Belatedly, the top brass of the military and civilian government has swung into action and tried to grapple with the very serious breach in relations with the US caused by the discovery and killing of Osama Bin Laden by American Navy SEALs in a unilateral attack inside Pakistan’s territory. It has been decided that the prime minister will take the public into confidence through parliament. This incident has also shaken the confidence of the Pakistani public in the military’s capability to defend the country’s borders and shrill voices within and outside parliament are asking the top political and military leadership to resign. On the other hand, despite the restraint shown by President Obama and Secretary of State Hilary Clinton, who did not forget to acknowledge Pakistan’s contributions to the war on terror, our hapless country is being pilloried in the US Congress, media and by some high officials, one of whom branded it a case of “complicity or incompetence” on the part of Pakistan’s intelligence apparatus in not being able to track down Osama Bin Laden in the garrison town of Abbottabad.
Although it was highly desirable for this consultation to have taken place on the first day after the incident and the president or prime minister delivering an authoritative statement rather than leaving the unenviable task of dealing with uncomfortable questions to the Foreign Office, perhaps it is better late than never. The lack of a considered official response left the space open for all kinds of rumours inside and outside the country over what happened. Playing to the popular American sentiments, some Congressmen have called for a review of aid to Pakistan, which, they say, is costing the US taxpayers dearly in the present times of recession. Arguably, the Pakistani top brass wants parliament firmly behind them in their efforts to counter this propaganda. However, in the presence of a fierce opposition that has gone so far as to demand the resignations of prime minister and president in addition to the army and Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) chief, it is not certain how far this effort to send out a unified voice to the world will succeed. It is, however, necessary to defend the case of Pakistan for the sake of peace in the region and the world.
If, on the basis of allegations and accusations, the hawks in the US Congress and security establishment are able to scale down the US’s military and economic cooperation with Pakistan, this will impact not only Pakistan but also the region. The US can ill-afford to upset the applecart when its forces are due to withdraw from Afghanistan in the near future. Without stability and peace in Afghanistan, we cannot hope for a lasting peace in the world. Therefore, it is imperative to cool tempers and conduct diplomacy away from the media glare. If this war of words is allowed to rupture this important relationship, it will have serious implications for all sides.
The meeting of Pakistan’s civilian and military top officials was an attempt to prepare to inform the public, parliament and the world of our position on this issue. It would be in the interest of Pakistan for our parliamentarians to take stock of the situation with an objective mind rather than scoring political points by adopting a gung ho approach over violation of sovereignty. It should be a cause for concern for Pakistan too how Osama bin Laden, who was responsible for the deaths of thousands of unarmed, innocent civilians including many Muslims around the world, managed to stay in Pakistan with his large family without being detected for about nine years since the invasion of Afghanistan. – Dailytimes