The only route
Starting off from high moral grounds with the demand for an apology for the deaths of 24 Pakistani troops in the Salala ‘accident’ (now I would say), the Pakistan government ended up accepting that its military also contributed to the circumstances leading to the Nov 26 incident.
True, the standoff over supply routes was not advisable and something Pakistan could have ill afforded. But, the manner in which the entire thing happened was one of the biggest diplomatic retreats by Islamabad in recent times. This left everyone, even the supporters of good relations with the US, confused and bewildered.
The journey from Pakistan Army’s insistence that the “Salala incident was deliberate” to Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar’s conversation with Hillary Clinton in which both “acknowledged the mistakes that resulted in the loss of Pakistani military lives” was long and troubling. It not only threatened Pakistan’s interests abroad, but cost both the political and military leadership credibility.
If it was known that there were mistakes on the part of the Pakistani forces than why did we take the confrontation with the US to these levels? No one in Islamabad or Rawalpindi is interested in answering that. What they would, at best do is play around with the interpretation of Secretary Clinton’s statement.
But, more important than the debate over whether the word “sorry” satisfied the demand for apology; and if the permission to transport lethal equipment consigned for Afghan security forces was in conformity with the parliamentary resolution; it is now time to deliberate as to what extent the Pakistani side itself followed/respected the much cherished parliamentary resolution of April 12, 2012.
The parliamentary resolution had clearly stated the SOPs for making new agreements/MoU with any foreign government that included vetting by Law ministry, circulation of the draft of the accord among members of the parliament’s committee on national security, approval by the federal cabinet and a policy statement by the concerned federal minister in both houses of the parliament. As I understand, the resumption of Nato supplies happened under a new agreement. Was the proper procedure recommended by the parliament’s joint sitting followed? Certainly not. The federal cabinet too was briefed about the decision taken by the Defense Committee of the Cabinet a day after for its concurrence.
Secretary Clinton’s statement on having been assured about the reopening of routes while the DCC meeting was in progress left no doubt that the decision had already been taken and the session was a mere formality.
Clinton’s rush to making the announcement on routes knowing that Pakistan’s military and political leadership were meeting to take the decision revealed the underlying mistrust between the two allies. She clearly did not want to take the risk of leaving the final announcement to the Pakistani leaders once she had said “sorry”.
The whole debate would now come down to what forced Pakistan to climb down from its initial demands. Fear of isolation, losing its role in the Afghan endgame, aggravating the economy; and the threats of designating Haqqani Network and Lashkar-e-Taiba as terrorist organisations – a move that would have had serious repercussions for Pakistan, all contributed to the decision to allow reopening the supply routes.
As I conclude, I remember one of my sources telling me almost 10 days ago that the deadline for concluding a deal was July 4. I regret not having paid attention to that, but now I understand that some of the above listed fears could have materialised if the leadership would have delayed it further.
Moral: Never bite off more than you can chew.
The writer is a member of the staff at Dawn Newspaper.