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جمعہ، 6 جولائی، 2012

It is American apology!

 Pakistan has finally gone ahead and allowed Nato the ground channels it hankered for, seven and half months after they were closed. The decision was so made that the newspapers of US Independence Day, gave an indication that the real beneficiary from the deal was America.

 Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has tendered apology on behalf of the US for air strikes on Salala check post that killed 24 Pakistani soldiers. Some commentariat and politicos insist that it is not an apology, but according to lexicon, the word 'sorry' connotes apology. Hillary Clinton also gave assurance that event of this kind would not be repeated. Hence; Pakistan ended the seven-month blockade, and supplies to NATO forces have been resumed.
There was a lot of speculation that ego of the super power would not allow it to offer apology, but it had to eat a humble pie and agreed to almost all Pakistan's conditions. The Defence Committee of the Cabinet (DCC) on Tuesday announced restoration of ground lines of communication for NATO/ISAF supplies through Pakistan in tandem with a tacitly worded apology from the US over the Salala episode. It is hoped that the US and NATO would review their policy, stop drone attacks and withdraw their support to TTP and other anti-Pakistan groups that have made Afghanistan a launching pad for attacks on Pakistan's security forces.

It is unfortunate that Afghanistan wants all cooperation in war on terror but is not inclined to reciprocate. The other day, in Pakistan's semi-autonomous tribal belt, two tribesmen were killed in Upper Kurram district in clashes with 60 Afghan army soldiers that intruded into Pakistan territory. Anyhow, the unfortunate incident of Salala check post, in which 24 brave soldiers of Pakistan Army lost their lives, resulted into fractured relations between the US and Pakistan. In November 2011 NATO aerial strikes not only brazenly violated Pakistan's sovereignty inflicting serious loss of lives but also deeply injured feelings and emotions of entire Pakistani nation. The Government of Pakistan having fiercely reacted to Salala attacks decided to suspend supplies to NATO troops in Afghanistan, got Shamsi airbase vacated and boycotted the Bonn Conference on Afghanistan.

The aim was to obtain US apology for such a brutal and rude act of aggression conducted against Pakistan - a frontline strategic ally and supporter in WoT. Unfortunately, US top leadership had suggested to Obama administration to get tough with Pakistan disregarding their demands of apology on Salala incident. Hence, they tried to discredit Pakistan's civil-military leadership, criticised their policy decisions and pressurized them through financial sanctions. Resultantly, diplomatic relations between Pakistan and the US suffered a setback, and these were at the lowest ebb since Pakistan became American ally in mid-fiftees. Closure of supply line had presented tough challenges for US civil-military leadership, as it was paying three-time more for channeling supplies through Central Asian Republics and other routes. On the other hand, Pakistan always honoured its commitment made to the US in its fight against terror.
Pakistan had simply desired that US should, at least tender an apology to Pakistan for loss of lives and assuring the Pakistani public that such incident would never be repeated and that Pakistan's sovereignty would be respected. Pakistan did not buckle under pressure and withstood pressure tactics used by US. It did not budge an inch from its stated position despite harsh rebukes from US Defence Secretary Leon Panetta and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Pakistan's Parliament had suggested to the government to redefine terms of engagement with the US and get an apology before opening NATO supply routes. It is an open secret that the Armed Forces have fully backed the Parliament and vowed to follow the government decisions. 

The COAS had rightly rejected an apology by ISAF commander General John Allen during his last meeting, stating that the matter is not between two Armed Forces but between two states. Since Pakistan's demands have been accepted, the government has decided to open GLOCs, and the Armed Forces would indeed follow its constitutional role and support the govt.
Of course, there are merits of opening of GLOCs, as it would help facilitate preparations for an early withdrawal of US-led NATO forces from Afghanistan. It is expected that there will be considerable reduction in drone attacks, which will ensure preventing loss of civilian life. According to reports, a part of the payments under Coalition Support Fund is in the pipeline and can be released any moment. There is also a ray of hope for Pakistan to repair and redefine relations with US. The armed forces have to support government's decisions, as there are no fissures between the government and the Armed Forces. Of course, the elected leadership will have to work hard for making Pakistan a self-reliant nation, and also take measures to unite the nation so that it can effectively meet the challenges faced by it. In fact, America had procrastinated on apology because political parties and institutions were on collision course.

Political instability in Pakistan is a source of great concern for the entire Pakistani nation. Unfortunately the country is faced with numerous internal threats such as religious extremism, sectarian divide, terrorism, target killing, deteriorating law and order situation, unusual energy crisis/unscheduled load shedding, rampant corruption and trends of economic deficit. Anti-Pakistan elements take advantage of internal vulnerabilities of Pakistan and launch hostile campaigns to show Pakistan in bad light. Indo-US strategic partnership with clear signs of intrusiveness are making efforts to prompt certain political and social groups to exploit the prevailing situation in the country, thereby harming the very state of Pakistan.
Certain foreign media analysts and domestic anchors appear to have premeditated that Pakistan is a failed state, suggesting abrupt end to foreign investment in Pakistan. Domestic leadership instead of learning any lessons to undertake decisions in the larger national interests seems to have been completely swept away by egoistic pulses and self advancement. Had the government implemented apex court's March 2012 orders, it would not have face ignominy later.

 By Mohammad Jamil

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