American Defence Secretary Panetta has called for a fair deal on the transit of Nato goods through Pakistan, asserting, “We’re not about to get gouged in the price.” Pakistan that had suffered a huge loss in terms of a ruined road infrastructure as a result of heavy containers and trucks ferrying supplies across into Afghanistan without getting any compensation for the damage has asked for a transit fee of $5,000 per vehicle. The US is reportedly offering the paltry sum of $250, instead. However, it is of interest to note that Nato is spending $85 million per month, in addition to what it would cost to take its supplies over to Afghanistan via the Central Asian route. The exercise is not only time consuming, but also not without attendant dangers as the region is infested with militants. Therefore, words like ‘gouge’ or ‘extortion’ ill befit the circumstances and the balance of logic is tilted in Pakistan’s favour.

It is unfortunate that at a time when relations between the US and Pakistan are, arguably, at the lowest ebb ever, the American administration should further aggravate them by deliberately increasing the frequency of drone strikes. One wonders what message Washington is trying to give Islamabad. After a brief hiatus, the frequency of their onslaught has markedly increased over the past some weeks. And with it the number of the dead and the wounded. The drones hardly ever succeed in hitting the target. If all those who perish after the drone raid, or even a majority of them, were terrorists, militancy would have been a thing of the past. In this manner, drones prove counterproductive to the cause of wiping out militants, since the attacks tend to the swell their ranks.

Mr Panetta’s plea that drone strikes are “absolutely essential” to fight off al-Qaeda to ensure security of the US is also devoid of legal as well as moral justification. For the people of Pakistan, this is a matter of great sensitivity. In case the drones have the sanction of both the political and military hierarchies in power in Pakistan, they should come clean and stop hoodwinking the people with false protestations. Whether there has been any complicity on the part of Pakistan in the drone affair or not, it should tell the Americans in no uncertain terms that as a democratic government it has to go by the public opinion, which is overwhelmingly against these deadly forays and is aptly reflected in the Parliament’s decisions.