By Senator A Rehman Malik
Former Federal Interior Minister
Originally Published By The Nation
Pakistan has always been unlucky as far as friendship with the US is concerned. Each time, the US uses Pakistan and later abandons it without any guilt or remorse.
The history of President Donald Trump’s statements are a clear indication of his upsetting attitude towards Pakistan. Long before the presidency race, Trump had worrisome sentiments about Pakistan, suggesting to pull-back on aid stating, “They are not friends of ours, (There are) plenty of other terrorists in Pakistan, we know that.” He also called Pakistan “a vital problem, because they have a thing called nuclear weapons”. Similarly, in an interview, President Trump favored keeping 10,000 troops in Afghanistan to contain Pakistan and keep an eye on it up close. In several other interviews, he kept on mentioning the unusual concern over Pakistan’s nuclear weapons and their safety.
Furthermore, President Trump also believes that Pakistan is providing safe havens to the Taliban and other terrorist organisations. Back in 2012, Trump tweeted, “When will Pakistan apologies to us for providing a safe sanctuary to Osama Bin Laden for 6 years”. Ironically, even now as the President of the United States, he is fed the same lies by the Pentagon. The ground reality is very different than the rhetoric which the Trump administration is selling to its public and the world. These allegations do not prove the support of terrorists by Pakistan and we must not give in to any pressure and accept something we are not guilty of.
History shows that Pakistan has always lent a hand, right from providing Badhbair airbase to USA during the Cold War to fight against the Soviet army in Afghanistan and to fight the War on Terror post-9/11. This practical support was in line with the ethos of friendship and in the greater interests of global peace and security. However, the unwavering support in all international security matters was never taken in the same spirit; rather, Pakistan was left alone in the hour of need.
Ever since the first Afghan war, Pakistan threw all its available resources including its infrastructure behind the US forces but they still took advantage of the hospitality extended by former President General Musharraf. The US expanded the CIA network in Pakistan against the norms of friendship. The trust of Pakistan was betrayed however; when the US unilaterally used drones to presumably destroy hideouts of terrorists in Pakistan. The drone attacks caused collateral damage in terms of killing innocent people. These drone attacks thus caused ripples amongst the people of Pakistan, as it was considered to be a threat to its sovereignty. This in turn, influenced the minds of innocent people who opted to join terrorist organisations to take revenge for the loved ones they had lost.
Interestingly, we were great friends when Pakistan was assisting two war ventures undertaken by the US. There was no ‘do more’ demand, rather, both FBI and CIA were praising Pakistan at all levels. However, with the failure of the US strategy in Afghanistan, successive US administrations started asking Pakistan to ‘do more’ to cover up their own failures in the South Asian region.
I remember 5-hour long meetings with Mr. Mohammad Hanif Atmar, the Interior Minister of Afghanistan at the time, to create a strategy for AF-Pak cooperation to share intelligence on terrorists. We (the two interior ministers) signed an agreement to fight terrorism with a common strategy and a commitment to open immigration posts on the Pak-Afghan border. Mr. Muller had flown all the way from the US to sign as witness. Unfortunately, later, this agreement was not honored by Afghanistan and President Karzai eventually scraped it. President Donald Trump however, must know that Afghanistan does not want to work with Pakistan, as Mr. Ashraf Ghani wants to side with his new puppet-master, PM Modi of India.
It is very unfortunate to see that President Trump has chosen this moment, when there is political polarization in Pakistan and the Pakistan Army is fighting its heart and soul against the terrorists. Moreover, the Indian inimical statements on CPEC are no more a secret. PM Modi has become aggressive against China and has deliberately increased its forces on the Chinese boarder. This move got the Indians a touch of response by China when nearly 50 Indian soldiers lost their lives for violating the border. The latest threats by President Trump are clearly driven by the US-Indian nexus serving its own cause.
I believe that the threat of Donald Trump on South Asia is three-pronged; it is a threat to Pakistan, Iran and China at the same time (without their names being mentioned). The chest-thumping against Pakistan will automatically bring more suffering to Afghanistan, as threats to Pakistan will further deteriorate the security situation in Afghanistan.
Pakistan does have a right to ask President Trump as to who converted Afghanistan into a war zone. The Afghan-Pak border is a war zone because of the US allowing disgruntled criminals including Osama bin Laden and Yousaf Ramzi to become monsters. Where is the fault of Pakistan? Despite making countless sacrifices, are we to blame for deciding to be your ally during the time of war?
How can President Trump forget that CIA created the infamous Haqqani network along with Abu Sayyaf groups? All these groups reside in Afghanistan and Afghanistan is not under the control of Pakistan but under the Afghan government and US military. It is strange to ask Pakistan to do more when administratively and militarily, the area which is harboring terrorism is under your control. Mr. President, do not put the blame of the failures of the Afghan Government in cooperating with Pakistan to stop the flow of terrorists from Pak-Afghan border. We are not a nation to be thrown under the bus for sacrificing our soldiers and innocent people in fighting someone else’s war. We are not just facing the repercussions of the war against terror but also the incompetency of our neighbor Afghanistan, which has caused us a great deal of loss by not cooperating with us in securing the porous border.
President Trump, please see the historical facts of how Pakistan has made sacrifices during this war on terror which was basically your war, which we fought with our blood. Please rethink and do not commit the mistake which was committed by President Bush and Obama in Iraq and Syria.
President Trump, buy peace for South Asia, as selling war would otherwise engulf the whole world. Your recent policy statement vis-à-vis Afghanistan and Pakistan would further fuel the already prevalent hatred against the US. You can control your drones and planes but you will not be able to control mind-sets and radicalization, which may erupt from this region like the expansion of Daesh worldwide.
Mr. President, come with an open heart and let us take forward your wish to create a common strategy against the common enemy. Let the people of Pakistan utter your name with positivity, to be remembered as a peace lover, and not as a supporter of wars and threats. It’s a tested truth that winning peace is way harder than winning a war. At this moment, it is for you to decide what is it that you want to win; peace or war?