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Pushed or shoved?

As US leaders prepare to confront Islamabad, Pakistan's politicians and more importantly its military establishment must come clean

By Imtiaz Gul

Friday Times ,May 13, 2011

"Pakistan is a real problem because they have nuclear weapons. And I would say something that I haven’t heard. I would say we don’t give them any money unless they get rid of their nuclear weapons,” Republican leader Donald Trump told Fox News on May 10. “It’s very much like China,” said Trump, who is considering a presidential bid. “These are not friends of ours. These are people that are totally in for themselves and probably some pretty bad people and some enemies. They are not friends of ours and we’re going to probably have to deal with them a lot differently than we thought. We’re giving them $3.2 billion a year and they do not love us.”

“I think it’s important that we have a good relationship with Pakistan, but not at any price,” Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin said the same day. The democrat said Washington should formally object to Pakistan leaking the name of the CIA station chief in Islamabad, “if they leaked it”. “They’re trying to show that they’re not responding affirmatively to too many things we’re asking for these days.” 

Levin, who is the second senior US lawmaker in two days to express deep misgivings about relations with Pakistan, also demanded that US interrogators be given access to Osama bin Laden’s family.

In Islamabad, US Ambassador Cameron Munter said “Pakistan needs to provide answers about what OBL had been doing in the country, and why the law-enforcement agencies failed in locating him.” 

What implications do these statements have on US-Pakistan ties and for Pakistan’s security establishment, which is perhaps in a very vulnerable position, both politically and strategically, regardless of whether it facilitated the US Navy Seals raid or was just caught napping?

The Abbottabad debacle has exposed the dysfunctional nature of Pakistan’s security institutions and the mis-governance by the unaccountable political and military elite. 

The civilian leadership remained quiet for several days before Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani made a speech in the National Assembly that showed no remorse or indignation. We are one, the ISI is a national asset, and a military general would investigate the “intelligence failure”, he said. The speech, delivered with fumbles and partial incoherence, hardly made any impact on the debate over the elimination of the world’s most wanted terrorist. 

But the military establishment’s conflicting narratives – such as the army chief’s warning of “disastrous consequences” to the US in case of any such action in future, and the air chief’s admission that the radars were inactive – are a greater cause of concern.

The OBL affair has brought into question the professional capabilities of the world’s 7th largest military, and its Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) directorate. For the first time in decades, the military establishment is in the line of fire. The army directly handles the foreign policy, and the US raid has put it on the defensive. The strident disposition the army had projected so far would, and should, now hopefully give way to introspection and a more critical analysis of what went wrong.

This might excite many politicians, who were swearing in 14 new ministers (who would cost Pakistan 1.4 million a day) on the day of the raid. 

Pakistan’s military and civil leaders must explain whether Pakistan actually gets $3.2 billion a year, and why we keep hearing that the US is injecting billions of dollars into Pakistan but Islamabad continues to dodge them. The entire government must come clean on this. 

The writer heads the Centre for Research and Security Studies, Islamabad

Email: imtiaz@crss.pk