By Syed Talat Hussain
For a change the government has responded effectively to the attack on Pakistan’s border check-posts by Nato helicopters in Momand Agency that resulted in the death (shahadat) of 26 Pakistani soldiers and officers besides injuries to many others. The defence committee of the cabinet while referring to the joint resolution of the Parliament of 14 May 2011, has decided to close with immediate effect the NATO/ISAF logistics supply lines besides asking the US to vacate the the Shamsi Airbase within 15 days.
It has also been decided to review all programmes, activities and cooperative arrangements with US/NATO/ISAF, including diplomatic, political, military and intelligence. These are significant steps but their implementation would be closely observed even if the government is seemingly sincere in going through with its promised response. These steps need to be observed because these must not be symbolic. These should be long-term and permanent. Nato supplies have for years been a thorn in the side of Pakistan’s policy and while there have been several high profile apologists for allowing these supplies to pass the country’s terrain, generally these have been unwelcome.
Now is the time and the opportunity to shut them down permanently. There is no international obligation that would over-ride national consensus. Getting the US to vacate Shamsi airbase is also the step that should have been taken long-time ago. It is amazing and criminal how the state and the government of Pakistan quietly and consistently allowed this base to be used for such a long time. It had to take the blood of thousands of Pakistanis for this issue to be finally decided. It is a shame but still better late than never.
Reviewing relations with the US and Nato countries is just as important. It cannot be symbolic either. This review process must be done thoughtfully and should be made the basis of a new and recast foreign policy. Half-hearted measures and those meant to tide over the tragic bombings’s immediate aftermath would be disastrous. The latest attack is a function of failed policies that the government and to a large extent the army persisted with even after it was proven that this was the wrong course of action. When civilians were getting killed in drone attacks the state and the government should have taken appropriate measures then: delaying that response has cost the country dearly.