The Pakistan-US talks on a revised relationship stand stalled. Who is suffering more because of this delay? Obviously Pakistan!

The drone attacks continue and so do Nato supplies by air. The US is, of course, keen to have the land route reopened. The alternative land route is longer and costlier. Supplies through the northern side have continued all along.

It is now generally conceded that Pakistan’s insistence on a public apology for the Salala slaughter has lost steam with the USA unwilling to do so. Washington, it is understood, was ready to do it after the Hillary-Hina meeting in London, but the government in Pakistan then advised the US to wait for the parliamentary review. It is no longer considered politic for Barack Obama to do so on the eve of US presidential elections.

The attacks in Kabul with the finger pointing at the Haqqani group based in Pakistan have stiffened the US stance. Other developments with far-reaching consequences as the signing of a new pact by Presidents Obama and Karzai in Kabul extending US stay by 10 years is bound to have broad implications for the future of Afghanistan and Pakistan.

The Qatar initiative with the Taliban has come to a halt for various reasons, including delay in the release of a number of Guantanamo prisoners and delisting of certain individuals from the UN Security Council’s sanction list. The “trilateral core group” meeting held in Islamabad last week to bring about reconciliation in Afghanistan too has ended without any substantial results.

Mr Obama, who was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize after he became President, has been hailed as “warrior-in-chief” by a well known American writer Peter L. Berger: “Soon after Mr Obama took office, he reframed the fight against terrorism. Liberals wanted to cast anti-terrorism efforts in terms of global law enforcement - rather than war. The President did not choose this path and instead declared war against Al-Qaeda and its allies.

“Compare Mr Obama’s use of drone strikes with that of his predecessor. During the Bush administration, there was a drone an American attack in Pakistan every 43 days; during the first two years of the Obama administration, there was a drone strike there every four days. And two years into his presidency, the President was engaged in conflicts in six Muslim countries: Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia, Yemen and Libya.

“The man who went to Washington as an “anti-war” President was more Teddy Roosevelt than Jimmy Carter. It took Mr Obama only a few weeks to act in Libya in the spring of 2011 when Colonel Muammar el-Qaddafi threatened to massacre large portions of the Libyan population. (Declared Obama) I will not hesitate to use military force to take out terrorists who pose a direct threat to America. Once in office, Mr Obama signed off on a large increase in the number of CIA officers on the ground in Pakistan and an intensified campaign of drone warfare there.

“Mr Obama plans to be in Chicago for the Nato summit meeting in late May, just as the election campaign heats up. He will arrive knowing that the United States and Afghanistan have already agreed to a long-term strategic partnership that is likely to involve thousands of American soldiers in Afghanistan, in advisory roles, after combat operations end in 2014.”

All this serves to establish that Obama is tough and inclined to be ruthless.

In sharp contrast to a determined administration in USA, all that we have in Pakistan is a weak, dithering and vulnerable federal government.

First, they shifted responsibility to the Parliamentary Committee to frame and finalise recommendations. Even after these recommendations were made, little of constructive work has been done. No clear policy lines have been formulated. And time, a scarce commodity for Pakistan, has rolled on.

Not only was there no debate in Parliament, little has been done to take people and all parties into confidence on such issues of vital importance for the future of the country.

While there is weight in asking for an ‘apology’, no headway has been made to get this part of the new deal sorted out. The invitation for the Chicago Conference has not been received. What if Pakistan is not invited and decisions are taken about Afghanistan by passing Islamabad?

Now that the drone strikes have restarted signalling a rejection of one of the important parliamentary recommendations, how is Islamabad to negotiate new terms of engagement? The defiance of the highest court of the country has made Pakistan a laughing stock amongst the comity of nations. If we gleefully demonstrate disrespect to our supreme national institution, is the world going to pay much respect to our claims and postures?

The fact of the matter is that the government of the day lacks the will and the capacity to take clear and feasible decisions. Salala took place six months ago. We are still considering how to move forward to address its fallout. Increasing instability in the country is bound to have its toll.

The US special representative, Marc Grossman, and his team have had a number of meetings with top-notch Pakistanis, civil and military officeholders. Little of any concrete results, however, have come so far.

All that we have been left with is a wishy-washy statement from our Foreign Office spokesperson given at the weekly media briefing last Thursday. Mr Moazzam Ahmad Khan said that another meeting of the Defence Committee of the Cabinet was being held to “review mechanism to implement parliamentary recommendations.” He referred to the meetings with Grossman. He expected that the US would show “more understanding and patience.”

What “more understanding and patience”?

There is little realisation that dithering, dragging of feet and the circus that Pakistani politics has become, have only added to the complexity of the issues involved. With an economy going down by the day, with soaring internal and external debt, and with the law and order in tatters, an indecisive Pakistan is a sitting duck to be hit from right and left.

Political opposition alone can compel the government to see reason and not further jeopardise the country’s interests. It is unfortunate that there is no such united effort to inject sense into the federal ruling elite.

Just imagine a tainted head of state pitted against a determined and ruthless President of the most powerful country in the world and wonder about the days to come.

    The writer is an ex-federal secretary and ambassador, and  political and international relations analyst.

    Email: pacade@brain.net.pk