The tensions created by British Prime Minister David Cameron’s remarks about Pakistan’s involvement in the export of terror have begun to fade. President Asif Ali Zardari and the British PM have agreed to put differences aside and cooperate against terrorism. The president’s trip to the UK appears to have brought some dividends after all. There is, of course, ample evidence that the meeting between Zardari and Cameron has raised eyebrows at home. The security establishment is said to be displeased the president adopted a friendly tone, despite the British premier’s failure to make any kind of apology for his comments or try to make even a partial retraction. But this is a Catch-22 situation. Had Zardari failed to get a pledge of goodwill and cooperation against terrorism from his UK counterpart, he would have been attacked for his diplomatic failure. The situation is obviously a difficult one.
But rather than being miffed by the Cameron comments, perhaps those most angered by them need to think why they were made. There are unlikely to have been made had there been no evidence at all. Also, as head of state, one of President Zardari’s key roles is to secure agreements on military and civilian assistance from other states. As things stand right now, Pakistan needs all the help it can get. This is true not only as far as terror goes but also on all kinds of other fronts — including humanitarian. At such a time, it would not be wise to anger Britain, which is, of course, a key ally. This having been said, it is also important to strike a balance and do all that is possible to win respect and dignity for Pakistan. In this the president has struggled, coming under repeated fire in the UK – from the media, from politicians and from the Pakistani community – basically because of the timing of his trip. The meeting with Cameron has indeed, to a considerable extent, been overshadowed by these factors and this too is something for the government to consider.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 8th, 2010.