US dilemma in Pakistan

Washington appears to be trying hard to introduce some sort of equilibrium in its relationship with Islamabad, bringing all stakeholders including the powerful army onboard.

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Published: Mon 25 Oct 2010, 9:55 PM

Last updated: Mon 6 Apr 2015, 1:48 PM

As a convention, the United States has always maintained ‘right’ relations and contacts with the Pakistani army and politicians — very often leaving the people guessing. President Barack Obama’s inclination to stand with the democratic forces in Pakistan, irrespective of the growing allegations of corruption and bad governance, has irked many. Moreover, Pakistan’s tensions with the US over transgression of its territory, proved beyond doubt that it is difficult to choose between the army and the government. Thus the visit of Pakistan’s army chief General Ashfaq Pervez Kayani to Washington, who made an effort to dictate new terms of cooperation in fighting the war on terrorism, was viewed as a make-or-break event. At the end of the day though, the Pak military leadership and the US were found to be on the same page. The $2 billion aid package for defence procurement, though peanuts in essence, hints at the indispensability of bilateral relations and the keenness of the allies not to upset the applecart. However, a lot remains to be done in plotting a new course of action in the region. The US approach of netting high-value targets through drone attacks is not working. Nor is Islamabad willing to grant the coalition forces, stationed right across its western borders in Afghanistan, to act inside its territory.

Similarly, as a backlash against the US policies, militants are rapidly gaining ground in Pakistan. This development has almost marginalised the government, which is evident from its lack of writ in controlling the law and order situation from the mountainous northwest to the shores of Karachi. Coupled with this is an unending row with the judiciary that has kept the government of Prime Minister Gillani on tenterhooks. If Washington is really serious in strengthening democracy in Pakistan and dealing with the extremist groups, it needs to let the political and military leadership in Pakistan to deal with the issue on their own. This policy of dictation has to come to an end in Washington’s own, long-term interests in the region.

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