On Wednesday five NATO gunship helicopters were seen along the Pak-Afghan border near the Shamshad Mountains. Two of them strayed inside Pakistani airspace, hovered for at least 10 minutes, and left without any further incident. While it is yet to be determined if this was accidental or a deliberate violation; the issue brings forward a wider debate. Is the Pakistani military unable to protect the sovereignty of our borders? Of course, this seems a minor incident compared to the US touching down in Abbotabad and nabbing Osama Bin Laden. Considering our military presence in both areas, and the state of our detection technology, it is safe to reasonably assume that this could not happen without our permission. Let us then function on the premise that the drone strikes and NATO incursions, were all carried out under prior consent. So, why the forced ambiguity?

Perhaps confirming that consent was given would invite a backlash; the government has been constantly riled for meekly concurring with the US war efforts. Segments of the population still view the US as the ‘eternal enemy’, and much traction can be gained – and has been gained – by painting the government as stooges. An ambiguous stance allows the government to escape comparatively unscathed, by deflecting the blame on the US. The only alternative to consent is complacency, which means that the white elephant that is the esteemed Pakistani Military is unable to do its job. Ambiguity allows the military to escape unscathed too.

But this ambiguity is doing far more damage to the nation’s psyche than the minor advantages gained by the state. Ignoring an argument does not make it go away; maintaining ambiguity does not mean people will stop believing either one of those things. Instead they get stronger; the space left behind allows all manner of conspiracy theories and propaganda to take root. It allows nefarious organisations to twist facts and cultivate support. Furthermore, small unanswered erosions of state sovereignty greatly challenge the state’s credibility. Why should a tribal ignore the calls of his clan for a state that can’t protect itself? Is it not more advantageous to stay within your circle of patronage? Why should the world respect Pakistan’s sovereignty if it doesn’t respect it itself. If the state is really seeking help from NATO and the US in curbing terrorism near the Afghan border, it should be communicated in no unclear terms.