Nato routes and our national pride

Published: July 4, 2012
Email
Men walk near a road sign showing the distance to cities in Afghanistan, as trucks drive past in the northwest town of Torkham, at the border crossing to Pakistan, July 4, 2012.  PHOTO: REUTERS

Men walk near a road sign showing the distance to cities in Afghanistan, as trucks drive past in the northwest town of Torkham, at the border crossing to Pakistan, July 4, 2012. PHOTO: REUTERS

Pakistan has lifted its seven-month long ban on the Nato supply route in return for an apology from the State Department in Washington. The ‘conditionality’ set by parliament in Islamabad contained two items: apologise and stop the drone attacks. The first seems to have been taken care of, given US Secretary of State Hilary Clinton’s remarks on July 3 where she offered her “deepest regrets” at the loss of the lives of Pakistani soldiers in the Salala attack. The second could be resolved in a resolution in a recent development whereby it was reported that America and Pakistan could perhaps, undertake “joint defence” against militants/terrorists. The Defence Committee of the Cabinet (DCC) in Islamabad has put its stamp of approval on the deal, which will net Pakistan over a billion dollars of aid plus, possibly, fee for each supply truck that passes through Pakistan.

Clearly, the army, which runs policy in Pakistan, is on board. The decision to go soft was taken a month earlier when Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar had announced that Pakistan was mindful of the economic and political power of the Nato partners of the US and could not afford to alienate them by making their forces suffer in Afghanistan due to the stoppage of their supplies. She had also announced that Pakistan was willing to separate the matter of drones from the supply route issue and would pursue it with Washington till an agreement was reached in favour of Pakistan.

Pakistan has a way of inserting itself into traps that it cannot abide for long. The army lost its cool over the killing of Osama bin Laden in Abbottabad in May 2011, little realising what it looked like to the outside world and went over the edge when the Salala incident took place in November. Vent was given to rage, which should have been controlled for the sake of national interest. The media was allowed to go berserk spreading passions of revenge the country was too weak and too wracked to satisfy. The next wrong thing to do was handing over the issue to parliament where much was made of national ‘ghairat’. The foreign policy of any state — powerful or weak — must be separated from matters of national pride so that statesmanship can be practised and conflict avoided.

The big mess that sincere observers soon began to note was the delay that parliament was allowing in its preparation of  ‘guidelines’ for Pakistan’s foreign policy. It succumbed to the baser instincts of revenge and offering insult and let slip the moment when America was more favourably inclined to accept Pakistan’s stance. In this period of bad blood, Pakistanis forgot their more pressing crises and focused on America’s apology, which they thought should be self-demeaning in the extreme. On the other hand, there was much negative and ‘terminal’ (like the dismissal of prime ministers) going on in Pakistan to provoke the columnists in Washington into dubbing Pakistan a state in conflict with itself.

Then, someone unleashed the Difa-e-Pakistan Council (DPC) on the long-suffering people of Pakistan. Made up of shady semi-terrorist elements and mujahideen that the state once employed in its asymmetrical wars, the DPC asserts that they will engage only in peaceful agitation against the decision.

Although it is quite clear from all this that Pakistan did mishandle the situation, but as the senior partner in this relationship, the US could have also done well to express its regrets over the Salala incident much earlier. That would have led to a quicker normalisation of relations and cooling of tempers on both sides and would have also enabled both the governments to solve the issue of the Nato supply routes much earlier.

Is there a lesson in all this for Pakistan? Yes, three lessons. Don’t fly into a rage of ‘ghairat’ because states don’t do that. Don’t hand over diplomacy to parliament, which is bound to mess things up further. And no matter what happens, don’t isolate yourself in the world because in today’s state of international law, isolation is another name for defeat.

Published in The Express Tribune, July 5th, 2012.

Facebook Conversations

Reader Comments (11)

  • Mirza
    Jul 5, 2012 - 12:03AM

    Oh no, we were trying to turn this into our victory but your popped our balloon. Our Ghairat is like boiling milk, it comes and then goes forever. We had Kerry-Lugar Bill, and then Ray Davis fit but it all disappeared with the same speed. Great editorial, thanks for that.

    Recommend

  • Praful R Shah
    Jul 5, 2012 - 12:14AM

    Did Pakistani Govt. have any plans after US & NATO withdrawal? The need for supply will be reduced and so will be Pakistani blackmail. US & NATO will be able to supply their needs from Northern routes. The future of US aid? Will depend how Pakistan and its military behaves. Exporting terror will have harsh consequences. Pakistan has to get its act together, otherwise it will be failed nation. One cannot blackmail a nation who has capacity to destroy world few times. Pride will not put food on table!!!

    Recommend

  • Ahmer Ali
    Jul 5, 2012 - 12:27PM

    I would write only these words in regard of reopening the NATO’s supply route
    “This is the funeral procession and burying of Pakistani nation’s and Pakistan’s honor,grace,dignity,self-respect,pride,conscience and sovereignty without funeral prayer by our corrupt,beggars,slaves and conscienceless civil and military leadership”

    Recommend

  • Ahmer Ali
    Jul 5, 2012 - 12:28PM

    I would write only these words in regard of reopening the NATO’s supply route
    “This is the funeral procession and burying of Pakistani nation’s and Pakistan’s honor,grace,dignity,self-respect,pride,conscience and sovereignty without funeral prayer by our corrupt,beggars,slaves and conscienceless civil and military leadership”Recommend

  • Abdullah
    Jul 5, 2012 - 3:52PM

    So ET making a case against democracy now? “don’t give it to parliament” that’s great very typical of Americans – work with a dictator to get things done as almost in all Muslim countries US is despised and work via brutal dictators.

    Recommend

  • Cautious
    Jul 5, 2012 - 6:19PM

    Nice editorial. I would add that another significant contributor to this problem was the lack of objectivity by the press – including ET. Not one news outlet in Pakistan dared question Pakistan’s military version of who started this border fight and everyone jumped on board the “anti American wave”. Unfortunately friendly fire events happen on battlefields – especially at night. The recipients of friendly fire are rightly angry but they never/ever accuse the perpetrator of intentionally targeting them let alone assign a excuse like “they were frustrated that they were losing the war” – a clear sign of Pakistan’s anti American predisposition.Recommend

  • gp65
    Jul 5, 2012 - 6:53PM

    “Although it is quite clear from all this that Pakistan did mishandle the situation, but as the senior partner in this relationship, the US could have also done well to express its regrets over the Salala incident much earlier.”

    Regret had been communicated as early as December 2, 20111 officially by US. http://www.andhranews.net/Intl/2011/Munter-Hamey-bohat-afsos-hay-Pak-19402.htm

    What was sought and not provided was unconditional apology because US investigation revealed errors had been made on both sides. PAkistan rejected US investigation.
    http://www.pakistankakhudahafiz.com/2012/01/23/pakistan-army-rejects-us-stance-on-salala-attack-releases-findings/

    The final words from Hillary that have been accepted now also talk about mistakes being made on both sides. In agreeing to this Pakistan has accepted that US investigation that it initially rejected was in fact accurate.

    Recommend

  • Ben
    Jul 5, 2012 - 7:19PM

    The lessons learnt from the seven-month long Pak-US stand-off are very clear. The major lesson is that it is not possible even for a super power, to browbeat Pakistan notwithstanding its fragile economy, tainted leadership, political and ethnic polarization and fragmented social order. Pakistan has a strong judiciary and a well-motivated defense machine and these institutions are a sufficient pre-requisite for country’s survival. Pakistan has conducted itself in a most responsible manner and played its role in the efforts to bring peace in the region. Despite all the dirty tactics employed by the US, including attacks on Pakistani border posts from Afghanistan, Pakistan did not disappoint the world community.

    Recommend

  • Mirza
    Jul 5, 2012 - 7:20PM

    @gp65:
    I agree with you. Pakistan finally did the right thing after they have tried everything else!
    Thanks and regards,
    Mirza

    Recommend

  • gp65
    Jul 5, 2012 - 10:54PM

    @Mirza: “Reply @gp65:
    I agree with you. Pakistan finally did the right thing after they have tried everything else!


    True. With US, the error was corrected in 7 months. In the interim Pakistan hurt itself though it does not realize.Its leaders probably believe they changed stance under US pressure instead of realizing that doing so is to its own benefit.

    With India 65 years and counting -errors have not been corrected. I am not referring to KAshmir which is a dispute. I am referring to the mindset of ‘Hate India and Hate Hindus’.Yes. failure to correct these errors does impact India adversely also. What Pakistan does not realize is that this philosophy that has been propagated from the start has also radicalized Pakistani sociery and made it intolerant. Pakistan as a country is paying a far greater price than India for these errors..

    Recommend

  • Jul 6, 2012 - 10:50PM

    @Ahmer Ali:
    you can add judiciary also to the last sentence.

    Recommend

More in Editorial