Pak-US ties and those who matter most

Published: April 4, 2012

Pakistani activists burn US flag to condemn alleged strikes in Pakistani tribal areas along the Afghan border, during a protest in Multan. PHOTO: REUTERS

At a joint sitting of the parliament the debate is on. The representatives of the people of Pakistan are discussing the new set of terms of engagement with the United States in the aftermath of the November airstrike on Pakistan’s Salala check post. A joint parliamentary committee on national security dished out some 40 recommendations which ostensibly would lay the basis on which the future Pak-US relations would stand.

One runs through the proposals and after a lot of sifting through three visible contours emerge.

1) The US must submit an unconditional apology for the strikes;

2) the drone attacks must end and

3) the US must pay taxes and charges for using Pakistani soil for Nato supplies.

However, as expected, the first two immediately met with US refusal. America told Pakistan point blank that there will be no apology from the White House as was being sought by Islamabad and the drone attacks will continue. And they did. Yes, we were told that the matter of taxes and charges for using Pakistani roads could be negotiated.

Now the question is, since when did the parliament start deciding our foreign policy matters and that, too, something as crucial as Pak-US relations?

Who is taking refuge behind the parliament this time? Does the foreign office — and the powers who actually run it — want the matter deliberately kicked to the parliament to increase their negotiating power in the upcoming Pak-US talks on the terms of engagement? The only operative or implementable proposals put forth by the Parliamentary Committee on National Security are regarding levying taxes and charges on Nato using our supply routes and the prompt clearance of Coalition Support Fund. Most foreign policy watchers are certain that Islamabad would be given a go-ahead on these two counts. While the two most significant demands concerning our national sovereignty — ‘stop drones’ and ‘the Salala apology’— are non-starters as far as Washington is concerned. The parliament, along with all its committees, no matter how lofty-sounding they are, and the civilian administration are basically doing what they are supposed to: provide a civilian face and thin layer of legitimacy, in the eyes of whoever wants to see that way, to the decision made by those who matter most in the country.

Read more by Rizwan here.

Mohammed Rizwan

Mohammed Rizwan

A senior reporter for The Express Tribune based in Lahore.

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • Anand

    Condition Number 4:

    US should continue to pour its billions to Pakistan irrespective how ungrateful we may seem.Recommend

  • http://India Feroz

    The foreign policy wish list drafted by Parliament can be confused to a toy wish list demanded of his parents by a petulant and spoilt child. There is a long list of “I want” without spelling out what “I give”.
    It may be better for all if NATO routes remain closed so that the country is able to stand on its own legs without US financial and military support.Recommend

  • Syeda Soobia Fatima

    “who is taking the refuge behind the parliament this time ?” on this my take is, it is government itself! The tussle between PPP’s govenment and the judiciary and the military respectively is evident from the recent developments (be it memogate scandal or NRO verdict). So in that particular scenario government needs to enlist the favour of all political parties present in the National Assembly. It will serve two purposes, firstly the government is getting an oppurtunity to claim that it is the one who is in control of affairs and is willingly ready to listen and accommodate the opinions of all on this vital foreign policy issue. Secondly, whatever may eventually be decided the responsibility will be shared by all and not only by the government. But we must remain mindful of the fact that the government has been allowed to play this role because of the convergence of opinion which exists between the government and the military as far as Pak-Us ties are concerned. The reason of this convergence is the embarrassment which both had/have to suffer at the hands of US because of US raid against Osama bin Laden and the continued Drone strikes. So though indirectly, but it is Pakistani military who is taking refuge along with the PPP government behind the parliament.Recommend

  • BlackJack

    What else can you expect? The current Govt is aware of its lack of popularity, and does not want to give the opposition yet another stick to beat it with (after that every single casuality in future drone attacks will be laid at their door step). It has thus surrendered its executive powers to the legislature, and will play postman going fwd. The problem is complicated by those not in power who believe that the the word “Opposition” needs to be taken very seriously – by disrupting even the few positive developments.Recommend

  • Silent Observer

    Fear is no policy, surrender is not an option

    William Francis Butler once said, “The nation that will insist upon drawing a broad line of demarcation between the fighting man and the thinking man is liable to find its fighting done by fools and its thinking by cowards.”

    The saying above aptly describes the situation in Pakistan post NATO killings. I think that the major cause of instability in Pakistan is the American led War on (T)error. Our government should revisit its foreign policy and rely more on regional strategic partners like China and Iran. I think that the US should leave the treachery of aiding us on the face and stabbing us at our backs. It’s time to let them know that we will not tolerate any foreign interventions, in any form whatsoever at all. If a sanction ridden country like Iran could down a drone, why couldn’t we? Pakistan should tactfully wiggle out of this alliance by clearly shifting its stance from “Do more” to “No more”.Recommend

  • hassan

    @Silent Observer:

    Then how will you eat ? Who will give you money then ?Recommend

  • John McIntyre

    As a tax paying American, I am quite offended by the Pakistani demands. Pakistan has been handsomely paid by our hard earned tax payer money to execute the war against Islamic extremism. Besides, getting rid of these bearded mullahs is in your interest too. In other words, Pakistan is having the cake and eating it too. Now in our culture taking money for goods not delivered is a major offense. Having taken our money, the Pakistanis should just get the job done without slacking off and double crossing. Your loyalty has already been paid for.

    John Recommend

  • Silent Observer

    @hassan:

    Please read Chapter 16 (Surah-e-Nahl) verse # 112 for answer.Recommend

  • asif

    I thin rizwan has between the lines very clearly made obvious who is running the show. the game of cat and mouse between pakistan military and civilian government, Gen Kayani has very cleverly the gilani government on the mat. in fact, he has killed two birds with one stone. whatever decision the military want the gilani government will have to take and any bad publicity emanating from the decision will be placed at the door of parliament Recommend

  • malik

    @Silent Observer:

    I read the book mentioned: it says if a Republican becomes the US President, we will go back to dark ages. Already we are reeling under power cut. After the Iran sanctions, Petrol prices will shoot up.

    I think it is better for all of us to immigrate en masse to friendly Arab countries. Recommend

  • G. Din

    @John McIntyre:
    “Your loyalty has already been paid for.”
    What loyalty? It is more like duplicity all the way. And, Americans, who never listen to sane advice when given voluntarily, have come out the suckers. This is East, my friend. Here values are quite different to yours. Deception and duplicity, that is the name of the game for those who want to establish Khilafa at any cost. You were told that in the late forties. But, did you listen? No, of course, not!Recommend

  • Rex Minor

    No one apologises in a whore house other than the personnel of the whore house. The USA has apologised to Afghanistan based on the knowledge from most prominent Afghan Americans, that for evry killed the Afghans will seek revenge. So comes the apology.

    The americans have by now the plenty knowledge of Pakistanis, whose threats are simply symolic.

    George W statement that either you are for us or against us. is still operational. This was opposite to the catholic Bishop of Milano, who said to his desciples that those who are not against us are for us!

    Rex MinorRecommend

  • Rex Minor

    When a russian bar keeper asked of a hotel guest, excuse me sir, are you an irishman? Is it not bad enough to be a black, was the prompt answer from the guest!

    Believe it or not, Mr Obama claims his Irish ancestory from his mother! Irishman never apologises! Did anyone from the Kennedy did?

    Rex MinorRecommend

  • Mir Agha

    The US has up to this point refused Pakistan’s reasonable suggestions. It has said non-compliance with those suggestions mean supply lines remain closed. And it has kept them closed.Recommend