Osama bin Laden’s elimination in Pakistan has given new rise to US – Pakistani tensions.
While the US is demanding further cooperation for the elimination of other Al Qaeda militants who have found refuge on Pakistani soil, Pakistani officials, and more importantly, the mighty military, have quite a series of doubts.
Pakistani officials tried hard to conceal their irritation about the Americans carrying out the operation in Abbotabad without prior notice, but that irritation could not be fully suppressed. Too many people in Pakistan regard it as a violation of the nation’s sovereignty.
Now, Americans are demanding further cooperation in getting hold on the spiritual leader of the Taliban, Mullah Omar and other high ranking Taliban and Al Qaeda figures, presumably hiding somewhere in Pakistan.
Much has been said about the complex relationship between the civilian authority, the military and the ISI (Inter-services Intelligence) in Pakistan. While the civilian rule seems to be gathering force, it does not altogether eliminate the importance and influence of the military and the special forces.
Therefore, much attention in this context has been drawn to what the Pakistani Army Chief, General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani has to say on the matter.
As The New York Times reported recently, General Kayani’s stance may be rather discouraging for the US. While not abandoning the idea of cooperation altogether, General Kayani has reportedly made it clear that the Americans are demanding too much.
This definitely means a further widening of the gap between the two still allies. Public opinion in Pakistan is overwhelmingly anti-American. This started in 2001, with the war against Afghanistan, and grew with American drone strikes over Pakistani territory, which mostly killed peaceful civilians and not militants.
The elimination of Osama bin Laden has only fueled the rise of anti-American sentiment. Any reasonable politician in any country has to first of all consider the public opinion of his own nation.
Therefore, both the civilian authorities of Pakistan and the military would like to decrease Pakistan’s dependency on the “Big Brother”. On the other hand, the problem is that there does not seem to be any other partner capable of filling the vacuum.
Americans, for their part, are showing a growing distrust in what the Pakistani authorities are doing.
On the other hand, whether Obama’s promises to withdraw all American troops from Afghanistan by 2014 are fulfilled or not, the US has no other ally in the region save for Pakistan to rely on in handling matters in that country.
Therefore, the love-hate relation is sure to continue, with both sides willing to break the alliance, neither capable of doing so.
As a former Pakistani ambassador to the United States Riaz Khokhar said recently, “There is a feeling in the rank and file of the army from A to Z that the United States is a most untrustworthy ally. We don’t want to be an enemy of the United States, but the experience of friendship with the United States has not been a pleasant experience, so we have to find a middle road.”
Former US Ambassador to Afghanistan, Iraq and the United Nations under the George W. Bush administration Zalmay Khalilzad, outlining this “friend – adversary” nature of US – Pakistani relations post 2001, has also added that “While the killing of Bin Laden was an important success, a greater achievement would be to transform United States-Pakistani relations into a true partnership that fights terrorism, advances a reasonable Afghan settlement and helps stabilize the region.”
But, as they say, it takes two to tango.