The Rebel Road…

I know you’ve come to kill me. Shoot, coward, you’re only going to kill a man. – Ernesto Che Guevara

Negroponte’s visit.

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Pakistan’s Foreign Secretary Riaz Ahmed Khan made a correct observation when he said that the relationship between the US and Pakistan has been a ‘long-term’ one. The foreign policy of Pakistan has always displayed a tendency of resolute support for any and all directives issued by the White House – whether these directives are in the best interests of Pakistan or not has usually been a matter of ‘secondary’ consideration. This has been especially true in the last few years with the rise of the al Qaeda ‘menace’ and the resulting war on terror.

US Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte’s visit to Pakistan gains a new dimension in the light of the rising religious militancy in Pakistan and the rising confrontation between local Taliban and the Pakistan military. Negroponte’s statements on the occasion of the second round of the Pak-US strategic dialogue give important indicators regarding US perspectives on Pakistan’s role as its ally. Building an elaborate façade of pursuing long-term strategic relationships with Pakistan, the US is merely acting on a ‘carrot and stick policy’ that has come to define Pak-US foreign relations. As opposed to his previous visit, Negroponte praised Pakistan’s support in the war on terror this time. Negroponte also acknowledged the sacrifices of the 1,000 soldiers killed in the war on terror. It was not clear, however, whether Negroponte took into account the hundreds of military and paramilitary personnel that have refused to fight the Jihadis and have been captured by Taliban rebels as a result. Pakistan has been promised financial assistance of $ 750 million for the development of FATA. However, the viability of this package is questionable, given the fact that no planning has gone into how this aid will be utilised to bring fruitful results. The views expressed by Negroponte in relation to the Nawaz ‘affair’ are extremely telling as far as Washington’s commitment to the democratisation of Pakistan is concerned. It is ironic that the US usually has an opinion regarding even the minutest of political activity taking place in Pakistan but when it comes to anything that goes against the interests of the regime they support, they tend to casually avert their collective gaze. Perhaps this too points towards the vested interest of Washington in bringing about a Bhutto-Musharraf nexus. One wonders if the manhandling of Mian Nawaz Sharif, an ex-Prime Minister of Pakistan, and his forced exile constitutes the ‘amicable and peaceful’ solution that Negroponte hoped for.

The government must realise that the war against religious fundamentalism isn’t just a war in the sole interest of the US. There is a great threat of Talibanisation all along the north-western regions of Pakistan. The random manner in which rogue suicide attacks are launched against civilians by the extremists is not just against recognised human rights but also against the very tenets of Islam. Therefore, this rapid process of Talibanisation becomes more than simply a process of religious extremism – it becomes a well thought out, organised and malicious attempt at stifling the voice of rationality. The government must take a solid stance against such extremism and establish its writ in an effective manner. Furthermore, all concerned and interested parties should be allowed to return to Pakistan and free and fair democratic elections should be scheduled and held without any preconditions, as per the orders of the Supreme Court of Pakistan – elections that express the real will of the masses for a change.

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