NATO Containers should carry perishable items only
By Brig Asif Haroon Raja
Gen Musharraf had accepted the US demands in September 2001 since he suffered from legitimacy bug and country’s economic health was unsatisfactory. He agreed to make Pakistan a frontline state in the global war on terror assuming that it would benefit him as well as Pakistan. He had not foreseen that war on terror will backfire on Pakistan with debilitating effects on socio-politico-economic-military health of the country. He and his colleagues naively presumed that irrespective of its poor track record, this time the US will not ditch Pakistan. They couldn’t perceive that the US in concert with its real strategic partners would embark upon a deadly covert war to destabilize, denuclearize and Balkanize Pakistan. They couldn’t imagine that part of armaments carried forward from Karachi to Afghanistan would be utilized to arm anti-Pakistan elements within Pakistan and those based in Afghanistan. Musharraf became more complacent when for several years the behavior of the US officials remained friendly and economy improved substantially, enabling him to carryout development works and poverty alleviation program and also buttress conventional and unconventional military strength. Indian leaders with smiles on their faces also duped him and he considered them as good friends of Pakistan.
Attitudes of the US and Indian leaders changed from mid 2008 onwards after the suicide attack on Indian Embassy in Kabul in which Indian Defence Attache Brig RD Mehta died. Blame was pinned on ISI. As head of intelligence wing in occupied Kashmir, Mehta had impressed his seniors with his novel ways of picking up, torturing and killing innocent Kashmiri youths in fake encounters. In Kabul he was involved in organizing training of Afghan Army and in drug trade. His death anguished India and US military intensely.
Thereon, the tone and tenor of the American officials became more officious and demanding. Not only ‘do more’ mantra was sung more frequently, the US media and thinks adopted an aggressive posture. From 2009 onward, incidents of terrorism accelerated resulting in higher rate of casualties. Recapture of lost spaces in Swat, Bajaur and South Waziristan through large-scale military operations were at the cost of heavy casualties. However, outstanding successes achieved by the security forces didn’t thrill Washington since it ran contrary to its objective of weakening Pak Army.
2011 proved to be a watershed in Pak-US relations because of acceleration of drone war, Raymond Davis incident in January followed by Abbottabad sting operation by the US Navy SEALs on 2 May, Mehran Naval base terrorist attack on 22 May, Admiral Mullen’s outbursts in September and Salala attack in November. The last incident which took the lives of 24 soldiers outraged Pakistan’s military and civil leadership and impelled it to put a check on America’s intrusions. Even after such nasty offensive acts against an ally which suffered the most in fighting the US dictated war, the US is neither remorseful nor is prepared to apologize or to make amends for its excesses.
Our over ten years of so-called alliance with the US has proved to be a disaster for Pakistan. The true face of the US pretending to be a friend and a strategic ally has been fully exposed. It is an open secret that the US is a double dealer and has dangerous designs against Pakistan. Its visible tilt towards India at the cost of Pakistan and highly discriminatory policies should have opened the eyes of our leaders and should have made them prudent and wary. However, it is strange that our democratically elected leaders are knowingly and consciously continuing to fight war on terror with enthusiasm. There has been no change from Musharraf’s policies. After a brief show of patriotic fervor and that too on GHQ’s insistence, the government seems ready to restore NATO supply line. The only difference is that Musharraf had allowed passage to NATO vehicles free of cost and now token transit fee will be levied.
If the criterion for reopening Nato supply routes is to earn money, have we forgotten that as against promised $20 billion, we didn’t receive more than $12 billion in ten years period and lost $70 billion? USA has still to repay dues against CSF. Isn’t it true that 40,000 Pakistanis died and 60,000 got injured in this war? After giving so many sacrifices and still earning disparagement, on what basis we are making compromises? If we had to give in to US demands, then why so much of noise was made or was it mere political point scoring? Would the petty transit fee charged on passing containers compensate the widows and orphans of 40,000 dead or recompense the families of bread earners who have got crippled for life in acts of terror?
The US considered Pakistan important when it had to invade and occupy Afghanistan ruled by Taliban. Once the preliminary objective was achieved Pakistan lost its relevance and India was brought on the centre stage to assist the US in accomplishing its regional interests. Pakistan was kept on board only as a rental country to hunt al-Qaeda and Taliban fugitives and to fight anti-American militants based inside Pakistan. Failing to defeat the Taliban, the US sole interest in the current timeframe is to bolster Afghan security forces and make them take on security duties by end 2013 so that the ISAF could exit peacefully in 2014. The US is not bothered about the safety and security of Pakistan as much as it is interested in reopening its lifeline so that it could continue with its dirty work to destabilize and denuclearize Pakistan and also to keep killing anti-US Afghan Pashtuns and Pakistani tribesmen so as to weaken them and possibly create favorable conditions for safe and honorable withdrawal.
Till such time foreign forces are stationed in Afghanistan, the US would like the supply lines to remain open since the troops need food, hard drinks, clothing including diapers, sports gear, equipment and arms. Northern routes are longer, time consuming and expensive. Besides, only perishable items are allowed. Safest, quickest and cheapest routes of supply are through Pakistan. The same routes would be most suited for shipping back heavy baggage, transport, tanks, guns and other ordnance. Supply routes may be required beyond 2014 in case it is decided to retain 4-5 military bases in Afghanistan and to leave 20-30,000 troops in backup role. Supply vehicles transporting arms will also be required to carry on with secret war against Pakistan. Pakistan may also help in extricating the US-NATO troops in case they get stuck, or in finalizing a political settlement with Taliban. These selfish considerations are forcing the US to grudgingly remain attached with Pakistan till the completion of the withdrawal phase of main body from Afghanistan by 2014 and that of rear party by 2018 or so.
Resumption of supplies will re-ignite anger and acts of terror, which in the last few months have subsided significantly. One of the reasons of this drop is Pakistan leadership’s defiance against the bullying US, closure of NATO supply line and Shamsi airbase, reduction in drone attacks and revisiting terms of engagement with USA. Gen Kayani and Lt Gen Pasha made definite contributions in healing the wounds of Afghan Taliban by way of avoiding a military operation in North Waziristan where a small group of Haqqanis are based, curtailing the influence of CIA-Blackwater network in Pakistan and blocking flow of arms to ISAF from 26 November onward.
Whatever goodwill earned will be lost if supplies are resumed, thereby provoking the extremists to get recharged. Why can’t we restrict the supplies to perishable and non-lethal items only and that too on payment at the rate of $12000 per container and under close scrutiny? Allowing shipment of lethal items would amount to digging our own graves and consciously putting our heads in hornets’ nest. There is no earthly reason for Pakistan to become party to the massacre of Afghans by the US kill teams particularly when drawdown has commenced and the US is actively engaged in parleys with Taliban in search of political settlement. Moreover, it must not be forgotten that the NATO containers carry the share of arms and equipment for TTP, BLA, BRA, BLF and Jundullah as well as for thousands of Marines and CIA contractors still hiding in Pakistan.