landmark beginning in reducing the trust deficit.

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In the fields of trade and commerce, there are lot opportunities where Pakistan and U.S can cooperate. As a matter of principle, now Pakistan should not be looking for the US aid, rather devise some mechanism for the promotion of trade.  In December 2012, Mr Abdul Hafeez Sheikh, Pakistani Finance Minister and Thomas Nides, US Deputy Secretary of State co-chaired a Pak-US ‘Economic and Finance Working Group meeting’ in Washington. The Working Group later emphasized a broader economic cooperation between Pakistan and United States. As revealed by Foreign Policy magazine, the Working Group opined that, “Challenges remain, including in other areas of our bilateral relationship, which our governments will need to work through together. We will continue to develop the economic ties that will ultimately define our shared stability and prosperity. The foundation for meaningful and sustainable bilateral cooperation rests in part on the shoulders of investors and entrepreneurs. The US-Pakistan relationship has weathered more than its fair share of crises over the years.”

Despite being this partnership of unequal’s and chronological lumpiness, Pak-US relationship has benefited each other. Owing to obvious reasons and being the bigger partner, United States was the major beneficiary. The future of this relationship however lies in the better understanding and cooperation with each other at political and economic level. The US will have to give away the ‘Carrot and Stick approach’ through adoption of undemanding and mutually respecting policies.