There never was much logic behind the PTI call for a blockade of Nato supply routes through Pakistan as a protest against drone strikes, and the PTI claims of a ‘tactical victory’ in so doing are fatuous blather. There are now reports that the coalition partners that make up the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P) government have decided to end the 15 day sit-in-cum-blockade, which if true, represents an overdue outbreak of common sense. The Pentagon has decided to suspend shipments out of Afghanistan via Torkham because of ‘security concerns’, an option that has been open from the outset as there was a long-established fallback position of ‘the Northern route’ of extraction devised for just such an eventuality as Pakistan being unable or unwilling to deliver the goods. The Pentagon may have been mildly inconvenienced by the PTI actions, but not discommoded. All munitions are anyway extracted by the Northern Route due to the inherent insecurity attendant on them passing through Pakistan, and that which travels our roads is the nuts and bolts of warfighting rather than the ‘bangables’.
The PTI and its partners have achieved precisely nothing by their actions. There is no let-up in the activity of the drones nor is there likely to be as long as there are high-value targets on Pakistani territory. Transport operators have lost a lot of money, traders in Peshawar and the surrounding areas have complained bitterly, sealed containers have been illegally breached by those blocking the roads and there has been a ringing lack of endorsement or action in support of the PTI from other provinces.
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has urged a stop to the blockade as “it was not in the national interest” and the PTI is left looking sheepish at best, wantonly foolish at worst. The blockade was damaging the economy of other provinces, which are also beneficiaries of the Nato transit trade, may well have been unconstitutional and demonstrates a lack of political maturity on the part of what is currently the third-largest political party in the country. Protest the drone strikes by all means, but not at the expense of the wider economy or our (already tattered) international reputation.
Published in The Express Tribune, December 8th, 2013.