The United States decided to go all out, gunning for a non-compliant Pakistan last week. The drone attacks in the North Waziristan Agency were supplemented by the ballistic missile launched by Hillary Clinton from India claiming that the new al-Qaeda Chief, Ayman Al-Zawahiri, was hiding in Pakistan. All the assorted tactics of badgering a demonised ally honed over time, including the holding back of assistance and threatening direct action against militants on Pakistani soil, were employed simultaneously with a renewed vigour. While the superpower mounts pressure on the government to resume Nato supplies and use the Pakistan armed forces as an unquestioning implementation agency for the US gameplan in Afghanistan, it would not hear of ending the criminal drone strikes or tendering an apology for killing Pakistani soldiers at Salala. Is our government capable of warding off this concerted attack?

Going by the statements of important members of the government, it is not even thinking about it. In fact, it seems more interested in strengthening the case for giving in to the arm-twisting tactics of the global bully. Our Defence Minister Chaudhry Ahmad Mukhtar told us that Pakistan may have to face economic sanctions if it continued to hold Nato supplies for an extended period of time. According to him, if the Nato containers were not given safe passage through the country, it would be a violation of international conventions to which Pakistan was a signatory. He expressed his helplessness in ending drone strikes that have killed innocent Pakistani citizens. More than somebody charged with the defence of Pakistan, he sounded like a spokesperson for Nato, convincing us that the only option open for Pakistan was to submit to the demands, commands and needs of the US-led military alliance that has occupied Afghanistan for more than a decade.

In the same vein, our Finance Minister Hafeez Sheikh came up with his own two bits to put the fear of the sole superpower in our hearts. He informed us that the next budget could not be prepared if the American demands were not accepted. He would also like us to submit to these demands, no matter how detrimental they are to the security and stability of the country, to ensure the release of funds that he has been trained to depend upon. To make a budget without the crumbs of loans and aid is obviously not a part of his brief. In the  face of the concentrated belligerence by the US, other important members of the government were also reported to be advising restraint and realism, terms that essentially translate into bowing before the financial and military might of a rogue superpower. The question is: Will things get any better if we take their pessimistic advice, fall in line and do as we are told? Not really!

The spurious war on terror narrative aside, the issue at hand is essentially not that complicated. The US and its allies would like us to act as accomplices and foot soldiers in their war against the Afghan people, a trillion-dollar war that is getting more and more unpopular in their home countries and one that seems to be going nowhere despite the large-scale misery, death and destruction that it has caused in the occupied country and despite its dangerous fallout that is affecting the entire region. No sugar-coating of al-Qaeda, democracy or human rights could camouflage the bitter truth about the war in Afghanistan and its catastrophic consequences for the Afghan people. After all, Afghanistan is not an isolated case and the record of US intervention in countries around the world is too voluminous and naked to ignore. It would be stupid to shut our eyes to the aggression at work next door.

The Zardari-led government and the liberal intelligentsia, both patronised by the empire, are happy to parrot a devious narrative that projects the US as protecting us from the barbaric militants waiting in the wings to terrorise us with their medieval and misguided version of Islam. They scare us with the inevitability of a Taliban takeover the moment their saviour, the US, decides to leave Afghanistan. The only way they know of fighting militant extremism is to hide behind the back of a meddlesome and unscrupulous superpower and to do its bidding. Anyone suggesting a different course is labelled as a Taliban sympathiser. In awe of the military might of the US, they believe that our salvation lies in staying on the right side of the super-duper power. And of course, they are convinced that our survival depends on crumbs of financial assistance thrown our way for doing the needful.

This simplistic discourse ignores the fact that those fighting the foreign occupation forces in Afghanistan are not all card-holding members of Taliban. Besides, the criticism of the US role in the world is not restricted to the perspective of the Islamists or of those being occupied and killed. Sane and conscientious voices from around the world have been putting together, bit by bit, the pieces of a scary puzzle that is now as good as complete, exposing to us all the machinations of a modern-day empire bent upon exercising total domination. Many Americans and Western writers have contributed to this understanding, and they are making sense to more and more people in their home countries. They are critical of an economy sustained by wars, fought with the taxpayers' money to promote the interests of big corporations. They have laid bare the devious working of the international financial establishment designed to enrich a small minority to the detriment of 99 percent of citizens. These critics of the empire are not Islamist militants out to destroy their own civilisation.

The choice before us is actually quite simple. We could either become a tool in the hands of a predatory empire out to capture the entire bounty that our planet offers for the benefit of a few, killing and terrorising those who resist it abroad and at home, or we could end our cooperation in this barbaric project. We could allow ourselves to be bullied and arm-twisted by a greedy superpower into following its violent diktat, or find the courage to resist it. We could either help perpetuate an unholy war or we could help end it by saying no to the US. If we really think about it, there is actually no choice!

n    The writer is a freelance columnist.