Mohmand attack: Pakistan’s survival at stake


“Pakistan’s survival cannot be put to stake for Afghanistan’s peace.” This was rightly said by Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani while responding to media queries after inaugurating the UAE Expo in Karachi on November 30. On another occasion he said that Pakistan wants to live with dignity. These statements given by Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani following the incident of November 26 reflect the emotions and mood of the entire nation: that it cannot be browbeaten into accepting the dictates of a power harboring illusions of invincibility. The actions taken the Prime Minister matched his words: he called the meeting of Defense Committee of Cabinet (DCC), which decided to ask the USA to vacate the Shamsi Airbase in 15 days, cut the NATO supply-line, review security arrangements with other countries and register protest with the UN and other international forums, and contacted political leaders, including Imran Khan and Ch Nisar Ali, leader of the opposition, to rally political support behind the firm stand taken by his government against the NATO provocation. Pakistan’s Permanent Representative to the UN delivered Pakistan’s protest note to the UN, which elicited the Secretary General’s condemnation of the attack. And here in Pakistan Foreign Secretary Salman Bashir summoned the American Ambassador to Pakistan and registered Pakistan’s protest. Prime Minister Gilani’s government was also able to muster support of the Muslim countries, as evident from the OIC’s strong condemnation of the Mohmand attack.
The Federal Cabinet later endorsed all the decisions taken by the DCC and also announced to boycott the Bonn Conference to be held on December 5 to discuss Afghanistan. As was expected, the decision to vacate the Shamsi Airbase drew swift reaction from the US, which through the UAE tried in vain to persuade the government to revise the decision pertaining to the Airbase. Unmoved, Pakistan’s government, according to some reports, could also get the Pasni and Jacobabad Airbases vacated from the US. Upset by Pakistan’s decision to boycott the Bonn Conference, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, phoned Prime Minister Gilani to convey her request for ending the boycott and send Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar if he is unable to attend the Conference, which the Prime Minister refused to accept, pegging Pakistan’s participation in that Conference to unconditional apology from the NATO (read the US). Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai, after two days of mysterious silence after the incident, conveyed his concern to Prime Minister Gilani and asked him to change the decision related to the Bonn Conference. However, Karzai and other world leaders’ requests failed to persuade Pakistan’s Prime Minister to modify his government’s policy of defying international pressure in the interest of national honor and prestige. There is even talk of countering drone attacks. Of course, all these action are in line with the resolution of the APC which was held after the Abbottabad incident. Indeed, commensurate political will is evident in the implementation of the resolution.
If by hitting the army check-post in Mohmand Agency on November 26, in which 24 army-men were martyred, the NATO, nay the US, had the motive of testing the waters before launching its full juggernaut to trample Pakistan’s geographical boundaries, it must now have found itself caught on the wrong-foot. Such was the response by the Pakistani nation, the Gilani government and the armed forces to the uncalled for aggression that NATO will have to get a reality check, which is that Pakistan is not Iraq or Afghanistan; it is a nuclear capable, democratic country, where civil society is vibrant and where people are unified when it comes to defending the country. When Raymond Davis was freed after the detention of 42 days, the US attacked a jirga in Datta Khel through a drone and killed 47 tribal people. Pakistan’s reaction to that incident was swift and strong, but the US went through the motion of usual excuses. Before the Mohmand Agency, three attacks had been made against the army along Pak-Afghan borders; on these occasions the NATO came up with the trite excuse of being not aware of the presence of Pakistani soldiers. In Mohmand, not only was the white flag fluttering but also the NATO command was fully aware of the presence of a check-post. As the Pakistan army high command said, the attack was not a case of mistake on the part of the attackers. Is the US behind the façade of NATO trying to measure Pakistan’s response before mounting something bigger to wipe out yet-to-be substantiated hideouts of the Haqqani network? Is the US exerting pressure to scupper Pakistan-China relations, manifested in the recently held joint exercises on November 24? Does the US want to cut Pakistan’s ties with Iran that could grow stronger if the gas pipeline project is implemented? Or, the intention of the US is to create instability in the country by tarring the image of its main institutions through the brush of accusing them of incompetence? With the US presidential election coming closer, does the Republican urge to win a political point form the reason behind bombing an ally deemed backing a network allegedly instrumental in the Afghanistan debacle? All remain in the realm of possibilities, and only time will reveal the true motives of NATO. What is clear is that the time has come to revise Pakistan’s foreign policy.
In this regard, by putting the ball in the court of Pakistan’s parliament, Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani has brought people representatives in the sphere of policy making on national issues. He has directed Raza Rabbani to hold a meeting of Parliamentary Committee on National Security. This is a pragmatic approach as a democratic government draws strength from parliament. Whether the Mohamnad Agency incident leads to a paradigm shift in Pakistan’s foreign policy is to be seen; however, the contours of a policy depicting a self-respecting state are already evident. Apprehensions such as what will Pakistan do if the USA demands repayment of its loans, or will Pakistan be able to sustain its firm stand in the wake of world pressure and amid reports that the USA is creating an alternative supply-line through Northern Distribution Network (NDN) comprising Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan and has set up a railway-line from Panjsher to Tamrez should not be allowed to lower the nation’s morale. In any case, supply through Pakistan to 140,000 International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) (97,000 US and 43, 000 NATO) in Afghanistan remains the most viable route. There is no gainsaying that Pakistan stands at the crossroads of its history. A wrong step could throw it in the abyss of enduring humiliation. The Gilani government, the army, and the nation have so far demonstrated their will and determination to face up to this pressure. This is our zenith as a nation.

— The writer has held senior editorial positions and teaches in BNU.


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