It is extremely worrying to learn that despite strong opposition from secret agencies, the government has allowed the United States to expand its embassy to eight stories, which would provide living quarters for 6,000 Americans plus all the surveillance and sabotage equipment that they might like to have there. It would be the modern equipment of the old castles that the emperors used to build in earlier times with the difference that while the forts were more a part of the defensive strategy against the invaders, the modern American fort in Islamabad would also have an offensive capability as well. In fact that would be its primary purpose because already the Americans enjoy maximum security in Pakistan, and remain quite safe even while killing our citizens on roads and from the sky, not sparing even our soldiers, 24 of whom got killed at Salala at their hands.

I remember towards the end of George Bush's rule, the then US defence secretary Robert Gates gave a presentation about 'irregular wars' which, he said, could be fought with US allies, and may even involve tanks. I suppose the super US embassy plan could well prove to be a launch-pad for more advanced versions of 'irregular wars.' Since these wars would not involve hundreds of thousands of US soldiers with the attendant costs which may run into hundreds of billions, the American public would not be averse to it, rather it may like their 'boys' fighting high-tech, low-cost wars, taming the strongest militarily, and the only nuclear power in the Muslim world.

This subservience to Americans is not a new phenomenon and goes back to the time of self-proclaimed Field Marshal Ayub Khan who had allowed American spying activity against the USSR through high-flying US planes taking off from a base in Pakistan. However, even he did not allow this level of American presence though it is quite likely that in those days, the Americans did not require, and thus did not demand so much. The present, NRO-cleansed setup, which was introduced by another dictator Pervez Musharraf to prolong his presidential term, is perhaps far more dependent on the American goodwill, and is thus prepared to go to any extreme to prove its loyalty, and the American embassy expansion could just be a start, with worse things to come.

With other checks failing, perhaps it would again have to be the Supreme Court to order remedial action.

S.R.H. HASHMI,

Karachi, April 11.