“It will not be possible for India and Pakistan to become friends and live amicably unless some catastrophic event takes place to change the environment in Pakistan.” A tall Congress leader, Maulana Abul Kalam Azad, said this a few months before partition in an interview to Chataan, an Urdu weekly then published from Lahore.
I felt (my wishful thinking) that the killing of Osama bin Laden by US Navy SEALs in Pakistan, without giving it prior information and without the latter’s capacity to retaliate, might prove to be that “catastrophic” event. Pakistan’s sovereignty had been scoffed at and its support to Washington to fight against the Taliban had been taken for granted. Some 35,000 Pakistanis have lost their lives in the US-Afghanistan war.
But to my disappointment, the humiliation was sought to be overcome by Pakistan’s Foreign Office and the army through pouring venom against India. An indiscreet reply by the Indian army chief to a loaded question, of whether India was capable of carrying strategic strikes, brought the entire Pakistan establishment to its feet, as if India was in the dock. Was it necessary for Foreign Secretary Salman Bashir, otherwise urbane, to say that Pakistan would retaliate within minutes, not hours?
The outbursts have come when Pakistan is in the midst of talks with India after a lapse of three years. I expect the dialogue between the two countries to get deeper and cover all points of difference between them. I believe that they have no option but to normalise their relations, however long they may take to realise this.
It is clear that America is not going to trust Pakistan again. The fact that Washington carried out the operation single-handedly, without intimating a close ally, says it all. And till today, there is no word of explanation, much less apology, as to why the US violated the airspace of a sovereign country?
My belief is that Washington never trusted Islamabad, fully, in the matter of sharing intelligence. America passed on only information regarding al Qaeda or the Taliban, but never Osama. For the latter, it had its own intelligence and the CIA had recruited dozens of Pakistanis to do the job. It had its own support system in sovereign, independent Pakistan and the system is still intact.
People in Pakistan are justified in blaming both their military and the government for the incompetence. Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani’s admission that his government did not know, doesn’t answer the question as to how Osama lived in the garrison town of Abbottabad for at least five years as various reports indicate. There has to be a proper commission like the one appointed after the debacle in Bangladesh. Any inquiry, either by the government or the military, would not be independent and comprehensive, nor would it evoke credibility.
Prime Minister Gilani’s speech before the National Assembly gave no evidence that Pakistan has learnt its lesson. By blasting America, he only finds excuses for his government’s failure. When will Pakistan begin to look from within and revise its destructive policies? Islamabad should be prepared for more such American inroads because the latter suspects that there is more to Osama’s presence in Abbottabad. Its suspicion of the ISI is clear from the case it has filed in Chicago on Pakistan’s alleged hand in the 26/11 attack in Mumbai, where five US nationals were also killed.
President Barack Obama has publicly stated that the US will investigate who was supporting Osama from inside, and outside, the Pakistan government. Of course, Washington can never go to the extent it went against Iran because America’s fight against al Qaeda and the Taliban cannot have, without Pakistan’s support, the depth and intensity which is required to eliminate terrorism. But I do not see America lessening its presence in Pakistan until it has, more or less, finished the job.
Therefore, this is the best opportunity for Islamabad to relook at its policy towards India. For how long will the Pakistan government teach its children that India is its enemy? This propaganda for more than 60 years has not helped Pakistan in any way, and has not even managed to convince its people that India is the bugbear from which Pakistan should distance itself. For a change, Islamabad should try to be friendly. The results will be enormous.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 15th, 2011.
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