Last week when President Bush talked about another 9/11 being planned by militants operating in Pakistan's tribal belt he might not have conceived that its echo would return so soon. But it did. Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani was seen expressing his apprehensions about the repeat of the 9/11 terror strikes, attributing it to the presence of Chechen, Uzbek and other foreign elements in the area, who were "disturbing the peace of this country" and worrying the world. The comment acknowledging the presence of foreign elements on our soil may pave the way for western coalition forces to attack the restive region. The media reports of the NATO troop buildup on the Pak-Afghan border were dismissed by US Defence Secretary Robert Gates and Admiral Mullen. DG ISPR Maj Gen Athar Abbas readily endorsed their view and tried to play down the tribesmen's concern by saying that the media had created an "unnecessary hype" about what was probably a routine movement. Tribal elders in North Waziristan meanwhile warned that they would defend the country against a possible invasion by foreign troops. "More than three million tribesmen will fight along with the Pakistani security forces in case the coalition forces launch an attack in our territory," a tribal leader was quoted as saying. They met amid indication from Afghanistan that helicopters have been transporting tanks and armoured personnel carriers to Sarobgha and other landing strips in the Khost province which neighbours our tribal areas. This was the area from where coalition troops launched what the International Security Assistance Force's spokesman described as a counter-strike against rocket attacks from the Pakistani side of the border. General Abbas's "routine movement" rhetoric apart, the massing of troops on our western border is too serious a matter to be ignored. NATO denied that it had any intention of mounting incursions onto Pakistani soil but its spokesman insisted that "our troops have the right to fire back in self-defence into Pakistan." It all appears to be a part of some game plan which had earlier seen Kabul pull out of a series of upcoming talks with Islamabad soon after Mr Karzai blamed Pakistani intelligence agencies for being behind a wave of bloody unrest in Afghanistan. Coming on the heels of this accusation was Mr Mullen's observation that during his recent visit to Pakistan he had told the authorities there that they needed to do more to curb militancy in the tribal areas as well as movement of militants across the Durand Line. This was a reiteration of the Bush Administration's stated position. It has started doubting the fighting capacity of the Pakistan Army whose only claim to fame remains fighting and killing unarmed civilians. It became evident from our sacred saviours suffering heavy casualties in the events of direct conflict with militants carrying out attacks on military convoys and checkposts. All this leaves the Americans to plan a joint military operation in the restive tribal region, telling our ruling elite that "what should be troubling for Washington should be troubling for Islamabad." But what the United States seems to ignore is the likely repercussion of joint operation for Pakistan. It may trigger a fresh wave of suicide strikes across the country. This sudden upsurge in militancy can destabilise the current dispensation the combative White House would be relying on for the success of its plan. PPP's globetrotting Co-Chairman Asif Ali Zardari was heard warning the Bush Administration to avoid talks of "hot pursuit" of militants in the tribal areas. But there would be few takers for his view that Prime Minister Gilani would take up the issue of the coalition forces' incursions into Pakistan with President Bush during their upcoming meeting in Washington. Mr Zardari must be grossly overrating his handpicked PM by expecting him to tell Mr Bush in no uncertain terms to let the newly elected government devise its policies for tackling terrorism rather than pressurising it into following his dictates. Can the "dysfunctional leadership in Islamabad" afford to indulge in "hard talk" with the person whose subservience has brought the PPP back into power? It's too tricky a question that even Mr Zardari will find difficult to answer. Mr Gilani can at best tell us that Pakistan and the United States enjoy friendly relations and his visit to Washington would go a long way in further strengthening them. It's more like Imran Khan claiming that the day Tehrik-i-Insaf comes into power it will spell an end to corruption. This poor nation had voted the once discredited political leadership into power to get rid of the tyranny to which it had been subjected over the past eight years. But it must have been disappointed to see the elected prime minister dwarf himself by harping on the American concerns. Pity Mr Gilani. Today Mr Shaukat Aziz seems standing head and shoulders above you despite his capitulation to his foreign masters. E-mail: sarmad@nation.com.pk