Friends and Enemies

Taliban militants

Do these look like friends to you?

So far in the Afghanistan war there have been so-called “Friendly Fire” incidents that have killed British, Canadian, American, and now Pakistani soldiers. Anytime a fellow soldier dies it is a tragedy. Sadly, these three are not the first Pakistani soldiers to be killed. Actually, thousands have senselessly lost their lives to attacks by extremist militants. Why do we pay less attention to their deaths and only get outraged now?

Yes, the NATO gunships crossed the border and, in pursuit of militants, killed three of our sons. This is a tragedy that should never happen. But this is also a war for our own survival, and do not mistake it. We must respond to this incident intelligently, and not miss an opportunity to set things right.

According to Syed Saleem Shahzad, writing for Asia Times, the closing of the NATO supply route is the result of pressure from anti-American elements in the military.

Hawkish anti-American elements in Pakistan’s military prevailed on pro-United States army chief General Ashfaq Pervez Kiani to close a key North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) supply route in Pakistan in a move that signals a possible ominous deterioration in relations between Islamabad and Washington.

The official word from Islamabad appears to be that this is not the case – that the supply route has been closed for security reasons. But even this has a double-meaning. As Shahzad points out, the Foreign Office stated that the route would open when public anger subsided. At the same time, though, TTP began attacking NATO supply trucks headed for Afghanistan.

When the government says the route has to be secured, they are telling the truth. The question is, why is it insecure?

That’s a question with a glaringly obvious answer. It’s not just TTP militants that are attacking the supply routes with guns and bombs, it’s certain elements within the country that are attacking the routes with words and ideas.

A perfect example of this is the editorial page of The Nation. Here’s what they had to say yesterday:

Of course, NATO has declared that it is thinking of stopping sending its supplies through Pakistan. This would be a most welcome move by NATO for the Pakistanis who are suffering not just security-wise from these supplies – which are attractive targets for militants – but also its road infrastructure has been destroyed by the heavy NATO traffic traversing these routes. We also know that smuggling has been given a boost as a direct result of the NATO containers not being subject to proper scrutiny by Pakistani authorities. And from all accounts NATO is barely being charged anything at all.

This is just silly. Are we to honestly believe that a NATO supply route is responsible for mass murders against Shias and Ahmadis? Are we to believe that TTP is attacking NATO supply routes by blowing up schools? Or that if only we could get rid of the NATO trucks, our roads would rival the famous Autobahn in Germany? That, if it weren’t for NATO, there would be no smuggling? Rubbish.

Mosharraf Zaidi says this is just the ridiculous chatter of hypernationalists who are trying to exploit the war to advance their own political agenda.

Pakistani hypernationalists will often spew weak, unsubstantiated and ridiculous things to rail at the imperialism of the US war effort. But what most Pakistanis, hypernationalist or not, have little to say about, is how this problem can be solved without proactive American action. To put it more kindly, and as it is likely framed in for-the-record discussions between Gen Kayani and Gen Patraeus — how can threats from Al-Qaeda and its allies in FATA, be eliminated, without America help?

The Nation and their hypernationalist friends don’t have any plans to protect the country. In fact, they even admit as much in their editorial yesterday when they recommended to the government stop funding the military!

So effectively the US is already conducting military operations inside of Pakistan – begging the question where is the Pakistan military? If it is unable to stop the drones, NATO and the CIA operations targeting Pakistan, how will it protect our strategic assets? At the end of the day it really does not matter whether it is “unable” or “unwilling” – for Pakistan the costs are dire in either case.

So, once again one cannot help but reiterate the point that if the military is unable to protect our borders and the lives of our citizens, why are we diverting vast resources to sustain this state institution?

This is ridiculous. How could anyone take this sort of talk seriously? And yet people do.

“Friendly Fire” is no excuse for what happened. But we cannot pretend, like The Nation does, that the US and NATO are “targeting Pakistani territory and its people at will.” Let’s be honest. The Americans could always pack up and go home and where would that leave us? We’d still be at war, only with less help, fewer resources, and no friends to support us.

The deaths of our proud soldiers should be a wake up call. We need to quit wasting time inventing conspiracy theories to blame someone else for everything and actually look at the facts and develop a plan more sophisticated than simply saying “Kick out the Americans! Stop funding the military!” It’s not a game. It’s our own nation that is at stake.

So Mosharraf Zaidi is right when he says,

Pakistan has to deal with threats to its internal security, such as those posed by the TTP and their ilk. It also has to deal with threats to its national security from outside — including the threat of retaliation if a terrorist group based in Pakistan successfully attacked another country, or indeed even the threat of conspiracies hatched by other countries.

He’s also right when he points out that if we don’t get it together, things will only get worse. “Countries that have no plans of their own are going to have plans made for them”.

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