Surrendering Sovereignty Willingly?
By Shireen M Mazari
While the nation continues to watch the "back and forth" drama over the restoration of the judges issue, increasingly aware of where it will all end; and while the poor look beyond the judicial issue to the basics of survival in the face of rising costs of staple food and utilities; scant attention is being paid to the rapid threats to the country's sovereignty that are emerging from different quarters that are linked together in an overarching strategic partnership – that is India and the US with the UK an avid supporter. If one only examines events that took place April 23 to April 29 and connects them up, it becomes clear that either by default or by design Pakistan is in danger of losing its sovereignty.
To begin with, take the incident of April 23 when NATO forces along with some Afghan soldiers attacked FC posts in Bajaur Agency. What is intriguing is the way in which this direct assault on the country's sovereignty was explained away. First we were told that it was a misunderstanding. Then some of us were told that in fact this action was in response to firing from across our side of the international Pakistan-Afghan border.
However, on exploring further it transpires that the firing from our side took place a day earlier so the violence from the US troops was not an immediate response to the firing -- although it is difficult in any case to actually assess the exact spot of the initial firing given the nature of the border. Instead, this was a pre-planned operation, conducted a day later, targeting our FC posts at a time when there were a few FC personnel on duty, and involved 600 US troops along with Afghan soldiers as well as helicopter gunships and tanks! Also, the attack continued for a fair length of time so that the FC was able to call in reinforcements -- again not simply an immediate response to fire from militants! Instead, it seems the US military deliberately targeted our paramilitary forces – to teach them some sort of "lesson".
Interestingly, this attack came a few days after reports that US commanders were seeking to widen their attacks inside Pakistan. Worse still, some of our border posts were occupied by the US-Afghan combine -- but we kept quiet and there was no contemplated retaliation. Why?
Now we hear that the peace talks with our tribal people are breaking down. Clearly a mischievous hand can be discerned, especially when one sees the bizarre story of a handbill being circulated in Peshawar inviting people to join the Taliban. The Taliban have denied the authenticity and, on this count, they are probably right because the language being used -- for instance the words "Janat ka direct ticket" -- is more in line with Western advertising ruses than Taliban language! Also, the mobile number given in English makes little sense as does the fact that the handbill is in Urdu rather than in Pushto. It would appear the timing is directly an effort to sabotage the ANP's political strategy of dealing with the tribal issue and it does not take too much intelligence to understand who is indulging in such dirty tricks.
To add to efforts at our demoralization, last week also saw the French Prime Minister declare that Pakistan will "fall" if France leaves Afghanistan! Honestly, is this what we are being reduced to? Nor is this all. British Foreign Secretary, Milliband, who seems to find no other place to give him the sort of feel-good sense that Islamabad does, has decided to explain to the world on our behalf that "Pakistanis voted for democracy nor Talibanisation"! So are we supposed to feel more confident about ourselves after this statement?
But the British must be feeling pleased with us these days because in another clipping of our sovereignty we have now allowed the British to deploy an airline liaison officer at Islamabad airport -- in other words, the state of Pakistan has delegated its powers to Britain to block the departure of passengers from Islamabad to the UK! Is this a reciprocal renunciation of a chip of our independence? Are we going to be allowed to have similar privileges at British airports to block the travel to Pakistan of undesirables from Britain -- especially "sleeper" terrorists? Of course not! This also happened in the seven-day time period being discussed here, which seems to have been particularly good for those seeking to undermine our sovereignty as a nation.
For it was also in this period that we had former Indian National Security Adviser, Mishra, suggesting that India become part of the US-EU or NATO combine to fight terrorism in Pakistan! This is like Pakistan suggesting we help India fight terrorism in its northeastern provinces or Hindu extremism in Gujarat! But we do know that the US is seeking to bring India militarily into Afghanistan and one really wonders when we will react strongly to these efforts -- when it is already too late? Incidentally, the US continues to adopt its arrogantly imperial approach towards Pakistan and now we hear that despite paying the market price for the F-16s, we are not going to get the cutting edge technology India will get with its F-16s. Clearly the F-16 saga will not alter, but let us hope we are not reduced to wheat and soya beans again!
Of course, we are still going the extra mile, unilaterally, to support India on all fronts. We have now agreed in principle that India can export wheat to Afghanistan through Wagah – opening up the long sought after land route by India. Hopefully, this decision will include certain safeguards like ensuring that the transportation from Wagah to the Afghan border is done by Pakistani transporters and that India pays a transport levy. Since the decision has been taken on principle, one must wait to see how it is operationalised, but to allow India physical access through Pakistan's sensitive areas surely cannot be contemplated. Will India allow us to transport foodstuff to Nepal through the land route from across India?
At least some political leaders are showing a commitment to reciprocity with Mr Nawaz Sharif demanding a linkage between the Sarabjit case and the case of Pakistani prisoners languishing in Indian jails. No one seems to have shown any sensitivity to this issue at all. Even more critical, commutation of Sarabjit's death sentence to life imprisonment should first be linked to an overall decision by the state to commute all death sentences and, in fact, move to end the death penalty which does not deter most murders and only penalizes the poor -- many of whom are wrongly condemned for lack of a good defense. After all, if an Indian who killed innocent Pakistanis is to live why not the poor Pakistanis rotting on death row? Is a foreign life worth more than a Pakistani life for us?
Imagine if so much of our sovereignty was chipped away in a mere seven days, how much of it has already been lost after our embrace of the US-led "global war on terror" post-9/11! Has it all been willingly done?
(The writer is director general of the Institute of Strategic Studies, Islamabad. Courtesy The News)