For nearly six months, Pakistan has been holding out on reopening Nato’s supply route into Afghanistan until an unconditional apology was given for the Salala attack. Who knew that being refused an invitation to a Nato summit in Chicago was all it would take for us to change our minds? While the decision to allow Nato the use of the supply route is a wise one, it does raise a lot of questions, especially the way in which it was handled. For one, we have to ask ourselves if the incalculable damage done to ties with the US was worth it, especially since our demand for an apology was ultimately dropped. By allowing this issue to fester for so long, the government has also ensured that the right wing parties will now make political hay by taking out large street protests against the opening of the supply route. Nato trucks had always been targeted for attack by militants; by imbuing them with such symbolic significance the government has only made them even bigger targets of attack.
The sudden reversal also reflects poorly on the government’s position with regard to the military; this is clearly a military-approved decision. The men in khaki were seen coming and going from the presidency on May 14, suggesting that the resumption of supplies to Afghanistan could only be permitted with army approval. The US and its Nato allies, meanwhile, in a sign of where the true centre of power resides, conducted most of its meetings on the issue with the military. We have now also seen what the government thinks of the Parliamentary Committee on National Security (PCNS). Among the many recommendations made by the PCNS, it suggested that supply routes only be reopened after negotiating a cessation of drone attacks with the US. That has clearly not happened, showing that the rest of parliament’s suggestions are also unlikely to be followed.
No matter how convoluted or unnecessary the process, at least in the end the right decision was made. If Pakistan wants to have any stake in post-war Afghanistan it will have to play ball with the US for now. It’s far better that we participate in the Chicago Summit than be cut out of the process altogether.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 16th, 2012.
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