Just when Pakistan had started becoming confident about its relationship with the US, Faisal Shahzad went and threw not just a spanner but an entire explosives-laden SUV in the works. The explosives planted at Times Square in New York City luckily fizzled out but American ire has not.
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton reverted to the ‘do more’ mantra, which Islamabad had assumed was over and done with. Secretary Clinton sugar-coated the bitter pill by saying she “had to stand up for the efforts of the Pakistani government”. While she said there had been a sea change in Pakistan’s commitment, she declared: “We want more, we expect more.” In an interview with CBS’ 60 Minutes, she added: “We’ve made it very clear that if, heaven-forbid, an attack like this that we can trace back to Pakistan were to have been successful, there would be very severe consequences.”
Her sharp remarks and volte face come as an unpleasant surprise to Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani’s government, basking as it was in the reasonably successful mission to the International Nuclear Security summit in Washington just last month. Hours before Clinton’s remarks went public, Gilani said in Karachi that the trust deficit between America and Pakistan was over and there was international recognition of Pakistan’s sacrifices in the war against terror.
Looks like the Americans have decided to play good cop-bad cop with Pakistan. On the same day Clinton took the tough line, US Secretary of Defence Robert Gates praised the Pakistan Army’s commitment to fighting extremists inside its borders. Gates said the US remained willing to offer as much help as the Pakistan government would accept. “It’s their country,” he said. “They remain in the driver’s seat, and they have their foot on the accelerator.”
Faisal Shahzad’s disastrous actions and rapid confession couldn’t have come at a worse time. It coincided with the announcement of the death penalty for Ajmal Kasab, the sole survivor of the Mumbai attackers, with headlines splashed worldwide inevitably linking the two disparate events. As Pakistan and India’s foreign ministers prepare to hold talks following an agreement at last month’s Saarc summit in Bhutan, Islamabad is on a weak wicket again. After being repeatedly pilloried for exporting terrorism, Pakistan had vindicated itself, a vindication hard won and measured in the amount of Pakistani blood spilled in the streets of its cities and in mountains of Malakand and Fata.
Today, the confession of Faisal Shahzad has once again pinpointed Pakistan as the epicentre of global terrorism. And each and every one of us has been tarred with the same brush.
Conspiracy theorists have denounced the whole failed car bombing in Times Square as staged by the US to force Pakistan to start military operations in North Waziristan, take over our nuclear weapons, send troops into Pakistan — pick your favourite. If this salves bruised egos, by all means revel in these theories. But the grim reality is that Faisal Shahzad’s actions have taken us back to square one — pleading our innocence before a world community, once again. And Faisal Shahzad has made a mockery of all those who have died and been maimed in terrorist acts across Pakistan. That is his true crime.