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Pakistan and the U.S. need to work together

The language was a bit murky at first but inevitably the true nature of Pakistan-U.S. relations began to unravel. Immediately after the reported death of Bin Laden, Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari would only speak in general terms about military and intelligence cooperation between the two countries, and would not go into specifics about the operation ― specifics that Islamabad didn’t have in any case.

But when the spitting contest took its course, both sides found it hard to hold back their words.

For some Pakistani officials, it was about sovereignty. The two countries have, indeed, been at loggerheads over the Americans’ repeated cross-border attacks in the form of hot pursuit carried out by the U.S.-led multinational forces as they hunt down al-Qaida and its Taleban affiliates. Some of the drone attacks have strayed into civilian targets, thus, driving a bigger wedge between the people of this restive country and the U.S., not to mention the two governments.

Islamabad condemned the operation as an “unauthorized unilateral action”, and warned that this would not be tolerated in the future.

In Washington, the CIA chief, Leon Panetta, said Pakistan was not informed because U.S. officials feared the al-Qaida leader could have been warned.

Inside Pakistan, media coverage has focused on whether the government had prior knowledge of the operation.

Essentially, there are many trees to bark up to and the selection boils down to where one really stands on this matter. Pakistan has the right to raise the issue of sovereignty and the U.S. was fully aware of the problems they had with the country’s intelligence community.

There is an old saying: No need to cry over spilled milk. Yes, feelings were hurt and when the dust is settled, let’s hope that all sides can move towards closing this chapter and letting bygones be bygones. If this global war on terrorism is to succeed, both countries need to work together.

Islamabad, for the time being, should let the Americans have their moment. Folks in Washington, on the other hand, need to put a lid on it. There is no evidence yet that Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence agency (ISI) was playing a double game. But even if that turned out to be the case, what kind of benefit would such information have on the war in Afghanistan?

Pakistan’s campaign against al-Qaida has so far claimed tens of thousands of lives. The strategic interest of Pakistan lies in ending the war against the militants.

Say what you want about Pakistan’s sloppiness, foot-dragging, or the fact that the country was warned about courting the Taleban when these mad mullahs were ruling much of Afghanistan; folks in Washington should also understand that having a friend like the US, especially in this part of the world, is not so easy.

Anyone who passes Ground Zero cannot fail to appreciate the deep scar America still bears. But vengeance was not theirs alone. Bin Laden’s war against the West claimed more Muslim lives than non-Muslim Americans and citizens of the Western world combined. Many died because they were cast as traitors to their religion by fanatics who claimed exclusivity on the interpretation of what the Islamic holy book says.

But in reality, they were riding on the sentiment in the Muslim world, a sentiment that is deep rooted in colonialism and the unfair practices of their leaders who were able to last so long because of their friends in the West.

Today, as scenes on the Arab streets illustrate, the Arab “spring” is overtaking al-Qaida’s fatal attraction. One dictatorship after another is being removed by a new generation of Arabs who demand that their rights and human dignity be respected. And if it means going up against tanks and rockets with small arms and sling shots, so be it. This is a fight for democracy, not for Bin Laden’s caliphate. Decades of lost honor, it seems, is being restored on Arab streets.

(Editorial, The Nation)

(Asia News Network)
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