A stitch in time


Can’t afford to be the flaky ally

Those who decided to block the Nato traffic had grossly underestimated the ability of the US to deal with the situation. The purpose behind referring the issue to the parliament was only to delay the decision. This generated hostility in Washington against Pakistan. When asked at a TV appearance about the parliament’s role in the affair, MNA Mehtab Abbasi said that army alone had decided to block the traffic and later to open it. Parliament had little to do with either of the decisions. It is widely understood that Pakistan’s post 9/11 policy was devised by Gen Musharraf. The present government was required to continue it till a number of incidents led the real decision makers to choose unwise courses of action. The discovery of Raymond Davis operating in Lahore led to extraordinary travel restrictions on US and allied diplomats. Tensions mounted when OBL was killed in a raid by the US Special forces in Abbottabad. The killing of 28 Pakistani soldiers in a US attack on Salala checkpost led to the blockade of the Nato traffic and closure of the Shamsi air base. Instead of resolving the dispute at the earliest, it was put on the back burner on account of unrealistic assessments. Washington was willing to render an apology in March but was unwisely asked to delay it. What Islamabad has accepted now is only a shadow of an apology.
While Pakistan is likely to get $1.1billion as reimbursements for assistance in fighting the militants, Washington has made it abundantly clear that it considers Pakistan an unreliable ally. Three issues continue to cast a dark shadow over the Pak-US relations: the Haqqani network which the US considers responsible for deadly attacks on Nato and Afghan troops, Hafiz Saeed who has a bounty of $10 million on him and whose LeT is considered by some in Washington as more dangerous now than Al-Qaeda, and finally Dr Shakil Afridi whose sentence by a tribal court was promptly declared “unjust and unwarranted” by Clinton. If past is an indicator, the real decision makers are likely to delay the right stand on the issues till enough damage has been done. This reminds one of Churchill who said about the Americans, “You can always rely on America to do the right thing, once it has exhausted the alternatives.”
Time is of the essence in the life of the nations. Right decisions have to be taken promptly to get the benefits. As two top Pakistani generals proceed to Washington, one wonders if they are carrying with them satisfactory answers to the questions considered vital by the US.