CENTCOM Chief Gen James Mattis has disclosed during a testimony to the Senate Armed Services Committee that he will be traveling to Islamabad in a few days to discuss the issue of Nato supplies through Pakistan, necessary to facilitate the withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan. Pakistan suspended the land route through it for the supply of NATO forces in Afghanistan after NATO gunship helicopters had massacred 24 Pakistani soldiers on November 26. Pakistan had already turned away American visitors, including Afpak special envoy Marc Grossman and General Mattis himself.

General Mattis’ statement is of significance because it gives an indication of just how important the route through Pakistan is to NATO. He may have been playing to the gallery by stressing the importance of the route to a withdrawal, and that too in an election year, but there is no denying the fact. That should have become even more apparent now that the ban has lasted three months, but the fact remains that the USA depends on Pakistan for its continued occupation of Afghanistan, even though it has attempted to install India in that country, even it has no interest there. However, Pakistan must not barter away the lives of its soldiers for the scraps of a role in the settlement of Afghanistan, particularly a settlement according to American wishes, which involve the natural desire of the Afghan people to determine their own future. There is an idea floating around that Pakistan should charge a certain sum of money per container, on NATO supplies, but this is linked to the damage moving these supplies have inflicted on Pakistani highways. This money should not go to ignoring the deaths that have occurred. It is also noticeable that the USA has been strenuous in its refusal to apologise, and not only has this refusal been seen as American high-handedness, but also as a symptom of its arrogance, shown by its willingness to invade Muslim countries.

The government must not try to make its obediance towards the USA customary. It is possible that Parliament may decide by the time of his visit about the future course of Pak-US relations, in which case he would probably come, but if it has not decided by then, he should be advised that he is not welcome.