July 20, 2012
The resumption of the NATO supply line through Pakistan has been described by our 'superí ambassador as a 'historic turní in Pakistan-US relation. Even making allowances for the fact that Madam Ambassador has had the good fortune of having spent some months in the rarefied atmosphere of Washington, her imperious statement leaves the common Pakistani in something of a daze. But this is by no means all that the exalted ambassador asserted. Among other things, she is reported to have made the following remarks:
The revival of supply routes without the levy of transit charges "underlined Pakistanís commitment to peace in the war". She "dispelled the impression" that Pakistan had sought to charge transit fee for the passage. "Everything is open and candid and nothing has been kept ambiguous". There was no new aid package for Pakistan in return for allowing NATO supplies. "All the decisions were being taken keeping in view the recommendations of Parliament".
The Foreign Office, meantime, 'clarifiedí that the Ground Lines of Communication for NATO troops had been "restored on the basis of reconciliation" but that there was no formal agreement. The decision, the FO clarified, had been "made in the national interest".
Pakistan had restored the NATO supply on old conditions and this signaled "a new beginning in bilateral relations" between the United States and Pakistan. The gentle reader must surely have noticed the interesting juxtaposition of "old" and "new" in the above narrative.
The Prime Minister reportedly asserted that the decision to open Ground Lines of Communications for NATO supplies "was taken in the national interest and in the light of parliamentary recommendations". The first tangible manifestation of what our ambassador was pleased to call a historic turn in Pakistan-US relations was the devastating and deadly drone attacks a day after the resumption of the NATO supplies. These attacks reportedly mowed down at least twenty four (innocent?) persons and wounded several others. This was a clear signal from the US establishment that nothing had changed and that all Pakistan could hope for was more of the same. So much for the declared respect for the recommendations of Parliament!
The United Statesí Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, talking to the press in Tokyo on 9 July, held out the warning that Pakistan-United Statesí relations "would certainly be tested in the future". This is a definite foreboding of the shape of things to come. Some new beginning! Some turning point! Will someone in the know of things kindly explain to the common man what to make of all this? It is the common man who is ever at the receiving end of things. Does he not deserve the courtesy of at least a pro forma elucidation of what to expect for himself and his children out of the flowering out of the 'strategic relationshipí between this hapless land and its super-power 'strategic partnerí in the years to come?
As things are he is suffering from serious shortages of utilities like electricity, gas and water among other things. The infrastructure of the deprived sectors of the country is a shambles. The prices of necessities are fast going out of reach.
The common man is engaged in a constant struggle to keep his head above the water. In these circumstances, how is he expected to react to the decision of his altruistic government not to charge even transit fee for the NATO containers "in national interest"? He has a right to ask whether or not 'national interestí encompasses his fundamental right to keep his (and that of his family) body and soul together. Or is he hoping out of turn?