Except for the marvelous hypocrisy with which “extrajudicial killings” are tutted over by the agency that operates drone attacks with impunity, there is nothing amusing in the Washington Post report detailing extensive US concerns about Pakistan. The contents of the leaked top-secret US intelligence files serve as dire warning of a rising trust deficit haunting the Pak-US relationship, and the serious reasons behind it.

Rising Islamist militancy, its permeation into the armed forces, rogue officers -- all of it sends alarm bells ringing when referenced to a nuclear power. The fact that it makes even informed Pakistanis, let alone the American CIA, shift uncomfortably in their seats is the real problem here. Everyone remembers the pack of army officers jailed in connection with Hizb-ut-Tehreer links. The fact that the GHQ was attacked with such boldness in 2009 gave rise to suspicions of inside intel provided to terrorists. Mehran base was the same.  And these were the fears echoed in Pakistan. They have left much broader resonance on a jittery and vigilant United States.

It has emerged that the US broadened it’s surveillance in Pakistan not on its own, but also employing the help of tens of millions of dollars worth of payments to Pakistani intelligence officers, who were in effect committing the same treason as Shakil Afridi. The report reveals intense surveillance of potential chemical and biological lab sites in Pakistan, in addition to efforts aimed to assess the loyalties and “hostile influences” over counter-terrorism recruitments made by the CIA.

The US and Pakistan are ‘allies’ in the war on terror and such a high level of distrust on the part of the US has its roots in past experiences, present turmoil and future concerns. The US has been critical of Pakistan’s “double game” in Afghanistan, doubting the state’s resolve in eradicating safe havens for Afghan Taliban in its North Western territory. The presence of Osama Bin Laden in a heavily militarized town of Pakistan, before being taken out in a secret operation by the US, only strengthened the US’s perception of viewing Pakistan as a country which cannot be trusted. The fact that OBL’s hideout was in the immediate vicinity of the Pakistan Military Academy was an uncomfortable example of how Pakistan is always somehow so close, and yet so far from a win on mutually defined goals. Was Pakistan's security apparatus incompetent or complicit? Is it unwise to trust them?

The concerns of the US with regards to Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal are not new. AQ Khan, feted locally as a hero, is infamous for his participation in a nuclear proliferation scandal that ensured that Pakistan is blacklisted for the foreseeable future from anything which has so much as a whisper of the word 'nuclear' about it. Civil nuclear technology deal with the US? Forget it. Nuclear fuels from Australia? You must be joking.

It is not a secret that Pakistan faces serious challenges. The onslaught from militant extremists has killed thousands and been confronted by hesitant leaders breaking one record of indecision and fecklessness after the other, creating more room for dubious activities to go unnoticed and unchecked. Moreover, the attacks on the military’s General Headquarter in Rawalpindi and PNS Mehran base in Karachi, show that complicit or not, incompetence definitely can't be ruled out. If they can't look after their own in the heart of major cities, what guarantee is there that secret nuclear storage areas are still secret, or for that matter, safe from similar attack?

The traditional response was received from Pakistani authorities, tersely informing the world that everything was as it should be, and the concern was unwarranted and not appreciated. Well and good, but wishing away GHQ, Abbotabad and Mehran base won't make the world any less concerned about what is really going on in the country. Reports of plots floated for consideration, regarding the chilling targeting of a widely recognized military critic and human rights lawyer add to the worry. The plans may not have been authorized or even approved, but the fact that they existed is a concern in itself.

The US, despite its aggressive surveillance, is still unaware of the location and the method of movement of Pakistan’s nuclear warheads. This is the only thing to be taken with credit in the report; it is in the interest of Pakistan to maintain the secrecy of the country’s nuclear warheads. There is no reason to act otherwise. But we must own up to the series of public embarrassments that have made a laughing stock of our security and given us a place on the nuisance list.

However, to rid the US of its fear of Islamists taking control of Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal and other concerns, rational or irrational, serious efforts need to be made from both sides to clear the smoke that surrounds the fragile relationship. A revival of trust, assuming it ever existed, can only occur if the two countries review their policies that manage the vital bilateral relationship.