Pak-US ties - I

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The Obama administration, including Ambassador Cameron Munter, has left few opportunities to embarrass not only Pakistan's civilian government but also the military establishment.

The list reflecting the veracity of this charge is indeed exhaustive.

It all began with WikiLeaks, which to be fair did not reflect Obama administration's intent though it did reflect US government's flawed intranet system (available to those within the system as opposed to internet) that laid itself open to whistleblowers in relatively junior positions with obviously less stake in the status quo.

Statements attributed to President Zardari, Gilani as well as the Chief of Army staff Kayani to the then US Ambassador Anne Patterson especially with respect to their public versus real position on CIA directed drone strikes embarrassed the three considerably.

Prime Minister Gilani's denial that the WikiLeaks revelations were not true was unbelievable as the Obama administration did not deny their veracity.

Neither of the three comprising the troika came out of these leaks smelling of roses.Those who reckoned that WikiLeaks was a dead issue in 2012 were no doubt amazed by yet another leak carried by UK's Daily Telegraph on Valentine's day 2012: "Sir Jock Stirrup, then Chief of the Defence Staff, told American diplomats that Pakistan was already in an 'arguably worse' state a month after Mr Zardari's election..." His comments were echoed by high-ranking British officials who said Zardari had 'not much sense of how to govern a country' and no goals beyond 'hanging on to power'.

The President was defined as "highly corrupt" and a "numbskull", language that must understandably raise the ire of the people of this country in general, even those who do not support the PPP, and of the PPP in particular.

These statements by UK officials can be dismissed as perceptions, yet the timing of the revelation may have some importance to the forthcoming Senate and general elections.Secondly, the handling of the Raymond Davis case remains unique in diplomatic history: Davis shot dead two Pakistani motorcyclists in broad daylight while the Embassy car that came to his rescue from the wrong side of the street killed a bicyclist while reversing out of the public melee surrounding Davis.

Raymond Davis was later escorted out of the country and within 24 hours, a drone strike killing several was seen as US revenge for Davis's incarceration.

Obama publicly stated that Davis had full immunity, a claim that was not only challenged by the then Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi but was never proved beyond a shadow of doubt.There has been no recorded incident of wilful murder of a native of the country where a diplomat is stationed in the annals of diplomatic history.

I have painstakingly looked at criminal incidents involving diplomats for the past thirty years and identified eleven cases.

Out of these eleven only three apart from Davis relate to US diplomats: (i) in 1997 US Deputy Ambassador to the Republic of Georgia caused an accident that injured 4 people and killed a 16-year-old girl, however his immunity was waived upon the request of the US government and he was convicted of manslaughter and sentenced to 7 to 21 years.

After serving three years of his sentence, he was returned to the US, where he spent two more years in jail before being paroled; (ii) in October 1998 US Consul General in Vladivostok Russia was involved in a car accident that left a young man disabled and a US court ruled that as he was using his own vehicle for consular purposes he could not be sued civilly; and (iii) on 3rd December 2004 an American marine with 0.09 percent alcohol level serving in Bucharest disregarded a traffic signal, collided with a cab and killed a popular Romanian musician.

His immunity was not waived by the US though he was court martialed and convicted of obstruction of justice and making false statements.

He was acquitted of manslaughter.

Davis in contrast has been punished but not for the brutal murders in Pakistan, where blood money was paid and accepted, but for losing his temper and physically intimidating a fellow American in the parking lot of a US mall.

The acceptance of blood money was as much dependent on those Pakistani officials who brokered the agreement as on the greed of the relatives of the deceased.My research also showed that the remaining incidents not involving US diplomats were also not as audacious a crime as that perpetrated by Davis and the embassy car that killed a bicyclist on the streets of Lahore.

These were: (i) in 1979 the Burmese Ambassador shot his wife dead as she returned form visiting her paramour, (ii) in 1984 as Libyan dissidents protested outside the Libyan embassy in London, policewoman Yvonne Fletcher was killed by gunshots from the embassy; (iii) in 1987 the abused two children of an administrative attache in the Zimbabwean embassy in New York told police that their father beat them but diplomatic immunity was invoked and no charges were filed; (iv) in January 2001 a Russian diplomat in Canada drove his car into two pedestrians on a residential street killing one and injuring another.

Russia refused Canadian request for waiver of immunity but tried him in Russia for involuntary manslaughter and sentenced him to four years; (v) in November 2006 a Kenyan diplomat was released by US police after he assaulted his son; (vi) a Mexican press attache was seen stealing blackberry PDA units from the White House but was released when he said it was accidental and claimed immunity, however he was fired for the incident; (vii) a Romanian diplomat accused of drunk driving in Singapore killed a 30-year-old man and injured two others.

He left the country three days later and Romania did not waive his immunity; and (viii) a Canadian junior envoy was arrested in Tanzania for spitting at a police officer on duty in the middle of a traffic jam.The second incident that embarrassed the Pakistani military establishment was the raid on Osama bin Laden's compound where the ISI was publicly compelled to accept the charge of incompetence rather than complicity as the lesser of the two evils with respect to bin Laden's six-year presence in a house in Abbottabad.

Leon Panetta the then CIA chief said that the intelligence on the operation to take out bin Laden was not shared with Pakistan out of fear that it would "jeopardise the mission" thereby unambiguously implying ISI complicity.

Within Pakistan, however questions about the billions of dollars of equipment that the hapless people of this country paid from their tax rupees to equip the military and ISI and enable them to deal with external threats were raised.

It was a particularly bleak moment in the establishment's history.Then came the Salalah incident that killed 24 Pakistani soldiers.

The two countries continue to refuse to accept the veracity of each other's reports identifying the causes behind the unfortunate incident.

The Defence Committee of the Cabinet took two decisions in response to the attack: (i) to stop Nato supplies to Afghanistan and (ii) ask the US to vacate Shamsi base pending a review of relations by the parliament.

Shamsi base has been vacated, however Cameron Munter recently revealed that Pakistani airspace is allowed to send supplies to Nato.

This was acknowledged by Ahmed Mukhtar, however he insisted that only perishables were being allowed to be airlifted from Pakistan.

The Prime Minister obviously embarrassed during a meeting with editors and columnists refused to comment on air lifting of supplies other than to cite the DCC decisions.

The Pakistani military is insisting on an apology which the US President has so far refused to extend and given the fact that Nato forces are receiving supplies, albeit at more expensive prices, the possibility of an apology in a US election year remains out of the question.And to add insult to injury Cameron Munter publicly stated that he had received a copy of the report reviewing US-Pakistan relations well before it was submitted to our parliament.

The report is pending with the Speaker, pending the approval of the twentieth amendment.Subsequent to the Salalah incident there was a suspension of drone strikes for little more than a month.

That has changed and there have been more than 6 drone strikes since with no condemnation by either the government or the military.The most recent embarrassment was Munter's statement while addressing the Harvard Kennedy School that if General Pasha goes, then the CIA ISI relations maybe compromised.

The PM, when asked, said he would take a decision as and when the time came and in the national interest - a response designed not to hit Munter on the knuckle for his statement with obvious overtures of interference in our internal affairs.The bill tabled in Congress recognising the right of self determination to Balochistan, a right not extended to Kashmir in spite of the decades' long documented human rights violations, reflects the failure of our foreign policy as well as the success of India's.

But it certainly embarrassed our civilian government and military establishment.The foregoing does not detail the embarrassment caused to the Pakistani government by periodic US exhortations to 'do more' and the periodically hurled thinly disguised accusations linking the ISI with the Taliban.So why do we take such sustained abuse from our US friends? First because the mindset of our politicians, to borrow President Zardari's much-used phrase, is that without US support a government in Pakistan would necessarily fall.

And second the assistance - military and civilian that only the US extends to this country.This is the first of a two-part series of articles detailing the breadth of US-Pakistan relations.

Next week's article will explore the financial relationship between the two countries.

Courtesy: Business Recorder

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