Nato Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen has called on Pakistan not just to restore Nato supplies through it, but also to increase its activities against extremists in the tribal areas. It is worth noting that Mr Rasmussen, who just attended a high-level Nato meeting in Brussels, ahead of Chicago Summit next month, was merely echoing the USA’s stance, spouting suggestions that Pakistan would do well to ignore. The call for an increase in action against extremists either meant to cause the launch of an operation in Waziristan, or even against the Haqqani network, which the USA is blaming for the Taliban’s attacks in Kabul. In either case, an operation would needlessly embroil the Pakistan Army, and make it face casualties at a time when it is already facing the loss of so many lives in Siachen. It should also not hasten to restore Nato supplies, because a restoration would mean the unleashing of a wave of anger and resentment among the people of Pakistan, something the government should not take the risk of affording in this election year. Though the joint sitting of Parliament has accepted the recommendations of the Parliamentary Committee on National Security, and though that decision has also received the endorsement of the Defence Committee of the Cabinet, the Difa-i-Pakistan (Defence of Pakistan) Council is still drawing large crowds on the issue, and, not satisfied, is strongly opposed to any restoration.

The government should not function by Nato standards. The USA and Nato seem to assume that now that the joint sitting has met, all that needs to be done is for the necessary orders to be issued, without the USA bothering to fulfill the conditions that have been laid down. The government should be aware that matters are not so simple, and any attempt to fulfill Mr Rasmussen’s wishes could bring the government down.

Nato, as well as the USA, should understand that this issue, important enough in itself, is also being taken by people as a symbol of the entire relationship, and restoration of Nato supplies would be seen as a surrender. Therefore, even if the outpouring of resentment that follows does not make the holding of elections impossible, no government facing a general election early next year, as the current government will, can afford a mis-step of this kind. The only option the government has is to ensure that the joint sitting’s decision is honoured, and policy towards the USA is made in accordance with its directions, not the USA’s wishes. The government must devote itself to convincing the USA to accept this, instead of trying to impose its wishes on Pakistan.