Is the US an ally or not?


The following column by Farrukh Khan Pitafi appeared in Daily Times.

Farrukh Khan PitafiThose who have come to like the television series West Wing and liked the character Josh Lyman will surely feel broken hearted at the departure of Rahm Emanuel from the Obama administration. For a while, there have been media speculations that the dynamic chief of staff on whom Josh’s character is said to be based would leave the administration. So he did and do not ask me why. These are mad times and in this pandemonium people often fall apart. But things were not like this since eternity. Bob Woodward’s new book Obama’s Wars portrays him as a trusted confidant of the president. Recently, another book that came and was criticised in my humble view quite unjustly is Tony Blair’s autobiography A Journey: My Political Life. The book is not only a first person narrative of the critical events of our recent past, but also an insight into the mind of the man we once loved, and then loathed. If anything, President Obama needs to read this book so that his memoirs after his stint in power do not sound so apologetic and self-defeating.

Obama’s Wars, however, brings to us an absolutely different story and mercifully a lot of answers to our current predicament. At the very start, the book establishes Pakistan as the biggest concern for the Obama administration and our very nation is the chief problem even at its end. And those who do not want to understand why should at least read the book with some empathy. I am not here to write a review of the book, only to compliment the fact that it gives an interesting insight into the minds of the key players, including our politicians, generals and other movers and shakers. The distrust of Ambassador Husain Haqqani by people from within Pakistan is noteworthy among the details. Also, the profile of Bruce Riedel may appear interesting because many in this country blame him for sowing the seeds of apprehension in the hearts of the Obama administration’s intelligence managers.

But regardless of what is written in the book, or the image Mr Riedel has projected, the mutual distrust between the two countries has reached new heights. The North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) and International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan have stepped up their drone and occasional manned assaults. Pakistan has stopped NATO supplies to Afghanistan in return and somehow we think this is the solution. General Petraeus is now widely being proclaimed our biggest enemy. And somehow we forget that we are talking about a nation that, in an ironic twist of fate, has been our only constant ally since the very inception of our nation. Look, do not question my loyalty to my country and do not think for a second that I am the lackey of another. I did not write Pakistan’s history and I did not take the critical decisions that define us, but that is the way things are. From the days of Liaquat Ali Khan to date, this is the only country that has defined our strategic choices.

I often feel nauseous at the hypocrisy prevalent in our ‘mainstream’ media. When we comment on the drone attacks and Dr Aafia Siddiqui, seldom do we mention that Pakistan compromised its territorial sovereignty the day we accepted our role in the proxy war against the Soviet Union and collected non-state elements from across the globe. Nor do we remind the audience that this country’s thin economic lifeline is in commission because of this ally that we are so determined to ostracise and alienate. This is some kind of Peter Pan syndrome where we simply refuse to grow up. I do not approve of the predator attacks, but folks have we ever wondered why did this day ever come to pass?

Not only are we so silly and dishonest that we have not built anything credible in this country, which could bring some growth in our GDP, we are so hypocritical that we do not even want to accept that the country spending money on us to cover for our financial deficiencies is in fact doing us a favour. No, there have to be circles within circles, conspiracies to rob us of something that we have miserably failed to discover, and of course that noxious agenda to destroy the Islamic ummah in which we barely fit. It is astonishing to see that even by Islamic standards we are supposed to be thankful to someone that obliges us with favours, no matter Muslim or not. But I guess we will not do that but go on inventing a new Islam for ourselves.

We flatter ourselves with delusions that we have a truckload of other geostrategic options with nations as our friends, dying to come to our rescue. Wake up friends, no one is there. China’s own economy is overheating. The Saudis would not do anything to displease the US, and Iran is already encircled, thanks to the wisdom of its leaders. On the other hand, the International Monetary Fund (IMF), World Bank, Asian Development Bank (ADB) and Washington are one and the same thing. And this is the only place where we can get aid to rebuild the economy and in case of honest attempts, becoming truly independent eventually.

Then there is the question of counterintelligence. In the above-mentioned book, it has been made clear that at the start of the drone programme, our country was informed in advance to minimise civilian casualties, but it resulted in the terrorists being tipped off about the assault. Hence they decided to inform us after the attacks. In other words, our own stupidity has compromised our leverage with the coalition forces. Granted there can be some misunderstanding about our intentions also, but to compromise the only leverage we have been left with over the western forces by withdrawing the logistical support is foolish at best. The time has come for the powers that be in the Islamic Republic to make a critical decision. If we think that the league of obscurantists called the Taliban are a good idea, we should give up pretences and surrender the country to the thugs. If not, we should be sincere to our country and alleviate the US concerns and resolve issues through negotiations.

The writer is an independent columnist and a talk show host.