US is Testing Pakistani Nerves in Balochistan

The US policy in relation to Pakistan-from the moment Pakistan succumbed to Washington’s blatant arm twisting under its erstwhile cavalier military dictator, General Pervez Musharraf, on the heels of George W. Bush’s so-called ‘war against terror’-has been one of keeping its ‘front-line’ ally under relentless pressure.

Raising the bar for Pakistan to prove its fidelity and allegiance to Washington’s incessant war-mongering has gone on for more than a decade, with Pakistan reacting to crude pressuring with varying moods and responses.

The graph of Pakistani reaction to Washington’s brinkmanship remained fairly constant under Musharraf. Pakistan played a loyal second-fiddle to the US strategy in Afghanistan because Musharraf owed his base of power in Pakistan entirely because of Washington’s patronage. He buckled when Washington gazed hard at him and implemented his mentor’s diktat without so much as a squeak of demur or protest.

However, the Americans have found it a rather difficult and hard going, vis-à-vis Pakistan, since Musharraf’s eclipse from power and the coming into its elements of the current democratic dispensation that claims to speak on behalf of the people that elected it.

But while Pakistani politicians and self-proclaimed ‘people’s representatives’ may just be pretending that they have the backbone to stand up to an imperialist power with far-reaching designs on the region in which Pakistan is placed, it’s a combination of people’s anger and Pakistan army’s growing frustration with Washington’s irascible aggrandizement that seems to have visibly soured the Pakistani mood against the Americans and their unabashed big-brotherly shenanigans.

It goes without saying that the mood of the Pakistani people has been one of consistent opposition to their government’s involvement on the side of a rapacious imperialist power waging war against a poor neighbour of Pakistan. Survey-after-survey of public opinion in Pakistan, conducted by both Pakistani and overseas pollsters, has found the Pakistani people firmly arrayed against Pakistan’s participation in the war against Afghanistan as an American stooge. To the people of Pakistan it’s America’s war that Pakistan has been fighting and, in the process, paying with the blood of its soldiers and the lives of its civilians to satisfy America’s lust for lording over as many countries of the world as possible. They have facts and figures, compiled by independent sources, to buttress their opposition to the US war: at least 3500 Pakistani soldiers, including officers, have been killed in fighting Washington’s war of revenge against the Afghans, not to mention 45,000 Pakistani civilians killed in acts of terrorism and retaliation triggered by Pakistan’s involvement in the US war.

At the same time it’s the Pakistan army that also seems to have lost its patience with constant American needling of it and relentless demand for it to ‘do more’ to pull Washington’s chestnut out of the Afghan fire.

The Pakistan army’s patience with Washington snapped, in particular, last year, in 2011, when a series of jolts in US-Pakistan relations apparently rocked the boat to its bottom. The murder of Osama bin Laden in May 2011in the garrison town of Abbottabad; before that the daylight murder, in cold blood, of two Pakistani youths at the hands of a CIA-hired mercenary enraged the people of Pakistan and forced Pakistan’s beleaguered generals to heed the anger of the people in like manner.

The proverbial last straw that broke the back of the Pakistani military brass, vis-à-vis a provocative Washington, was the early-dawn raid by US aircraft against a Pakistani check-post in North Waziristan, last November 26, that killed 24 Pakistani soldiers and invited a huge uproar from the people. The Pakistani leadership and the country’s military brass concluded that they could no longer disregard the people’s rage and had to calibrate their response to the outrage to reflect the popular sentiment.

Pakistan’s retaliation wasn’t only swift but fully in accord with the popular sentiment. The axe fell on the facility of Pakistan’s territory used to supply vital logistics to US and NATO troops in Afghanistan. Pakistan’s decision to suspend that facility was a heavy blow to the western war-mongers waging war against the Afghans. Pakistan’s response virtually strangled the jugular of the western forces keeping the Afghans in their thrall. That sensitive supply line hasn’t been restored by Pakistan, to date.

In the wake of Pakistani freeze on NATO and US supplies, Washington has been posturing for being contrite and insisted that it wants to put relations with Islamabad on an even keel of respect for Pakistani dignity and sensitivities. However, some of its actions are still-wittingly or un-wittingly-calibrated to further provoke the people of Pakistan and raise the ire of its government.

The latest salvo of Pakistan-bashing and grating on the national sensibilities of its people has come from a Republican Congressman from California, Dana Rohrabacher.

Rohrabacher, a Zionist to boot, has the reputation of being a curmudgeon and a gadfly. He has also been desperately trying to build up a reputation of sorts of being a Pakistan-basher ready to spring into action against America’s front-rank ally in the war against terror at any given opportunity. For instance, on the heels of Osama bin Laden’s demise in Abbottabad last May, Rohrabacher had tabled a resolution demanding that all US civilian and military assistance to Pakistan be capped for good for its crime of sheltering OBL. He didn’t make much headway in that pursuit.

However, in his latest crusade against Pakistan, Rohrabacher has introduced a draft resolution, co-sponsored by two other like-minded and maverick Republican Congressmen-Louie Gohmert (Texas) and Steve King (Iowa)-and saying that the ‘Balochi nation’ of Pakistan has a ‘historic right to self-determination.’

The Balochistan province of Pakistan has long been restive and in ferment. In terms of population, Balochistan is smallest of Pakistan’s four provinces. However, it is rich in mineral resources-such as gas, gold, copper, coal and others-coveted not only in Pakistan but by others too, especially countries like US with ambitious plans of expansionism and designs to exploit such resources for the benefit of, not the people of Balochistan or Pakistan but their own.

The Pakistani people have long suspected US of entertaining ulterior motives in regard to Balochistan, largely because of its strategic location right next door to Iran. Congressman Rohrabacher’s draft resolution speaks volumes of such hostile and not-so-covert designs as it mentions not only the Balochis of Pakistan but also Balochis living in Iran and Afghanistan.

Why should a segment of American law-makers suddenly feel a pang of concern and empathy for the rights of the Balochi people is not at all surprising to those who have been keeping a watch on US’ mounting problems in Afghanistan and its ongoing sabre-rattling against Iran.

The US policy on Afghanistan and the Obama administration’s much-touted strategy of stick-and-carrot in relation to the Taliban has long been caught in a rut. Obama and his whiz-kids just don’t know how to get out of Afghanistan with a veil of honour on their face. By the same token, Obama in this election year seems to have no clearly thought plan on how to contain the Zionists of US and Israel-spearheaded by a rapacious war-monger like Benjamin Netanyahu-and thwart their intoxicating urge to unleash terror against Iran for its alleged nuclear ambitions. So if they can’t get on top of the situation in Afghanistan and vis-à-vis Iran they wouldn’t mind unleashing haywire brain waves like self-determination and independence for the ‘oppressed’ Balochis just for the vicarious pleasure of creating anxiety among the Pakistanis, the Iranians and the Afghans?

Granted that a lone-wolf draft resolution, claiming support of a handful of Congressmen, doesn’t reflect or represent the policy of Obama or his administration; such zany resolutions make their appearance in Congress by the dozen every day and hardly anybody in the outside world takes any notice of them. The Obama spokesmen have already conveyed the distancing of the administration from the Rohrabacher madness.

However, it’s the timing of this resolution which is of the essence in this case.

The maverick and headlines-seeking sensations-mongering Rohrabacher tabled his draft resolution on precisely the day-February 17-when the Presidents of Pakistan, Iran and Afghanistan were meeting in Islamabad in a trilateral summit dedicated ostensibly to exchange views on Afghanistan. But the three had much more on their plates than the future of Afghanistan alone; they were there to seek common ground among themselves on how to deal with Washington’s ambitions and future blue-prints for the region and formulate, as far as possible, a joint strategy or game plan to tackle the challenges being mounted with increasing assertiveness and arrogance against their interests.

US relations with Pakistan at this critical juncture are at their nadir despite public protestations to the contrary from both Islamabad and Washington.

Iran is being squeezed, a la Iraq before George W. Bush’s brutal invasion of 2003, in a variety of ways-some smacking unabashedly of justice of the Vandals-by Washington and its supine western allies in Europe.

Even Afghanistan’s Hamid Karzai is feeling the heat of the latest US ploy to talk directly with the Taliban, in Qatar, over his head and virtually behind his back. The Afghan leader is being insensitively kept out of the loop on Washington’s parleys with the Taliban despite his decade-old allegiance and loyalty to all of American shenanigans and subterfuge vis-à-vis his people and country.

It’s understandable that Pakistan should be terribly upset and outraged at the mischief of US lawmakers and the deafening silence of the Obama administration beyond a pro forma clarification that the Congressional move doesn’t reflect its own policy.  PM Gilani has denounced the move in strongest possible terms and vehemently insisted that Pakistan wouldn’t allow anyone to take liberties with its sovereignty.

Pakistanis are well aware that the stage is being set and pawns are being sought on the regional chess-board to do America’s dirty game against Iran, in particular, while the super power is  also breathing down the necks of Afghanistan and Pakistan, simultaneously. The Islamabad Summit put a sharp focus on this critical development.

What’s especially galling to Pakistan is that US is still dangling sticks and carrots before its eyes. US drones provocatively unleashed yet another round of terror from the air against targets in Pakistan on the very same day the Pakistanis were playing host to their Iranian and Afghan guests. And yet Washington is needling Pakistan to lend it basing privileges in Balochistan so that US may use Pakistan’s territory to mount its likely aggression against Iran.

And what could only be attributed to unabashed rubbing of salt into Pakistan’s wounds, Washington is still tendering unsolicited advice to a gas-and-power staved Pakistan to not buy these vital inputs for it moribund industries from Iran. The Iran-Pakistan gas pipeline project that Pakistan insists will go through no matter how hard Washington may try to block It, is coming into America’s hair-trigger to the utmost consternation of the Pakistanis.

So that’s the latest episode in Pakistan’s ongoing battle of nerves, vis-à-vis its principal ally. The two seem to have their horns locked and testing each other like jaded poker players to see which of the two blinks first.

The Pakistani leadership, otherwise not known for showing much grit or determination in most other case in the past, finds itself in an unenviable situation of confronting the very same power that has been known to under-write its longevity in power. The civilian leadership has the untenable task of living up to the expectations of an enraged populace that feels its dignity and honour is at stake because of Washington’s blatant disregard of Pakistan’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. Obama may not realise that his chess-board gambit has put his Pakistani ‘allies’ on the horns of a dilemma.

This article appeared in The Milli Gazette print issue of 1-15 March 2012 on page no. 18

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