Just a day after Pakistan had agreed to reopen Nato supply routes, the US unleashed a triple drone attack in North Waziristan that killed over 20 people. That this came right after a report claiming that our government, despite its indignant public stance, is not really pushed about US drone strikes in the tribal areas, highlights the dangerous game it is playing. This double game is perhaps, borne out of the complex situation it finds itself in, where the divergence between word and deed is remarkable because of domestic compulsions. It realises the utility of drone strikes in eliminating militants and also knows that it has little leeway to make demands on the Americans. At the same time, it is aware of just how polarising the drone issue is at home. Adopting different public and private positions is the only way it can reconcile its positions both at home and abroad.
But the government’s private stance on drones does make a mockery of parliament’s recommendations on resetting ties with the US. The National Assembly had demanded that the resumption of Nato supplies be linked to the cessation of drone attacks. That was an unrealistic position to adopt given how Pakistan is in no position to force the US to take all its considerations into account. The government, however, will now have to admit that the parliamentary debate was meant only to placate the public and not to set the trajectory for future ties with the US. In a way, the decision taken by the government to ignore parliament’s recommendations is a wise one, but it will lead to even more mistrust and anger from the opposition benches.
Apparently, the government has insisted that they be allowed to provide human intelligence for ground targets in the drone war. This demand, too, is likely to be ignored by the US. The simple truth is that the US does not trust us and fears that any targets we provide will serve only to settle scores that the Pakistan government and military has and not those the Americans want to kill. We are decidedly the junior partner in this uneasy alliance and the US will only listen to us when we have something concrete to offer.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 9th, 2012.
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