Pak-US ties: Don’t kick the hornet’s nest!

Published: September 29, 2011

If Pakistan and the US go to war, terrorists will be fuelled by the prospect of greater jihad. PHOTO REUTERS/ FILE

Pakistan and the United States are currently embroiled in one of their biggest squabbles since the start of the war on terror which has led to intense speculation of American ground troops in Pakistan. Senator Rehman Malik has come out and said that no American troops will be allowed within Pakistan:

“Pakistan will not allow boots on our ground, never. Our government is already cooperating with the US …  but they also must respect our sovereignty.”

But it’s not like the Americans will listen to Pakistan or care for the sovereignty of one of its ‘allies’, as the Osama bin laden raid clearly showed.

However, I believe an American attack on Pakistani soil would be a huge misstep. I make this claim not because I have absolute confidence in our armed forces to fight against such an attack, nor do I believe that America cares for the sovereignty of others.

I believe that if the US and Pakistan go to war, this would basically play into the hands of the militants of Pakistan, and  America would be, effectively, kicking a hornets’ nest. No matter how big of a problem radicalization is in Pakistan, it has not fully taken over the country.

The problem lies in the fact that while both Pakistan and America are committed to fighting terrorism, their priorities are not necessarily the same. For the United States the priority is getting out of Afghanistan, with a little bit of their honour still intact and protecting their troops until they have managed to achieve this. For Pakistan, on the other hand, the priority is protecting itself from terrorist attacks and ensuring they have some form of relationship with whoever comes into power in Afghanistan once the foreign forces leave.

While this is not an ideal situation for America, it is still not the worst possible scenario; this scenario would be when a nuclear armed nation decides to stand up and defend itself while subconsciously playing into the hands of the terrorist organizations.

Terrorist attacks in Pakistan began because the government of Pakistan decided to align itself with the Americans rather than against them. These outlets are still urging for a greater jihad in which Pakistan should take on the imperial forces of America and defend Islam. If the United States were to attack Pakistan there is a real risk of exactly that happening.

It wouldn’t matter that a Pakistani response in such a situation would have nothing to do with religion or jihad; it wouldn’t matter that it would be a move just to protect the nation’s sovereignty; it wouldn’t matter if this move was a mere act of self-defense.

This war would be hijacked by the radical mullahs, and they would claim that their position has been vindicated – an attack on Pakistan won’t just be an attack on a nation it would be portrayed as an attack on Islam.

This would be the biggest propaganda tool radicals in Pakistan would ever have access to. The United States must now realize that after the devastation of its economy and the war on terror, it is no longer the super-power it once was. At the same time, they need to realise that  Pakistan is not a country which it can just bulldoze over.

It is time for them to quit these threats and consider Pakistan an ally on a much more equal footing.  This is because there is no endgame in Afghanistan without help from Pakistan. Also, there won’t be a stable Afghanistan without a stable Pakistan, and that won’t happen if America decides to kick the hornets’ nest.


Shaukat Hamdani

Broadcast journalist with an interest in sports, travel, history and culture. He tweets @Shaukii

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

  • Fahad Raza

    Talk about weak knees and jumping on the bandwagon of “Rouge element will win”. Why can’t you see the reality Americans are on our soil, and are operating in every way they want. This all “tension” is about AID, American exit strategy and putting the blame on Pakistan, again for failure to restore peace in Afghanistan.
    Now will American declare a full scale war on a Nuclear country? They are too stretched.
    Do American want just to pressure for some more negotiation over Pakistan’s regional foreign policy (Iran, Afghanistan china) and securing Afghan transit trade ? Yeah
    Is Haqqani the next decoy to create excuse that they may stay for them a bit more long?
    One things for sure Americans can’t make a 52nd state out of a country founded on religion. Recommend

  • Shahrukh kazmi

    US should realize that Pakistan is not Afghanistan and Iraq, Pakistan has 612,000 active troops and 500000 with in reserves, Pakistan also has very strong Air force with F-16 Falcons, J-10, JF-17 Thunder, Mirage 5, Bell AH-1 Cobra for the Attack and not to forget we are Nuclear power with 100 to 120 warheads we are far better then Iran and North Korea.

    War with Pakistan certainly will be a war with there allies around the world specially with the Chinese and Turks. Recommend

  • malik

    If you think that the only way to cripple Pakistan is through conventional army strikes, a la Iraq, then, you are naive.

    All US has to do is close down their embassies/consulates in Pak and stop the visa issuance.

    The entire country will come to a halt !Recommend

  • bijoy

    @Shahrukh kazmi:

    why you forget about the strategic assets???Recommend

  • http://India Feroz

    There are many perspectives and dimensions to the issue discussed by you. Pakistan has used terrorist proxies against its neighbors for decades, funding,arming and training them. Obviously when the terrorists were too busy attacking neighbors they found no time to kill their own citizens. When the World saw through the shenanigans of the State and its non state actors it was forced to take a stand. It requested Pakistan to keep its Assets and proxies within the confines of its borders. That was the turning point when the strategy of creating monsters backfired. Who do you think jobless terrorists will kill, those who happen to be around them. Pages can be written about the perfidy of the Americans, Indians and Afghans but the above facts will not change.
    In a desperate attempt to evict the atheist communist Soviets from Afghanistan America, Pakistan and the Mujahideen used and abused Islam, none of them with noble goals.
    When atrocities are committed in the name of any Religion the price to be paid will be astronomically high.
    HE may be invisible but he can see !Recommend

  • Junaid

    It often happens, and regrettably so, that the media in many countries tends to play a rather jingoistic and nationalistic role during times of war. However, the situation right now is completely different. Pakistan is not at war with any country and certainly does not need a war either. To make this point further clear, Pakistan can hardly afford a war with the world’s sole superpower, a country that also happens to be its largest trading partner and second-largest foreign investor. If anything, the media should be asking the nation at large, and in particular the centers of power who will decide how to deal with the crisis to look inward and gauge whether the fault for the present tension perhaps lies with us, because of our actions or inactions.
    By no means does this mean that we should take such allegations lying down, in fact they need to be responded to, but not by beating the war drum, thumping our collective national chest and demanding that we give America a response that it will never forget.Recommend

  • Raja Islam

    @Shahrukh kazmi:
    Do you really think that anyone would come to Pakistan’s aid if it went into war?

    History of wars with India have told us how our armed forces have fared. We must be living in a fools paradise if we think that we can go to war with any large country and come out the winners.Recommend

  • Raja Islam

    By the way there are already boots on the ground. If the Pakistani armed forces cannot handle the terrorists operating from Pakistan, then they should openly come out and invite the US forces to help.Recommend

  • Mehr Tiwana

    an over well written article but aren’t the Americans already on our ‘sovereign’ soil?Recommend

  • Rabia Sultan

    Pakistan itself is a worst victim of terrorism and always condemned terrorist activities. Pakistan is the only country that rendered most sacrifices in war against fanatics. Pakistan not only facing human lives lost but also resources. Blaming Pakistan for ostensibly playing double game is unfair. Pakistan played a vital role in war on terror since last decade. PPP Government since its inception left no stone unturned to wipe out militancy, Operation in Waziristan, Swat and other areas are evident to international community. Blaming Pakistan for having links with terrorist groups like Haqqanis or else is injustice and biased. Pakistan does not believe in this self destructing concept of “strategic asset”.
    I don’t talk about Musharraf, his tainted past and policies but I do believe that Pakistan Peoples Party has played a fair and vital role in elimination of terrorism. One can compare the PPP’s progress with previous regime. It is time to stop blame game and really understand the problems of Pakistan. Do more rhetoric would be no more applicable.Recommend

  • Sumaira Rehman

    Unfortunately the American media has not learned from its mistakes on Iraq War, and have become embedded mouthpieces for establishment (particularly military policy) towards Pakistan. The random and convenient NYT scoops and editorial on Pakistan military so obviously reek of jingoism, especially in the last week when both NYT and Daily Beast were equally goading Obama to have a go at ‘enemy’ Pakistan. I am not making excuses for Pak military and media because I do agree with the gist of your analysis, however I am saying the jingoism is being exacerbated on both sides. In both countries the media is being used by their respective establishments to convey messages that they otherwise don’t have the guts to say to each other face to face.Recommend

  • Doctor

    The author must be kidding himself to think that the terrorists ruining Pakistan are only doing so because of Pakistan’s half-hearted alliance with the US. This is typical PTI/Imran Khan/Ghariat drivel.

    Give me a break. These madmen and terrorists will ruin Pakistan whether or not the Americans are in Afghanistan. Just the same way that once terrorism in Kashmir decreased due to better border policing and intelligence and those terrorists came back to Pakistan and started causing havoc, the ones in Afghanistan who are trying to fight the US will just come back into FATA and cause more trouble in Pakistan.

    The US is doing Pakistan a huge favor and offering a hand of friendship which Pakistan keeps biting. Stop beating your chest. Our Armed Forces are pathetic and will fold up quickly in the face of attack. We have lost EVERY SINGLE WAR (don’t believe our fake and false textbooks) to India. The US’ infrastructure and military is far stronger than India’s and India would be happy to oblige the US in an attack on terrorist elements in Pakistan.

    The US is smart and will not go after the Pakistani government but rather terrorists and their training camps – primarily in FATA and AK.

    Get real. We need to stop playing a double game and give up on ALL “strategic assets”. We need to focus on building infrastructure, education, and trade. Cut off military funding. Let the Armed Forces do something productive and build roads for once.Recommend