President Asif Ali Zardari, who met President Barack Obama and addressed the Nato summit on Afghanistan at Chicago on Monday, took the right stand when he tried to press home the strong opposition of the people as well as government of Pakistan to drone strikes. Drones, he told the US leader and the summiteers, had a markedly negative effect on militancy, which grew in intensity because of them rather than losing steam. The legal argument for violation of our sovereignty also stands firm. He also reiterated the demand for an apology for the deaths of 24 Pakistani soldiers during the Nato helicopter attack at Salala checkpost last November, which so enraged the nation that the government was compelled to block the Nato’s supply channel of goods needed for its troops in Afghanistan. The world must appreciate that while for the US and its Nato allies, reopening of the land route for the movement of men, material to and from Afghanistan is of crucial significance to the troops operating there and their evacuation, Pakistan’s concerns cannot simply be dismissed offhand. Therefore, not only the issues of drones and apology must be quickly addressed, but also Islamabad must be reimbursed the Coalition Support Fund that has been accumulating for want of clearance by the US. Mr Zardari also raised the point of the devastating effect of the war on terror on our economy that stands virtually at the brink of collapse after having suffered a loss of more than $70 billion. This is no small amount for a developing country like Pakistan. It is the responsibility of all those who are fighting terrorism, particularly in Afghanistan that has impacted Pakistan badly, to accept Mr Zardari’s demand that they should provide greater access to our products in their markets for resuscitation of our economy to take place.
The setbacks that the greatest military might on earth today has suffered should prompt it to pack up, lock, stock and barrel, and go home without losing more time, rather than finding covert ways of keeping its troops even after the promised date of withdrawal by end-2014. Mr Obama should be paying heed to the protestors back home who want the sons and daughters of the United States back instead of keeping them engaged in fighting an unwinnable enemy so far distant from their land. One of his key allies, France, with the induction of the new President, has already announced the return of its troops by the end of this year. The US must understand that there can be no peace in Afghanistan or the region without a solution arrived at by the Afghans themselves. A foreign imposed settlement would not work. Pakistan has always advocated an Afghan-led Afghan-sponsored solution. Countries like Pakistan, Turkey and Iran can lend a helping hand in achieving this goal. Their credibility would be hard to question; for they have a crucial stake in peace in Afghanistan as well as the region.