The country’s top political and military leadership met at Prime Minister’s House on Tuesday to reaffirm its earlier stand about US-Pakistan relations, now under review. It was unanimously declared that there could be no question of a compromise on Pakistan’s sovereignty and integrity. Prime Minister Gilani, Foreign Minister Hina Khar, COAS General Kayani and ISI chief Lt-General Pasha, all agreed that the joint session of Parliament being held on February 3 would be the appropriate forum to debate on the 35 recommendations made by the Parliamentary Committee on National Security and finalise the shape reviewed ties with the US should take. Though doubts and distrust about each other’s perception of the war on terror had existed since the war began, certain recent incidents have broadened the divide. The death of 26 Pakistani soldiers at a Salalah checkpost by Nato aircraft last November triggered a severe backlash in the form of widespread anti-American sentiments, ultimately resulting in the government decision to redefine, in writing, the new terms of engagement Pakistan would like to have with the US. Till then, the Nato supplies transiting through the country would remain stalled.
Islamabad’s reaction served as an eye-opener to Washington that was not, perhaps, expecting it in such a concrete form. The US attempts at explaining its position did not succeed and the inquiry report on the Salalah attack conducted by the very General, who had ordered it, has not found credence with Pakistan. However, as the resumption of drone strikes has not provoked any government functionary, whether from the army or the political setup, to utter a word of criticism it has decisively reinforced the feeling that Pakistani authorities are complicit with the CIA in recommencing these murderous raids. An important organ of the American media has also maintained that the attacks started recurring with the consent of Pakistani officials. This conclusion has not been rejected by Islamabad, though it is already two weeks since the attacks began taking place again. That means that all the noise being heard in the corridors of powers about disallowing these drones and the conflict of interest between the two countries is no more than rhetoric, even the supposed stance of seeking an apology from the US that the Tuesday meeting reiterated.
If true, this is an extremely unfortunate situation that cannot fail to incite nationwide protests. There has already been a walk-out from the Senate session and several political parties, have threatened to picket Parliament in case the drone strikes did not end. Should one hope that the government, already under a cloud for its anti-public policies, would, after all, realise the depth of people’s feeling against the violation of Pakistan’s territorial sovereignty by drones and take a firm stand in the national interest.