EDITORIAL: NATO attack
The latest episode in the ‘war on terror’ has provoked anger and disbelief from officials in Pakistan. Early Saturday morning, a Pakistan military check post was attacked by NATO helicopters — reports vary over the death count with some citing eight and others claiming 20 soldiers — in the village of Salala in Mohmand Agency, some 1.5 miles from the Afghan border. The Pakistan military claims that there was no militant activity in the area at that time and that the attack on Pakistani forces was unprovoked. If this is true, it seems that US-Pakistan relations are ready to reach yet another all-time low. Pakistan has been quick to respond to this attack by once again halting the NATO supply route through the Khyber Agency — the supply trucks were turned back from the check post in Jamrud. This is a tactic Pakistan has employed before as a mark of protest: last year after NATO and ISAF helicopter incursions into Pakistan killed three soldiers belonging to the Frontier Corps. This was a temporary blockage after the death of three; now with the fatalities considerably higher, US-Pakistan relations seem ready to turn extremely sour. One must remember that 70 percent of NATO’s supplies pass through Pakistan and if we continue this blockage, what is to stop the US from stopping the much-needed aid it gives to this country? Can Pakistan afford to cut itself off from vital finances that breath life into our ailing economy?
This is a very precarious time in the US-Pakistan arena with this year in particular being especially trying. From Raymond Davis and his gun slinging on the streets of Lahore to the Osama bin Laden incident and now to the firing on Pakistani soldiers on the volatile Pak-Afghan border, things hardly seem able to get any worse. Cross border attacks and incidences of ‘hot pursuit’ have taken place with NATO officials taking action against any militants it perceives as crossing into Pakistan where, reportedly, safe havens exist. While such attacks on our territorial sovereignty do merit harsh protest, one must ask why they are occurring in the first place, if we are an ally in the war on terror?
They are happening because we have brought NATO and US officials to a head in their frustration about the progress in the war on terror. We promised to tackle the militants who have free rein to cross the border at any time and attack US targets in Afghanistan. However, what we did not tell them was that we were going to have a little fun of our own — we were going to play the double game in the name of ‘strategic depth’. By aiding and abetting the ‘good’ Taliban (these being all those militants who were not attacking the state like the TTP but were waging their war in Afghanistan) in the hopes of a prominent place at the power sharing table in Afghanistan after the US’s withdrawal in 2014, we have disillusioned the US and NATO forces. After trusting our promises, NATO and the US continue to suffer losses at the hands of the militants in Afghanistan. It has become considerably difficult to convince the US of our sincerity especially after Osama bin Laden was found hiding comfortably in Abbottabad. It is not surprising then that such cross border attacks are happening now. ISAF Commander in Afghanistan General John Allen has promised a full investigation into the incident. However, it is unlikely anything is likely to come out of it except for further US allegations of Pakistan providing safe havens to militants. It seems the only way to prevent cross border attacks is to tackle the militants as promised. *
SECOND EDITORIAL: Conclude 26/11
It has been three years since Mumbai witnessed one
of the worst forms of terrorism imaginable. On November 26, 2008, 10 terrorists allegedly from Pakistan hit several targets across the economic hub of India and extinguished 166 innocent lives in a 56-hour long siege. The incident saw condemnation being levelled on the international level at Pakistan, allegedly accused for carrying out the covert operation inside India’s territory. The incident halted the dialogue process between Pakistan and India, the two neighbouring countries, as the latter attached the resumption of dialogue with the condition that Pakistan brings the perpetrators of the attacks to justice.
Since 2008, India has shared several dossiers of evidence against the masterminds of 26/11 with Pakistan but to no avail. Although, the bilateral relations of the two countries have relaxed to a great extent since the two have agreed to normalise trade ties and composite dialogue, the insignificant progress of the Pakistan government against the terrorists behind the carnage has compelled the Indian External Affairs Minister S M Krishna to repeat his country’s demand on the occasion of the third anniversary of the Mumbai attacks that Pakistan’s decisive action against the perpetrators is still awaited and that terrorism as an instrument of state policy has no place in today’s world. He said that the evidence given to Pakistan was enough “for any normal court” to prosecute the accused. However, the Pakistan government has found such proof insufficient to be used in a court of law against the alleged culprits who belong to the banned militant group Lashkar-e-Tayyaba. In fact, its political arm, Jamaat-ud-Dawa, is seen freely holding rallies in different parts of the country against the awarding of MFN status to India. Unfortunately, fearing a backlash by the militant group, Pakistan’s civilian government, which is not so powerful, has been dragging its feet over the issue. However, it is time that it muster up the courage and call a spade a spade by empowering the prosecution to prepare a strong case supported by proper evidence. The testament of David Headley in a US court provides a solid ground for prosecution.
The issue has already been delayed. Further delay in a concrete and decisive action in this regard will only disturb the relations of the two nuclear-armed countries. The two governments should immediately finalise the modalities involved in the visit of a Pakistani judicial commission to India to probe the key persons involved in 26/11. It is time that Pakistan engage with India in a sincere and fair manner. The recent normalisation in its bilateral relations with India should continue and, for that matter, it is important for both of them to close the bitter chapter of the past with a pledge to discourage and fight terrorism in all its forms. *