Pakistan�s status as an ally of the West is under threat.
The signs suggest the country has out-served its usefulness to the US and its
interests. There have been rumblings against Pakistan for some time from
various American officials criticising its anti-terrorism efforts. But lately,
in the wake of the attacks on Mumbai, India, the US president and other heads
of state have joined an orchestrated complaint chorus.
Last week, George W. Bush warned Pakistan that the US �will
do what is necessary to protect American troops and the American people,� while
reaffirming his policy of preemptive strikes. While the US supports Pakistan�s
efforts in the troublesome semi-autonomous tribal areas, Washington would take
action itself, if necessary, was his message. In fact, it already has by
launching missile attacks on Pakistan�s Northwest Frontier Province killing
many civilians in the process.
So, who cares about the swan song of a lame duck,
shoe-ducking president with one of the lowest approval-ratings ever you might
think? The problem is, when it comes to Pakistan, Bush�s successor, President-elect
Barack Obama, appears to be of like mind. During his days on the stump, Obama
said he would be prepared to use military force against elements of Al Qaida
inside Pakistan with or without the Pakistani government�s consent.
At the same time, according to a published leak in the
Pakistani press, the US has sent a memo to the government of Pakistan alleging
that former ISI Chief Lt. Gen. Hamid Gul has been supporting terrorist groups,
advising the Taliban and helping to recruit anti-US insurgents. Gul has
responded by calling the accusations �fictitious,� saying, �I was quite a
darling of theirs at one time. I don�t know what this is about. It looks like
they have a habit of betraying their friends.�
In concert with the Bush administration�s mood, British
Prime Minister Gordon Brown, who has just completed a two-day visit to
Afghanistan, India and Pakistan, is also wagging his finger at Islamabad.
During this highly sensitive time when Indian-Pakistan
relations are tense over the Mumbai tragedy, as well as accusations by Pakistan
that Indian fighter planes had violated its airspace, Brown sees fit to inject
himself into the fray.
Demanding action, not words, the British prime minister has
promised Pakistani Premier Asif Ali Zardari anti-terrorism technology, as well
as $9 million to combat youth radicalisation and further democracy. So far so
good, but why did he then throw hot pepper into the pot by announcing that
three-quarters of the most serious terrorism plots investigated by the British
authorities have Pakistani links? Why did he select this already highly charged
environment to come up with that incriminating statistic?
The fact is Washington and its friends are veering away from
Pakistan, which was warned to cooperate post-September 11 else be bombed back
to the Stone Age, towards their new best friend and emerging economic power,
India. It seems to me they are looking for an excuse to dump Islamabad or
worse. If the past is any indicator of the future, just cast your mind back to
the orchestrated blame game prior to the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq
played by the Bush administration, along with Britain�s Tony Blair�s
Similarly, the two countries with a so-called special
relationship have in the past coordinated anti-Syrian and anti-Iranian
statements. However, whatever secret plans they might have had for those
regimes were thwarted for a variety of reasons. The question is when it comes
to Pakistan, what do they have up their sleeves?
Whatever it is, it�s dangerous for the region and the world.
Pakistan is not only a nuclear power, but throughout the country anti-Western
sentiment is rife. If the US uses hard power it will open a can of worms, add
grist to the extremists� mill and greatly undermine the Zardari government.
Indian-Americans have been protesting outside the New York
headquarters of the UN, demanding Pakistan be declared �a terrorist state.�
This would serve no purpose except to increase hatred.
I have the utmost sympathy for the pain and anger felt by
the Indian people during this time, as well as their need to lash out at the
perpetrators of the Mumbai atrocities. For me, it was personal, too, as I
consider Mumbai as a second home and over the years have spent many months as a
guest of both the Taj Mahal and Oberoi hotels. I know that some consider the
attacks as India�s 9-11 but if that�s the case, every effort should be made not
to respond in the way the US did following theirs.
Cool heads and wise minds are needed on both sides. Just
about everyone agrees that Mumbai was the victim of non-state actors and it is
known that Pakistan�s pro-Western prime minister is keen on resolving the Kashmir
dispute, while the life of his own wife was robbed by terrorists.
Pakistan needs help, not threats or blame. And instead of
allowing foreign powers to up the ante to suit their divide and control
strategies, the two nuclear neighbours should come together in common cause.
With talk of war polluting the air, the alternative is too devastating to
S. Heard is a British specialist writer on Middle East affairs. She welcomes
feedback and can be contacted by email at email@example.com.