EDITORIAL: Pak-US relations in a fix - Monday, February 14, 2011

Source : http://www.dailytimes.com.pk/default.asp?page=2011\02\14\story_14-2-2011_pg3_1

Pakistan is in a fix. And all because of a man whose diplomatic status is a mystery that has not been solved yet. The Raymond Davis case has landed both Pakistan and the US in the soup. Not only have the Americans postponed an important trilateral meeting that was supposed to take place in Washington between officials from Afghanistan, Pakistan and the US this month, they have also adopted a threatening posture vis-à-vis Pakistan. Foreign Office (FO) spokesman Abdul Basit said that the “trilateral talks will be rescheduled in due course of time. It is important the trilateral process continues. We hope whenever held, (the talks) will yield maximum results for peace and stability.” US State Department spokesman PJ Crowley also said the meeting will be rescheduled soon. This is obviously a pressure tactic by the US government, which is trying its best to get Davis free at any cost. On the other hand, Federal Minister for Information and Broadcasting Dr Firdaus Ashiq Awan said that the government will let the independent judiciary decide the Raymond Davis case as it believed in the rule of law. Former foreign minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi has apparently made his party members angry by alleging that US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had pressurised him to sign a summary that gave diplomatic immunity to Raymond Davis. Dr Ashiq Awan questioned his stance and asked why he had not said anything about this when he was foreign minister. Former minister for water and power, Raja Pervez Ashraf, likened Mr Qureshi to (late) Farooq Leghari and said that he was working on the agenda of anti-PPP forces. Whatever the internal dynamics of the PPP may be, Mr Qureshi’s ‘disclosure’ can become a bone of contention between the PPP government and its adversaries.

It is strange that neither the Foreign Office (FO) nor the government is willing to tell the truth about Raymond Davis’s diplomatic status. The reason why the government is hesitant in committing itself to anything could be that it does not want to give the religious right any more fodder to further destabilise the political situation. The right-wing forces have only just given up on the blasphemy campaign after Prime Minister Gilani’s assurances on several occasions that the blasphemy laws will not be changed. The Taliban have already threatened to kill any government official who facilitates the release of Mr Davis. One of the reasons the government now wants to hold an all-parties roundtable conference is to get out of the mess it has landed itself in after Raymond Davis was arrested. The present dispensation is actually reaping the ‘fruits’ of General (retd) Pervez Musharraf’s policies, who gave permission to the Americans to do as they please on our soil. The surreptitious and illegal presence of many CIA spooks and private security contractors is nothing new. It all began during Musharraf’s regime. It is not the first time that such incidents have taken place in Pakistan even though Raymond Davis’s one was a more serious one.

The US should understand that Pakistan is its frontline ally in the war on terror and not its enemy. Instead of going public with its rigid stance, the US should present the facts to the FO and if Mr Davis enjoys a diplomat’s status, he would obviously be set free. Being arrogant will not help the US, instead it will only increase the anti-American sentiment in Pakistan. As for the postponement of the trilateral meeting, the US is giving the Taliban a fresh lease of life, which could prove to be dangerous for the whole world. It is time to think and act rationally, both by the US and Pakistan. *


The situation in Egypt post-Mubarak is very fluid. The Egyptian military has dissolved parliament and suspended the Egyptian constitution. This is a partial concession in the face of street power. The military has decided to stay in power for another six months or until the next elections take place. Prime Minister Ahmed Shafik will remain the caretaker premier. Mr Shafik seems to be a trusted civilian of the army. It is not yet clear whether Mr Shafik is acceptable to the protestors too, but Egyptian opposition figure, Ayman Nour, said that the military’s statement is a “victory for the revolution”. If the elections take place as planned in September and a civilian government comes to power, the immediate demands of the Egyptian people would be met. Goodwill for the military is still there but if the interim period continues for more than six months, the Egyptians might lose patience with the military just like they did eventually with Mubarak.

The Egyptian military is extremely powerful and has been in power one way or the other since 1952 when it ousted King Farooq in a bloodless coup. The army, through its ups and downs, has been an ally of Israel since the 1979 peace treaty. After Mubarak’s resignation, the military reaffirmed its commitment to all international treaties. Egypt has played a rather conniving role in maintaining peace with Israel at the cost of the Palestinian movement. This move is not very popular with the people of Egypt. What if the protestors on the street now ask the army to change its posture vis-à-vis Israel, especially when it comes to policing the Palestinians on the Gaza border for the Israelis? Chances of a conflict between the army and the people are high under such circumstances. If the military does not want to fall foul of the people, it would be better if it played the role of the ultimate arbiter from behind the scenes and let the democratic process take its course by appointing a civilian acceptable to the people to oversee the transition.

The Israelis and the Americans are obviously happy with the Egyptian military command but the jury is still out if the armed forces would relinquish power so easily. The Egyptian people have shown great resolve and proved to the world that a non-violent movement can also bring about change. The situation can turn bloody if the military does not satisfy the demands of the people. The international community must support the people of Egypt who have lived under a tyrant for the past 30 years and now want their rights. *

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