Pakistan not to confront United States… yet

Speak up for Pakistani interests & bottom lines the way Americans are speaking up for theirs. Extricate Pakistan from the American mess.

Pakistan’s leadership, civilian and military, has made a strategic decision not to confront the United States and seek Pakistani interests through quiet diplomacy. Our advice is: Speak up for Pakistani interests & bottom lines the way Americans are speaking up for theirs. This also means we won’t be reviewing our disastrous cooperation with US in Afghan occupation. We need this review urgently to extricate Pakistan from the American mess.

AHMED QURAISHI | Friday | 27 May 2011 | Column

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan-Pakistan’s military has made a strategic decision not to confront its ally, the United States military, despite all sorts of humiliation and abuse.

In conversations and briefings with several Pakistani military officials recently, one question kept coming up: ‘Do you want us to declare war on the US?’

The answer, of course, is no. And for good reason. The United States is not an enemy of Pakistan. But there is little doubt that American double game in Afghanistan, posing as an ally of Pakistan while building up an anti-Pakistan regional coalition, has destroyed US credibility in Pakistani eyes. Former President Musharraf and the civilian and military leaders who replaced him failed in effectively putting the United States on notice for its incessant efforts since 2004 to spread global alarm about the country and its nuclear program. The US brilliantly pursued its own interests. Pakistan didn’t, unfortunately.

President Asif Zardari is hand in glove with the Americans and no one expects him to rise to the occasion. But our military leadership should consider a range of options to defend Pakistan’s image and interests, short of going to war that no one wants. If confrontation is not an option, then an undeclared surrender shouldn’t be either.

Take the right to speak up publicly, for example. The United States is blunt about its interests and demands. Pakistani officials, both civilian and military, continue to shy away from articulating their demands and bottom lines publicly. This is a sign of weakness and is spreading confusion and demoralization among Pakistanis. Unfortunately, Pakistani officials continue to place their personal relationships with Washington above all else. This type of relationships has long endangered Pakistani national security.

The irony is that a foreign government, China, was faster and bolder than our own political and military leaders in defending the Pakistani position and rejecting the deliberate American demonization of Pakistan. Pakistani officials went overly defensive.


Take for example the repeated threats by President Obama and Secretary Clinton over the past week about unilateral military action inside Pakistan. Both are considered friends of Pakistan by some segments of our government and military. The truth is both are serving US interests the best they can, which is unfortunately not the case on the Pakistani side.

Washington has the right to pursue its al-Qaeda enemies, as Secretary Clinton said last week. That maybe so, but what Pakistani officials are loath to say publicly is that Washington does not have the right to use our intelligence and then sidestep Pakistan and question its sincerity and demonize it worldwide. [This is exactly what happened in the bin Laden operation of 2 May, where again Pakistani officials failed miserably in defending their position publicly.]

Pakistani officials can counter US pressure on unilateral action if they want to. US officials keen on waging war inside Pakistan can be countered using four strong arguments:

  • The US is responsible for the blunders of its military in late 2001 that resulted in pushing al-Qaeda terrorists into Pakistan.
  • The US is responsible for the actions of CIA and its uncontrolled Drones program that dispersed al-Qaeda terrorists all over Pakistan.
  • The number of al-Qaeda remnants on Pakistani soil is less than one hundred and possible below fifty, according to Pakistani intelligence estimates. Most of them are not high-value targets, which negates the need for a blanket US policy of unilateral action.
  • Pakistani intelligence has been instrumental in the elimination of most al-Qaeda terrorists. The US is not justified in using Pakistani intel and then cutting out Pakistani authorities from final action, a la OBL, on the pretext of operational security.

By all standards, the US military breach inside Pakistan on 2 May, by more than one hundred kilometers, was not possible without internal collusion at individual and multiple levels, and resulted in destroying the morale of the nation and ridiculing Pakistan internationally. And yet signs abound this episode will be buried under the carpet without accounting for the tremendous inroads CIA appears to have made in and around Islamabad.


More shameful is the fact that a long due Parliament resolution to review the lopsided Pakistani-American cooperation on Afghanistan seems to have been set aside after Senator John Kerry’s visit. Mr. Kerry proved to be an unreliable emissary during the crisis over the jailed CIA mercenary. Let’s remember that his words amounted to nothing when CIA decided to punish Pakistanis by killing forty of them in a single drone attack hours after the mercenary was released. This time around Mr. Kerry was reported to have given his word to the Pakistani military leadership there won’t be CIA drone attacks during his visit. But an hour after he left Islamabad, a CIA drone fired a missile on Waziristan. So much for the credibility of his other pledge, written “in blood” as per his own dramatic description, that the United States is not interested in targeting Pakistani nukes.

The day Mr. Kerry arrived in Islamabad a British newspaper ran a detailed report on US plans to deploy troops in Pakistan to ‘protect’ Pakistani nukes. In Pakistan, we see these kinds of reports as part of CIA’s disinformation campaign against Pakistan, not very dissimilar to the lies this agency planted in major American and British newspapers in the weeks before invading Iraq. The Americans cannot intervene against Pakistani nuclear assets without huge risks, but the story was classic multipurpose information warfare.

The decision not to confront the United States militarily, by for example not shooting down a CIA drone, might largely be a right decision considering the circumstances. But Pakistan’s civilian and military leaderships should not expect Pakistanis to gloss over some glaring facts. One of them is that Pakistan’s ally the United States has humiliated Pakistani military like no one has done before. Our people and military were punished when we humiliatingly released a jailed CIA mercenary in March, and when the US repeatedly attacked Pakistani soldiers on the Afghan border. When it came time to take out al-Qaeda terror chief, CIA and the US military could have minimized costs by jointly capturing OBL with ISI. Instead, not only did they decide to go it alone, they decided to compromise Pakistani sovereignty in the ugliest way possible and make Pakistani military the butt of domestic and international jokes.


And now we have US diplomatic cables suggesting our army chief tacitly approved CIA drone operations inside Pakistan, coupled with a feeble ISPR clarification that explains nothing and fails at defending the army chief’s position. This comes in addition to the known green signals for the drones from the president and the prime minister. The drones themselves are not the real issue. The real problem is that our officials in the government and the military have allowed something that is now totally out of our control. It is also a violation of the UN mandate for the war in Afghanistan after 9/11, which did not allow for US warfare to be extended into Pakistan regardless of the reasons.


And all of this comes with the worst humiliation facing our valiant and brave armed forces, thanks to the mismanagement and the wrong policies of a few. It is also totally unjustified and unacceptable that a few elements inside and outside Pakistan are exploiting this opportunity to demonize our armed forces and dampen national morale. And this is being allowed to happen without any countermoves to stop this slide in public’s confidence in our national institutions.

No one is responsible for this reckless (mis)management of our relations with a foreign power than our own people in power. And in the absence of accountability and transparency, they should know they have caused one of the biggest divisions among Pakistanis in a long time. Someone will have to pay the price for this. Let’s just hope it’s not Pakistan or the nation.

This op-ed is based on a column by Mr. Quraishi that appeared in The News International this week.


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