Pakistan has decided to scrap all existing anti-terror cooperation agreements with the United States in a development that may not only take the uneasy alliance between the two countries to the point of no return but also impede world efforts at bringing sustainable peace in Afghanistan.
The decision, which was taken after consultations at the top civil and military levels following the Nato airstrikes, is part of a review of political, diplomatic and military ties with the US, officials familiar with the development told The Express Tribune.
This, however, does not mean the government is seeking a complete breakdown in the relationship with the US. Rather, it is aiming to enter a fresh agreement that clearly states in writing Pakistan’s ‘red lines’ and firm assurance from Washington not to violate those in the future, added the officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue.
The country’s insistence on re-drafting the rules of engagements is part of what is believed to be tough conditions set out for the resumption of business as usual with the US.
Since the November 26 Nato attacks at Pakistani border posts in Mohmand Agency, Islamabad appears to have hardened its stance — a move that could jeopardise the US campaign in Afghanistan.
Pakistan has already boycotted the key international conference on Afghanistan, scheduled to begin on Monday in the German city of Bonn, in protest and as an attempt to send a clear message to the US that it will not become part of any reconciliation process if its sovereignty continues to be violated by Nato forces.
“It is not possible to continue cooperation under the existing arrangements following the Nato attack,” said a senior military official.
Pakistan can now only restart its cooperation with the US after a new agreement that clearly defines rules of engagements, the official pointed out.
The review the government intends to undertake may also affect the CIA-led drone campaign in the country’s tribal areas.
Though, Pakistan publicly condemns the use of pilot-less drones as violation of its sovereignty, it is believed that there exists a secret understanding with the US.
“This will now be renegotiated,” disclosed another official.
US has ‘taken advantage’
Officials believe that the US has taken advantage of “the level of freedom given to them to pursue war on terror on Pakistani soil.”
The repeated incursions by the US-led Nato forces is also attributed to the ‘loose arrangements’ agreed between the two countries during the former military ruler General Pervez Musharraf’s regime.
When approached, Director-General Inter-Service Public Relations (ISPR) Major General Athar Abbas said cooperation with the US would be revisited in line with the government’s decision. However, he would not share further details.
Despite Pakistan’s tough stance, the US has not yet indicated or approached the government that it is willing to renegotiate terms of engagement.
“The only thing they (US) are saying at the moment is, ‘wait for the findings of the investigations into the Nato attack’”, said a foreign ministry official.
The inquiry, which was ordered by the US Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff, will be made public on December 23.
Irrespective of the US probe, Pakistan military is clear that the attack was ‘deliberate’ and a simple apology won’t normalise relationship.
US error blamed for airstrike
A report in The Telegraph said on Sunday that the US officers gave incorrect information to their Pakistani counterparts to seek clearance regarding the Nato airstrike.
The report quoted a Pakistani military official, while talking to The Sunday Telegraph, saying that the US gave wrong information to the border coordination unit about a suspected Taliban position before the attack while seeking clearance from the Pakistani side to carry out the attack.
“The strike had begun before we realised the target was a border post,” he said. “The Americans say we gave them clearance but they gave us the wrong information.” (with additional input from wires)
Published in The Express Tribune, December 5th, 2011.