Mukhtar’s outburst

It must be the first time that a high Pakistani official like the Defence Minister has talked in detail about the state of relations between Pakistan and the US that took a turn for the worse after the May 2 Abbottabad raid by the US Special Forces. The nation, badly hurt at the violation of the country’s sovereignty by the Americans, spoke out against maintaining cooperation with the US in the war on terror and called for a review of the bilateral relations. The joint session of Parliament, convened to question the defence and military intelligence chiefs about how the 40-minute-long operation remained undetected, also concluded on the need to revisit the Pak-US relations.

It also decided that if the drone attacks continued in the face of our protests, the tankers and trucks taking supplies for the ISAF and NATO forces in Afghanistan should be stopped. As the Shamsi airbase came in the limelight for its use to fly drones, the demand had gone up for getting it vacated from the Americans. Chaudhry Mukhtar’s remark before the reporters called to the Defence Ministry on Wednesday that the US had been asked to vacate the base appears to be in compliance with those wishes. It is unfortunate that a friendly country which had this base on lease chose to hand it over to the CIA to fly drones to kill our nationals!

Chaudhry Mukhtar, pointing to the operation to take out Osama bin Laden conducted without taking the Pakistan Army into confidence, observed that the US killed one individual but lost a friendly country. The Minister’s words conveyed a measure of frustration with a friend Pakistan had trusted. Thus it was but natural for the level of trust to sink low, raising questions about the continued cooperation with the US, and the decision to revisit the bilateral ties as well as defence policy! One should have thought, though, that two months down the road (the clandestine raid) a suitable revision would already have taken place.

There was also a note of warning about the impending end of the ongoing military action in the tribal region since Pakistan could not afford it without the Coalition Support Fund which had not been forthcoming now. Chaudhry Mukhtar was logical when answering a question about the whereabouts of Mulla Omar, by pointing out that even if he had been in Pakistan, he would have left after the Abbottabad operation. He was also right in saying that no one, be it the army chief or the ISI DG, was indispensable.