Pakistan: Politics Of A Humiliated Nation - Uproar, Outrage, Condemnation

08 October 2010

By Fahad Ansari

Has the Pakistani tiger grown some teeth? Has it remembered its proud history of sacrifice and bloodshed? Has it recalled that it was created with a vision of it becoming a haven for Muslims? Has it finally awoken from its slumber and discovered the meaning of the word 'sovereignty'?

So it would seem this week with across-the-board condemnations led by President Zardari and Prime Minister Gilani against the increasing number of unmanned US drone attacks on Pakistani soil. For September saw the highest number of drone attacks in Pakistan in any single month, a total of 21, killing at least 90 people. An estimated 658 people have been killed by drones in Pakistan since the beginning of the year, almost one third of the total people terminated in this way in the country since 2004. However, this week, whatever shred of sovereignty Pakistan still enjoyed was completely obliterated when NATO and ISAF helicopters, emboldened by almost a decade of Pakistani silence and complicity, flew across the border with Afghanistan and carried out murderous strikes on Pakistani soil. The official government reaction to the strikes was predictable. Uproar. Outrage. Condemnation. President Zardari criticized this violation of Pakistan's sovereignty as counterproductive and unacceptable at a meeting with CIA Director Leon Panetta. Panetta responded that "Pakistan's sovereignty will be fully respected by the US".

Within hours of these words being uttered by Panetta's forked-tongue, NATO helicopters carried out another strike on Pakistani soil, this time executing three Pakistani paramilitary soldiers guarding a military checkpoint and wounding two others. A significant Mafioso-style strike to silence the government. A reminder to Zardari, Gilani and any other Pakistani official who dare open their mouth, about who calls the shots in this relationship. Quite literally. Such is the pitiful position of contempt with which Pakistan is viewed by its friends in high places today.

But are things now beginning to change? Following the killing of these soldiers, Pakistan blocked the main NATO supply route into Afghanistan, preventing dozens of NATO trucks from crossing the Torkham checkpost on the Khyber Pass. US military figures show that supplies pass though Pakistan at a rate of 580 truckloads per day. Interior Minister Rehman Malik stated that "we will have to see whether we are allies or enemies." Former Army Chief General Mirza Aslam Beg demanded that the Pakistan Air Force should be tasked to shoot down the helicopters and drones involved in attacks on Pakistan's territories. Incidentally, both the blocking of the NATO supply route and the shooting down of drones were tactics publicly encouraged by Cageprisoners patron Yvonne Ridley on a recent tour of Pakistan calling for the repatriation of Dr Aafia Siddiqui.

Unfortunately, we have seen all this posturing before. In June 2008 US gunships attacked a Pakistani border post in Mohmand tribal agency, killing 11 soldiers. It caused an outcry in Pakistan, but the furore subsided and later that summer the drone campaign started in earnest. By next week, if not much earlier, the NATO supply routes will be open again, the drones will continue to murder and those calling for helicopters to be shot down will probably be detained.

Much has been reported this week about a forthcoming book, 'Obama's Wars' by veteran Washington Post correspondent Bob Woodward, in which the author reveals how the CIA maintains a 3000 strong Afghan paramilitary force that conducts cross-border operations into Pakistan. This is old news for those who have been following this ill-fated escapade. For three years ago, it emerged that as early as 2004, the US military had given elite units broad authority to pursue suspected terrorists into Pakistan, with no mention of telling the Pakistanis in advance. Indeed, striking within Pakistan was exactly what Obama promised he would do three years ago when he was running for office. It is probably the one promise he has kept since becoming President.

For all its passionate calls for its sovereignty to be respected, the fact of the matter is that sovereignty is a long-forgotten concept in Pakistan. The same could be said for self-respect, dignity and courage. Noble principles abandoned during a decade of a foreign policy established on the basis of slavish obedience to the US in what ex-President Musharraf ironically described as a 'Pakistan First' policy.

Pakistan has surrendered its sovereignty inch by inch, city by city, province by province. In reality, it has no say in what occurs on its territory. It is a toothless tiger which lets out the occasional roar to remind itself that it exists but all that the world hears is the whimpering of a weak and miserable pussycat.



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