Parliamentary resolution misses crucial points

When the military leaders came to the parliament on 13th May 2011,
they entered with humility, to accept the operational failure on two
counts: one, that they did not know Osama was living for five years as
a neighbour of the country’s elite military training academy, Kakul;
and two that the American helicopters penetrated inside the country,
accomplished their mission and flew back safely, while the defenders
of the borders were only woken up by the sound of a crash of a
helicopter.

When they left the parliament after a marathon session they had won
the support of the parliamentarians. The feel good factor for the
democrats and the parliamentarians was that the all powerful armed
forces and omnipotent ISI were made answerable to the peoples’
representatives. And that the resolution calling for an independent
inquiry in these operational failures was passed. It is indeed a good
omen and perhaps nothing more.

The unanimous resolution warns the US from taking anymore unilateral
actions that violate our ‘sovereignty.’ The resolution also threatens
that in case of more drone attacks inside Pakistan “the government
would be constrained to consider taking necessary steps including
withdrawal of transit facility allowed to NATO/ISAF forces.” It also
called upon the government “to revisit and review its terms of
engagement with the United States with a view to ensuring Pakistan’s
national interests fully respected and accommodated in pursuit of the
policies for countering terrorism and achieving reconciliation and
peace in Afghanistan.”

Before we move on to analyse the implications of the above two
resolves of the parliament, let me point out that the most crucial
issues were not touched upon in the resolution. The real problem of
Pakistan is that so far its national security and foreign policy has
been tailored by the military establishment from a narrow threat
perspective. It suits all those who are benefitted by the war economy
in the country. But now there is a window of opportunity for the
elected representatives to get back the right to make these policies.
The armed forces can only be called upon to give their perspective but
should not be allowed to dictate in this regard overtly or covertly.

The resolution should have emphasized that the foreign policy and
national security would be made by the government and presented before
the parliament. The cornerstone of this policy would be that Pakistan
will not allow its land and resources to be used by anybody against a
neighbouring or any other country of the world.

Unless Pakistan does not stop the Afghanistan and India specific
militants using our land as their haven, the call to the world that US
should stop using drones or other unilateral actions is not going to
work. Drone attacks are in reaction to the Taliban’s intrusion in
Afghanistan from Pakistan.

This brings us to the threat that Pakistan would not allow anymore
drone attacks. The record shows that most of the drone attacks have
killed leading terrorists. No doubt there has been collateral damage
in these attacks, which is deplorable. But we can only protest and
stop US if we can show on ground that the terrorists who operate in
Afghanistan from Pakistani bases are dealt with by us without any
exception. As long as we will continue providing shelter to various
Taliban groups, Pakistan’s case against drone attacks will remain
weak.

Pakistan can use political parties to block the supply routes to
Afghanistan or instigate local militants to blow up NATO/ISAF supplies
covertly, but to stop it officially would be declaring that we are
supporting the Taliban against the NATO/ISAF member countries. The
covert tactics would only work for a few days as the US and its allies
can see through these veiled activities. Another option as some
right-wing parties suggest is that our Air Force should shoot down the
US drones. The Deputy Air Chief rightly cautioned the parliamentarian
that they should weigh the consequences of such a move.

The consequences could be international political and economic
sanctions against Pakistan for harbouring and protecting the Taliban
and India-specific militant groups. Both the US and India would then
squeeze us from the West and East. They might also lend a supporting
hand to the Baloch and Sindhi nationalists’ movements to destablise
the anti-US government.

The chest thumping ultra-nationalists can perhaps afford to take the
world pressure and economic crunch that would follow, but the common
man cannot. Before invoking international legal values and issue of
violation of our sovereignty, we have to put our own house in order:
we should stop all covert activities by the militants in Afghanistan
and India; we should work towards disbanding the Jihadi groups
nurtured by our establishment; and we should make the country’s
economy strong enough that it lives without heavy foreign aid.

This is indeed a long term agenda. But if the world can be convinced
that Pakistan’s national security and foreign policy is going through
a paradigm shift from a dangerous policy of considering militant
organisations as an asset, to a peaceful co-existence with its
neighbours, they might give us a helping hand.

At present we have a bad image of playing a double game which is not
tenable anymore. We have to walk an extra mile to convince the world
that we have changed our policy. And this is only possible if the
policy making is left with the politicians; they are mature enough to
draw a consensus policy. The October 2008 joint resolution of the
parliament committee had said that Pakistan would not allow its land
to be used against its neighbours, but this policy directive was never
accepted by our establishment.

All the major parties have been saying that there is need to normalise
relations with India, while the establishment wants to keep the ‘India
threat’ perception alive. If the major parties are left to draw the
framework of resolving our outstanding issue with India it would not
take long to make a significant progress. But both Pakistan and India
will have to remain cautious not to let the militants and hawks in
their respective establishments derail the peace process by doing
another Kargil or Mumbai attack.

The parliamentary resolution did not offer any concern over Osama’s
presence in the country and that there are other local and foreign
militants roaming about in Pakistan. Without attacking the root-cause
of violation of sovereignty of Pakistan, and our neighbours equally,
all the tough talk is only full of sound and fury.

The independent inquiry in the 2nd May failures is symbolically good
as it establishes that the army bosses are accountable to the people
of Pakistan, beyond that it is not expected to reveal much than what
has been stated in the briefing to the parliament.

The moral of the story is that our sovereignty would only be respected
if we start respecting the sovereignty of our neighbours. Similarly
sovereignty of the parliament would only be established if the
military establishment accepts that policy making is the formers’
prerogative. (ayazbabar@gmail.com)
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