As tempers run high between Pakistan and the US over the Haqqani network, Islamabad has launched an international effort to avert the possibility of foreign forces on its soil.
An official source from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said that Pakistan has directed its envoys in western countries, including Nato allies, to muster support that could dissuade the US from taking action, whether military or economic, against Pakistan.
Additional Secretary of the Foreign Ministry Alamgir Babar is in regular contact with the US State Department in an attempt to alleviate tensions, the source told The Express Tribune on condition of anonymity.
Armed hostilities unlikely
Veteran diplomats, however, say armed hostilities are unlikely. “The recently initiated cold war against Pakistan is aimed at cowing down Islamabad, but this threatening posture will not translate into a physical confrontation,” former Pakistani Ambassador to Afghanistan Rustam Shah Mohmand told The Express Tribune. Similar views were expressed by former Pakistan foreign secretary Tanveer Ahmed Khan during a televised interview on Sunday.
On the other hand, both the former diplomats are of the view that Pakistan may face harsh US economic sanctions in case negotiations fail. Both countries are aware that neither can afford an all-out war, Mohmand said, adding that “the problems being faced by Americans in Afghanistan will not allow the US to go beyond a selected strike in Fata.”
Mohmand did not rule out a selected strike, or a short operation by US forces in North Waziristan similar to the Abbottabad raid. “Some adjustment will ultimately occur in the rigid stands and demands of both the countries,” he said.
Where China comes in
Referring to the Chinese role in the Pak-US conflict, the former diplomat said that Islamabad had so far failed to gain help and economic assistance from China.
“Trade between China and India has crossed over $66 billion while we have so far not been able to gain any meaningful support from our friend,” Mohmand said.
The views of former naval chief Admiral Fasihuddin were similar, who said that the war of words was a battle for economic and strategic dominance in the region.
Fasihuddin did not rule out an army action against Pakistan by the US and warned that “[possible] US strikes in North Waziristan may spill over into urban areas of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa”.
Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar and military brass have taken a strong stance, stating clearly that a unilateral US strike would not be tolerated. It is yet to be seen whether Islamabad will follow through on this message.
Meanwhile, senior officials in the foreign ministry suggested that a physical confrontation, while not imminent, remained possible in the current circumstances.
Published in The Express Tribune, September 27th, 2011.
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