Army Chief General Raheel delivered an unequivocal message to the US high officials who arrived for damage control at the GHQ Rawalpindi yesterday; Pakistan would no longer tolerate drone strikes on its soil, and any such attacks in future would endanger bilateral cooperation between the two countries. However, it was also made clear that the US could go ahead and target Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) militants finding refuge on Afghanistan soil as they are threatening the war on terror that has the neighbours fighting on the same side. Even though Adviser to PM on Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz reiterated the same message at the meeting with the US officials earlier on the same day to show that both the military and civilian governments were on same page, the reality might be a little different.
The impromptu meeting held at the GHQ Headquarters saw the military leadership summoning the federal ministers to “discuss” the security situation in the country and examine foreign policy agenda in the face of souring relationship with the US. The relationship has been strained since the drone attack on Balochistan and the US blaming Pakistan for failing to bring the Taliban on the negotiating table. The Adviser on Foreign Affairs on the other hand defended Pakistan’s foreign policy decisions insisting that Pakistan had always facilitated the Afghan-led peace process for the restoration of peace but the drone attack that killed Taliban leader Mullah Akhtar Mansour, “caused a serious setback to the peace efforts and intensified hostilities in Afghanistan.”
With foreign and diplomatic relations with both neighbours (India and Afghanistan) in disarray and the US on the wrong side of the line, Pakistan needs to seriously evaluate the course of action it will take to bring its war on terror to a logical end. The new Afghan Taliban leader, Mullah Haibatullah Akhundzada, on Wednesday rejected peace talks to bring the Afghan insurgency to an end, and insisted that fighting will continue, saying that, “Taliban will never bow their heads and will not agree to peace talks.” The Al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri, also pledged allegiance to the new head of the Afghan Taliban, who was appointed last month after Mullah Mansour’s death. When the news of Mullah Omar’s death broke in July 2015, and then again after Mansour’s death, analysts asserted that the Taliban will weaken and will face a ‘legitimacy crisis’, but this has not been the case at all. The Taliban and other Afghan and Pakistani Jihadi factions that were destined to fracture are realigning to come back more united and stronger, posing a threat to the entire region. It is time that the region initiates a serious effort for dialogue so this growing threat can be addressed with due force.