THE Defence Committee of the Cabinet meeting next week must address the overriding question of how long Pakistan’s ties with America will remain on hold. The Salala tragedy is more than five months old, but the government has still not been able to translate into policy the guidelines adopted by parliament on April 12. Last month’s talks with the Americans produced no results. The Foreign Office insisted that the talks had not failed, and a State Department spokesman, too, said that relations with Pakistan were not at a standstill. In sharp contrast, the State Department head did not advance the cause of better ties and criticised Pakistan during a visit to India. What the DCC should, however, note is that Secretary Hillary Clinton did not utter those words in isolation — her views were a reflection of the anger prevailing in Washington right now.
Congress has not yet slapped new sanctions on Pakistan, but the language of the two aid bills and a resolution adopted by two congressional committees highlights the unanimity of views between the Democrats and Republicans on the country. The bills adopted by the House Armed Services Committee and the House Appropriations Subcommittee have to go through many stages of America’s legislative process before they become acts. But it is the bite in the legislative pieces that gives an inkling of how things will go for Pakistan if the relationship with America and other Isaf members continues to remain in limbo. In all fairness, Islamabad alone cannot be blamed for the impasse, for Washington is flaunting its superpower hauteur. While Pakistan’s losses have been many, American negotiators ironically believe that their country is the aggrieved party. Such an attitude on the part of the Americans will not do and there must be realisation that both Pakistan’s forces and civilians have suffered in the war. Unfortunately, Pakistan’s losses were mentioned only in passing by Secretary Clinton who, instead, emphasised the ‘do more’ mantra.
Washington should pause and wonder whether its treatment of Pakistan is contributing in any way to its goal of eradicating terrorism in the region, and reflect on who is going to be the ultimate beneficiary of this myopic exploitation of aid leverage. It is also distressing that Pakistan’s commercial interests may be targeted by congressmen belonging to the two committees if ‘certification’ is not available. Regardless of who is right or wrong in this battle of wills, one thing is certain: such actions will only reinforce the current atmosphere of anti-Americanism in Pakistan, and provide obscurantist elements with more ammunition with which to target America.