Friend turns foe

Tensions are high and a relationship that was fragile right from its onset seems ready to crumble. Pakistan and the US are at verbal daggers drawn and one cannot help but worry where the current trend will take us. Statements being issued by the US have taken on an accusatory tone and those given by Pakistan to counter them are of denial. However, it is the extreme change in stance that should really be making Pakistanis unsettled. Admiral Mike Mullen, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, has, in no uncertain terms, declared Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence Agency (ISI) as a body that uses militants — the Haqqani network — as an instrument to wage a proxy war against the US.

He has, in a statement to the US Senate Armed Services Committee, condemned Pakistan’s ISI for “exporting” terror. These are strong words. They are stronger still if you consider that Mike Mullen has been a staunch advocate of keeping Pakistan close as an ally and acknowledging it as a friend of the US, especially in these dire times. It is Mike Mullen who has been at the forefront of keeping the Pak-US alliance intact, especially through his relationship with COAS General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani and his many meetings with the Pakistani military commander.

However, now Mullen is at the forefront of accusing Pakistan’s ISI of playing double games. He has unequivocally stated that Pakistan is now staring at the very real possibility of isolating itself from the international community and limiting its influence in the region. Statements from the likes of Interior Minister Rehman Malik denying these charges and nudging the Americans to “prove” their allegations are tantamount to giving them a reason to go on an all out offensive. No one is now ready to believe that Pakistan’s military-intelligence establishment has not played a double game with the US and, some would say, the Pakistani nation. Couple that with Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar’s taut response to Mullen’s statement that the US stands to lose an ally by alienating Pakistan — to the US’s own cost — and you have the stage set for a confrontation.

Whilst Rehman Malik may deliver his usual spiel about “boots on the ground” not being allowed, the US does not need Malik’s permission. One can see just how important the issue of our sovereignty was when the May 2 operation was conducted in Abbottabad:. Our intelligence had not a clue till the Navy SEALS had entered and taken out their target. Once boots on the ground do arrive, there will be no more room for manoeuvre. Even if the prospect of American troops within our borders seems far farfetched, there are many ways the US can harm our national interests. Besides the possibility of stepping up drone attacks on more than just directed targets, the US may carry out its own military operations in the border areas if they locate the Haqqani network and other such militants. When we fail to justify being called an ally of the Americans, they will take matters into their own hands.

Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani needs to consider which sovereignty he is talking about when he issues statements about it not being compromised. The US Congress has already attached conditions to the next tranche of aid, one of them being our ability to tackle the Haqqani threat.We are dancing on the edge of a precipice and seem ready to fall over. We must revisit our position before we reach a stage in this war where the US looks at us in hostility. Keeping up support for our so-called proxies to limit Indian expansion is a bet we have lost, according to Mullen. It is time we realise that our time for dual policies is up and that the game is reaching a worrisome end — for us. – Brecorder