Following the Salala attack, Pakistan’s leadership expressed its anger by taking some major steps: the Nato supply route plying through Pakistan was blocked; the Shamsi Airbase in Balochistan was vacated; the Bonn Conference was boycotted; and a formal apology was sought from the USA for the tragic incident. The mandarins at the Foreign Office were asked to delegate formulation of foreign policy to Parliament, after which the politicians began behaving like demagogues and US bashing became the flavour of the day. Pubic fury was whipped to a frenzy that reached a crescendo. However, six months down the line the world has moved on sans Pakistan, likening our protestations to Shakespeare’s “full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.”
But the straw that broke the proverbial camel’s back was the Nato Summit at Chicago. The Bonn Conference had been deliberately skipped by Pakistan, but come May 2012 and the panic started gripping in, since Islamabad had not received the invitation for the Chicago Summit. The same leaders, who had breathed fire and brimstone after the Salala incident instigating national pride and sovereignty, started singing a different tune. One is reminiscent of George Orwell’s political satire titled Animal Farm, where the sheep (signifying the general public), after the takeover of the farm by the animals, are initially taught the slogan: “Four legs good! Two legs bad!” But after the compromise and sell out to the humans, they are taught a new slogan: “Four legs good! Two legs better!”
After Parliament had announced, in line with the PCNS’ recommendations, that an apology from the US for the unprovoked attack at Salala was a prerequisite for the reopening of the Nato supply routes, the general public in Pakistan is being reminded by the Foreign Minister that “Pakistan must move on” (sans apology). The Defence Minister, waking up from his slumber like Rip Van Winkle, now remembers that blocking the Nato supply route is in contravention to international law as it comprises 28 nations, including Pakistan’s long trusted friend Turkey that, reportedly, facilitated its invitation to Chicago . Perhaps, Pakistan’s desperation to be at the summit was to plead the resumption of its aid, since it is budget time for an impoverished nation.
Washington - whose foreign policy for the region is no longer dictated by Foggy Bottom alone, but has major inputs from Pentagon and Langley - managed to outfox Islamabad. The same mandarins, who were behaving like David after firing the biblical slingshot at Goliath’s forehead, like the fable, were willing to have their “heads smacked with a shoe as well as swallow the onions.” The US had carried out its own inquiry into the Salala incident concluding that it was an unfortunate incident, but was triggered by Pakistani troops. One could have poked holes in this incongruous conclusion, since apparently the Salala attack was a premeditated assault where gunship helicopters operated for 150 minutes, targeting Pakistani soldiers akin to a Turkey shoot. But instead of taking the case to the International Court of Justice, we continued our haranguing in the local media only.
An emboldened US has now refused to render a formal apology on the tragic incident; it has put its foot down on discontinuing the drone attacks; and Leon Panetta has gone to the extent of stating that he would never agree to Pakistan’s demands of transit fees that he terms exorbitant, citing USA’s poor economy as an excuse. He has conveniently ignored the fact that the same cash-strapped US is paying an arm and a leg for the 6,000-mile-long Northern Distribution Network, but will not pay a fraction for the 500-mile-long supply route through Pakistan.
The US State Department spurned Pakistan’s request for President Zardari to meet President Obama in a one-on-one conference, although they briefly met on the sidelines. Also, the meeting with Nato’s Secretary General was missed, but, reportedly, all others apart from President Hamid Karzai were to bear pressure on Pakistan. In an unmistakable snub, the US President left Pakistan off the list of nations he thanked for “getting the war supplies into Afghanistan.” President Zardari, however, maintained his “Cheshire Cat” grin despite the pressure, promising $20 million to Afghanistan from Pakistan’s empty coffers. The presidential spokesman had us believe that Mr Zardari will demand $1 billion at Chicago as compensation for the war on terror, but he remained clueless .

n    The writer is a political and defence analyst.
    Email: sultanm.hali@gmail.com