The NATO supply line into Afghanistan via Karachi and the rest of Pakistan seems to have already opened with four trucks of the American embassy crossing the Pakistan-Afghanistan border. What did Pakistan achieve by first closing the supply line and then re-opening it without having any of its demands met? Hussain Haqqani, former Pakistani Ambassador to the US, has already opined in an interview that the advantages that Pakistan is likely to gain from the reopening may not last forever. Why?
First, Pakistan was forced to open the supply line as the US and NATO refused to adhere to any of Pakistan’s demands, including an American apology for the Salala attack and a halt to drone attacks. The NATO Secretary General made it clear that unless Pakistan decided to open the supply line, it would not be invited for the NATO summit on Afghanistan in Chicago.
The reasons for the reopening are not difficult to fathom. It was undoubtedly Pakistan’s trump card that became a dud upon use. Islamabad should have threatened with the closure of the supply line and bargained hard, instead of giving in so readily. The decision to close was a hasty one which Pakistan realized subsequently. The US could not be brought down to its knees and it did not affect the ISAF-led war on terrorism in Afghanistan. Instead, Pakistan had to face the brunt of pressure from not only the US and NATO, but all the countries that have contributed troops to the ISAF.
More than this pressure, Pakistan’s vulnerability, especially due its dependence on external funds to sustain and survive, means that it cannot afford even to bargain, let alone bulldozing through to its original demands.
Finally, the threat of non-attendance at the Chicago summit without was the ultimatum. Islamabad made another blunder towards the end of last year by boycotting the Bonn summit on Afghanistan. It was a rash decision, which many within Pakistan questioned. If Pakistan does not get to attend this summit, it would be a huge political loss in terms of reshaping its neighbourhood, especially from the perspective the withdrawal and road map for Afghanistan in the aftermath of 2014. Though Pakistan has linkages with the Haqqani network, it will not be able to achieve much in Kabul through terrorism and violence. It has to engage in Afghanistan in constructively, or at least be seen as such by the international community. Besides funding support, Islamabad also needs the international community to achieve its own objectives in Kabul towards and after 2014.
Now that the decision has been taken, what next? The Difa-e-Council Pakistan, an alliance of groups, parties and organizations who are likely to lead Pakistan into an abyss may launch a movement against the political and military leadership. More against the former than the latter. Consisting of all religious parties and radical organizations, this Council is the worst to have happened to Pakistan in the recent past. Though bereft of any sound ideology or political support, they have street power.
Worse still, there is a strong public sentiment against the US - reopening the supply line will not only increase these anti-American sentiments, but also alienate the PPP further from the people. The PPP, especially Zardari, will be at the receiving end of public wrath. Fortunately, the military leadership will hide behind the political leadership - remember, the decision to reopen the route has the sanction of the Parliament! Though the decision was taken by the Defence Committee, which also comprises the three Chiefs, none of them are likely to make a public comment on the need to reopen the route. The reopening ensures not only civilian aid, but also unlocks military wares.
And of course, the Sharifs and the PML-N are not going to let go of this opportunity – in a corner over the issue of new provinces within Punjab, they will seize this moment to rejuvenate their agenda. Who knows, someone may even be filing a case in the Supreme Court against the reopening of this route.
What would be interesting is the public debate whipped up by a section of the media, referred to as the ghairatmand press by Kamran Shafi in one of his columns. In the name of honour and sovereignty, thissection within the print and electronic media is likely to unleash a frenzy that may inflict damage on Pakistan’s interests.
Perhaps the political, military and intelligence leadership should now realize that arousing public sentiment and abusing the media in the name of honour and sovereignty to cover their own inaction and failure would invite more harm than good. But the unfortunate truth lessons have not been learnt from past mistakes.
As a result, reopening the route now will pose more problems to the leadership than keeping it closed. That is the situation that Pakistan has led itself into: 'I’ll damned if I do anything, I’ll be damned if I do nothing'.
D Suba Chandran,
"Reading Pakistan: Stand-Off on NATO Supply Line," 14 May 2012
D Suba Chandran,
"Reading Pakistan: What will follow the NATO Strikes?," 30 November 2011
D Suba Chandran,
"Reading Pakistan: What if US-Pak Ties Break?," 4 October 2011
D Suba Chandran,
"Reading Pakistan: Why is the Haqqani Network so Important?," 26 September 2011
D Suba Chandran,
"Reading Pakistan-IV: A War within Pakistanís Security Establishment?," 1 June 2011
|Article by same Author
• Pakistan Elections 2013: A Preliminary Analysis
• Dragon in Ladakh: Deciphering Chinese long term interests
• Iran, Islam and Nuclear Weapons: Engage Teheran instead of Isolating
• Core, Periphery and Indian Foreign Policy: The growing divide between Delhi and sub-regions
• Pir Panjal International Festival: Marketing Rajouri, Poonch, Bhaderwah and Basholi
• India, Pakistan and the Nuclear Race: No Clear Winners
• Mullahs to Monks: Why is our Clergy Angry and Violent?
• Pakistan Elections 2013: Movers, Shakers and Losers
• Myanmar: US, China and An Eastern Great Game?
• The Indo-Pacific: Indiaís Look East 3.0
• Early Warning and Peace Alert: Transforming Rajouri & Poonch in J&K
• J&K after Afzal Guru: Immediate Excuse and Inherent Problems
• Reading Pakistan: Why Target Health Workers Administering Vaccinations?
• Af-Pak Diary: Decoding Hakimullah Mehsudís Talks Offer
• Af-Pak Diary: Are Regional Differences over Afghanistan Irreconcilable?
• Af-Pak Diary: A Region-Led, Region-Owned Solution for Afghanistan
• Obama-II and the Af-Pak: Worst is Yet to Come?
• Malala: Is Pakistan Externalizing an Internal Problem?
• Attack on Pakistanís Kamra Airbase: What Next for Pakistan and the TTP?
• Indiaís Nuclear Doctrine: How Elastic and Transparent should it be?
• IPCS Debate: Targeted Killings as a Counter-Naxal Strategy
• Reading Pakistan: What Next After the Judicial Coup, My Lord?
• Radha Vinod Raju: A Tribute
• Conflict Alert: Rohingyas, Rakhines and Regional Security
• Pakistan: Declining Foreign Direct Investment