By S. M. Hali
The reopening of the NATO supply route/Ground Lines of Communication (GLOC) by Pakistan has brought mixed reactions. On the one hand, government functionaries are celebrating the release of US funds withheld under various pretexts; while on the other hand, the opposition and other critics are protesting the virtual capitulation by the government. The standoff continued for seven months but apparently Pakistan blinked first, agreeing to not only reopen the GLOC but also without renegotiating the transit fees or seeking reparation for the martyrs of Salala check-post. The Parliamentary Committee on National Security (PCNS) had taken cognizance of the erstwhile deals and understandings with the US/NATO/ISAF, which were based on mere nods of approval but had provided sweeping authority for provision of bases, launching pads, transit routes and other wherewithal for executing punitive operations against Taliban/Al-Qaida but were also taking a huge toll of human lives through collateral damage. Recommendation by PCNS was approved by the Parliament that these covert deals should be swapped and all future contracts must be in black and white and transparent for scrutiny by the nation for implied, veiled and surreptitious clauses. Unfortunately, the fresh understanding to reopen the GLOC is also shrouded in secrecy, providing grist to the rumour mill of machinations detrimental to the state of Pakistan.
The ruling coalition is busy explaining that the decision to reopen the GLOC was taken in “national interest”; a much abused cliché. The fact is that any agreement, whose terms and conditions are vague or furtive, will give rise to conspiracy theories. The optimists in Pakistan perceive the reopening of the GLOC to be “light at the end of the tunnel”, while the pessimists opine that it has only delayed the inevitable doom and gloom ahead. They draw attention to unabated drone attacks and incessant criticism of Pakistan and its allegedly “perfidious” Army in the US media as well as its legislative bodies. On the one hand, Pakistan overplayed its “blocking the GLOC” card, while on the other the negative narrative against Pakistan in the US media and parliament to apply pressure on its erstwhile ally in the war on terror to reopen the GLOC reached such a high pitch that Pakistan is now actually being perceived in the US prism as a double-dealing treacherous and perfidious state. So much so that reasonably balanced analysts like Dr. Christine Fair are questioning the wisdom of accepting Pakistan’s reopening the GLOC. She recommends that the US rather continue to disburse the million and a half US dollars per month for transiting logistics via the Northern Distribution Network but first settle scores with Pakistan for its alleged “double-dealing”. The charge sheet against Pakistan comprises allegations of backing the Haqqani network, held responsible for the attacks on US, ISAF and NATO facilities in Afghanistan, sponsoring violence in India through operations like the Mumbai attack, aiding and abetting terror networks throughout the world and numerous other heinous deeds. Many of these charges would not hold water in any unbiased international court of law but the Machiavellian maxim of “telling a lie so often that it appears to be truth” will now make it nearly impossible to dispel the fabrications.
The blocking of GLOC not only irked the US but was also much to the chagrin of the 49 member international community, contributing forces to the ISAF, which were now looking for a shorter exit route for their men and material as the deadline of 2014 drawdown of international forces from Afghanistan was approaching closer. These 49 members of ISAF also began perceiving Pakistan as the problem and not as part of the solution. They no longer have a soft corner for Pakistan’s suffering at the hands of terrorists and have become oblivious to Pakistan’s sacrifices and contribution in the war on terror. While this isolation and mortification of Pakistan continued, India made major headway in Pakistan, through its uncanny diplomatic skills causing further castigation of Pakistan. Resultantly, Indian forces are poised to assume the role of watchdog, trainer and arbiter in Afghanistan, following the exit of the international forces. This maneuver will enable India to encircle Pakistan and go for its jugular whenever the moment is “ripe”. The road ahead is thorny and Pakistan has to play its cards very deftly, if it has to come out unscathed once the dust settles in Afghanistan. This necessitates pragmatism, a high level of statesmanship and sound leadership to save Pakistan from falling deeper in the abyss of ignominy.