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Sunday, July 1, 2012

When Doing More Is Not Enough

Original Article: Daily Times
Date Published: June 08, 2012
Link: http://www.dailytimes.com.pk/default.asp?page=2012%5C06%5C07%5Cstory_7-6-2012_pg3_3


From the former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to the present Mrs Clinton, or for that matter, President Bush to Obama, there is a recurrent theme of diplomatic messages emanating towards Pakistan. It is the theme that we are very familiar with and perhaps hate to hear repeatedly for Pakistan to 'do more'. It just irks us beyond comprehension; what else can Pakistan do or offer in this so-called 'Bush's war'? In my humble opinion, the message is somewhat lost in translation.

Before my hyper-patriot brothers and sisters start chastising me, let me offer a rather simple but perhaps a plausible explanation. At this venue and a few others, I have argued that it was perhaps a not well-planned strategy of President Bush to lodge a full-scale military operation in Afghanistan, but at Centcom or at the White House, no one cares about my opinion! So, unfortunately as they say, it is what it is.

People who have read me here and elsewhere are aware of my views about the former president Musharraf, but it is disingenuous to blame him for complying with Dick Armitage's call and reverse the course with the Taliban. Any one, military or non-military, in his shoes at that time would have done exactly the same. There is something called a 'reality check'. Apparently, Mr Musharraf knew that the Americans meant business and to go against their call was asking for some serious trouble.

The US gave military and non-military aid to Pakistan in Mr Musharraf's tenure. The aid was what was loosely termed as a blank cheque. There was an economic boom in the US, due to the artificially inflated real estate market. The effects of that boom were felt around the world, including Pakistan. Many attribute all of that to the policies of the earlier finance and then prime minister, Shaukat Aziz. I beg to differ. No matter how much we disagree, one cannot dismiss that there was a gravy train at that time. Mr Aziz and Mr Musharraf were just the fortunate ones at the right place and at the right time.

In that era, the 'do more' mantra was still on. The drones started to fly in, causing their havoc. The security agencies picked up people and deprived them of due process. Mr Musharraf did boast about the bounties he collected on some of those heads in his book, In the Line of Fire. At that time, people on our side kept on peddling the narrative that Osama bin Laden was either dead already, or must have died later due to his kidney ailment somewhere in Afghanistan. The Americans kept on placing him somewhere in the border region of 'Af-Pak'.

Then came the downfall of Mr Musharraf's regime and the Americans changed their tone. The real estate bubble popped on the US side and shook its financial markets to the core. The Kerry-Lugar Bill and the concept of accountability were invoked. All hell broke loose and from there on it has been a downhill slide for both the US and Pakistan. If you are following my build up, it is all about the money. Because I am neither a liberal nor a conservative but a realist, I repeat, it is all about the money.

When checks and balances were introduced, and conditions were placed, we saw a strong wave of anti-US sentiment in Pakistan. There was the Raymond Davis affair, which was blown out of proportion, all to whip up a desired result. No one can deny that Pakistan has suffered a catastrophic human loss in this war. By the same token, no one can deny this either that many high level al Qaeda members, including bin Laden, were found on our territory.

The US's context of doing more is perhaps a hint to go after the 'big fish', which are perhaps in or around our neck of the woods. When we ask for intelligence or proof, we are ridiculed. I personally disagree with drone strikes, but look at these pesky drones from the other side's perspective. They are the most economical and precise option in lieu of putting boots on the ground, that too in the tribal region. What often boggles my mind is, we cannot launch any operation in that region, because it is an 'autonomous tribal region'. When the drones fly in, it becomes a violation of 'our' sovereignty. There is some disconnect in this narrative.

In a rather interesting development, now the Chinese have started to tell us to do more as well. Apparently, some militants on their side have started to trickle into our end. Here is our 'all weather ally' about to distance from us if we do not hunt those militants down. By the way, no calls of 'shut up, China' are trending on the Twitter verse. We know that our honour is only at stake when the call comes from the US.

If the recent appearance of the 'man in white', Mr al Zawahiri in a video is any indication, it is clear that this conflict will continue in the years to come. The bigger question is, are we going to really do what is necessary to get us out of this mess? Nothing more, nothing less.
Sent via BlackBerry by AT&T

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