Friends not masters: are we there yet? (Pak-US against terrorism)- Express Tribune

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“Pakistan acts as an arsonist and poses as the fireman. They should suffer diplomatic and economic isolation. Pakistan should be faced with a future that looks like North Korea.” This was the measured reaction of previous US national security adviser Lt Gen HR McMaster in response to the recent carnage in Afghanistan. He was supposed to be one of the ‘adults in the room’ who would moderate the unpredictable tantrums of Donald Trump. Didn’t we have this old perception that Republican pro-military establishment was favorable to Pakistan than Democratic administrations? With loyal friends like these, who needs enemies! Twenty humiliating years of ‘do more’ and when the time for withdrawal comes, place the blame on a convenient bogeyman. This is the price paid by a country which chose to be a mercenary for the highest bidder under the facade of national interest. Isn’t it time that we reflect on our inconvenient truths?

After 9/11, it was only a matter of time before the war of vengeance needed to be initiated to restore the honour of America. Taliban’s offer to set up an international tribunal for Osama bin Laden was quickly rejected as a ploy. The restrained threat of bombing Pakistan “back to the stone ages” convinced General Musharraf to join the hippie trail of Operation Enduring Freedom. There was no public discussion on the merits of war on our neighbour as the sword of “either you are with us or against us” was dangling above our necks. We rejoiced at the prospects of US economic aid and glowed in the aura of being praised as a responsible partner state. Thus, there were no moral qualms about international law when we arrested Taliban Ambassador Mullah Zaeef and handed him over to the Americans where he was given state hospitality at Guantanamo Bay. We didn’t blink an eye when thousands of US drone strikes happened on our own country as we were told that it was all in our national interest. An armed insurgency started at our western border, and after countless sacrifices, we started realising that perhaps there were consequences of being a mercenary.

However, it was hard to break old habits and we continued the business of detaining ‘terrorists’ with our US partner. For example, Mullah Baradar was arrested in a joint raid with CIA in Karachi and was held in our prison for eight years without any trial or legal representation. He was released due to the US pressure in 2018 to help with the Afghan peace process. Ironically, he is now the highest ranking leader of the Taliban movement and may become the next head of state in Afghanistan. It is now our hope that he will forget the fond memories of our land and emulate Prophet Yusuf (peace be upon him) when he forgave his brothers.

Thus, it hurts us deeply when our US ally threatens to make Pakistan the next North Korea. This is the sad and sorry state of affairs of a nuclear armed nation of over 200 million people. We had trampled on local and international laws to ensure that the war on terror was a success. We did not respect the rights and dignity of our own citizens, let alone foreign diplomats and nationals during the last twenty years of war. A nation which is not based on moral and ethical principles is bound to be a loser; this much is clear from our religion which is supposed to be the basis of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan. It is correct that our current leadership is now united in being a partner in peace and will not host foreign bases in the future. Hopefully, we will also start to respect our own people and laws. Otherwise, we will continue to remain a mercenary state for one superpower to the next.

Published in The Express Tribune, September 1st, 2021.