PM’s interview

If Prime Minister Gilani’s statement that US Secretary of State Clinton has personally given him the assurance that there would be no repeat of the unilateral operation by the US like the one at Abbottabad last May, the Obama administration must have changed its strategy about taking out the high-profile Al-Qaeda operatives who, it believes, have taken refuge in Pakistan. Otherwise, both President Obama and Secretary Clinton are on record having said, without mincing their words, that if the US had credible evidence of the presence of such militants on the Pakistani soil, it would not hesitate to launch similar unilateral raids.

In an interview with British newspaper Guardian, during the course of a private visit to the UK, Mr Gilani said that any OBL-type raid was unacceptable to Pakistan; it would not only damage “our relationship (with the US), but also our common objective” i.e. to win the war on terror. “We can’t afford losing,” he added.Mr Gilani put across Pakistan’s stand on drone attacks, maintaining that they worked against our strategy. His remark, “We have been isolating the militants from the local population and when there are drone attacks they get united again” is hard to question on logical grounds. But the pity is that blinded by the force of the military might that the US possesses, it wants to settle scores with the terrorists with a show of strength.

In the process, though, it seriously damages the very cause for which the brutal exercise is carried out. In addition, the attacks not only hurt the sensitivities of a crucial ally in the anti-terror campaign, but also create problems for it since the deaths of tribesmen occurring as a consequence of the missile hits provoke a backlash in the shape of an upsurge of terrorist bombings. The Prime Minster’s assertion, “We don’t allow our bases to be used (for drone attacks). They have other bases they use” is a small consolation in the light of the fact that the country’s sovereignty in any case continues to be violated and our innocent citizens continue to be murdered, with the consequent terrorist attacks in Pakistan and heightened insecurity across the length and breadth of the country.

Strangely, Mr Gilani hoped that New Delhi would “play a good role” in Afghanistan, though region watchers would agree with his view that final settlement in Afghanistan should be through an Afghan-owned, Afghan-led political reconciliation, and while ensuring peace there, it should not affect stability in Pakistan. The interview touched on other issues as well, but to an acute observer of the Indian politics his optimism about “good results” is misplaced. However, Mr Gilani’s unconcern about the fate of Dr Fai is both shocking and incomprehensible, especially in the light of the protest Islamabad has lodged with Washington over his arrest and accusation of connection with the ISI. He should know that nothing that concerns the Kashmir cause could leave any Pakistani unconcerned. – Nation