Pak-US ties and those who matter most

Published: April 4, 2012
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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.