According to a New York Times report, American officials are working on the assumption of ‘restricted drone strikes’ against militants located within Pakistan and sharply cutting down aid in any future agreement that would recommence cooperation between the two countries. While the current strains in our relationship with the US have been sparked off by the Nato planes’ unprovoked killing of 25 Pakistani soldiers at the Salalah check post on November 26, the drones have been an anathema to the public, since they began. They have killed more than 2,000 innocent tribesmen over the years, against a few score of militants who were their real target. Two common underlying factors in the Salalah and drones cases are a violation of the country’s territorial sovereignty and casualties of innocent persons which could have and should have been avoided. There have been nationwide protest demonstrations underlining this and registering the people’s resentment and anger. One would expect the Pakistani leadership, which is currently engaged in reviewing the whole range of relationship with the US, to keep these factors in mind. Now that a much needed restructuring is underway, of a relationship which has lost both the US and Pakistan, trust and goodwill between each other, these valid points of criticism must be made and a future relationship drafted on lines guaranteed to avoid such events. Elaborating on “red lines” in the bilateral relations, Prime Minister Gilani has, more than once, protested the need to enforce the protection and respect of the country’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. There must be no deviation from this resolve.

As far as the reduction of aid is concerned, which comes in fits and starts, is meagre and far less than promised, the sooner Pakistan is recompensed in full for its services in the War or Terror, the better. There should be an understanding that there is a significant difference between recompensation for losses in the War on Terror and aid. Reliance on foreign aid for Pakistan has a history of moulding our internal and foreign policies in accordance with the wishes of the donor. The IMF and US programmes in Pakistan are much-maligned for imposing diktat on Pakistani policy, however the conditions imposed as a result of being party to IMF programmes are a conscious decision. Furthermore, one would hope that the need for reforms would be voiced and then pushed for by Pakistani voices, not foreign ones. Agonisingly long power shutdowns, inadequate availability of gas, increasing impoverishment and poor performance of the economy have become the norm. Pakistan should take the American decision in a positive context, practise austerity and make a commitment to rely upon its own resources, which are not in short supply. There can be little doubt that an end to corruption and malpractice and sincere exploitation of the vast, untapped human and natural resources in the country would soon take Pakistan out of the harm’s way, setting us on the road to progress and prosperity.