If Hillary Clinton’s schedule is to be followed, Pakistan should pencil in May 2013 as a possible time next year when Ayman al Zawahiri, who inherited al Qaeda, will be ferreted out and killed by American forces - on Pakistani turf.
Jokes aside, Pakistanis watched the Secretary of State on Tuesday, May 8, 2012 make an all-too familiar pronouncement that was televised from India.
AFP reported that she called on Pakistan to do more to crack down on violent extremism - a day after she said Al-Qaeda chief Ayman al-Zawahiri was believed to be hiding there.
“Combating violent extremism is something we all agree on,” Clinton said during a press conference at the end of a trip to India, PTI reported. “We look to the government of Pakistan to do more. It needs to make sure its territory is not used as a launching pad for terrorist attacks, including inside Pakistan.”
In 2010, also in May, Clinton had said the same thing about Osama bin Laden, while she was on a trip to India. PTI reported that she said some people in the Pakistani government knew where bin Laden was. Pakistan has long been accused of playing a double game on terror suspects.
A year later, on May 2, 2011, Osama bin Laden was killed in an Abbottabad safehouse by elite American forces.
So it seems a trend has been established. Clinton makes a pronouncement in India about most-wanted men and a year later they are found and killed in Pakistan.
Naturally, the OBL killing was a huge embarrassment for Pakistan. The question now is, will the country learn from the past?
For its part, Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar said on Monday, May 7, that if America has any solid intelligence information on the presence of al Zawahiri in Pakistan, it should be shared so that the country can look into the matter accordingly.
These developments are taking place as the Pakistani parliament meets on drone strikes as part of the Parliamentary Committee on National Security (PCNS). Lawmakers are struggling to come up with policy on ties with the US.
In November 2011, Pakistan ordered a review of all co-operation with the US and Nato after the alliance struck a Pakistani army checkpoint, killing at least 24 people. Nato supply routes were closed and protests erupted. Statements were made by the far-right wing groups who seized on the opportunity.
Last month, the Pakistani parliament unanimously adopted a resolution setting new terms and conditions for the reopening of Nato supply routes. It had linked the reopening of supply routes to an end to drone strikes.
America has said, however, that it will continue to carry out drone strikes against militants even if Pakistan opposes it.
Some analysts were talking about Clinton’s comment on Zawahiri in Pakistan on Pakistani television channels on Monday night.
The Americans have been very clear about their strategy to go after al Qaeda. But has Pakistan been able to keep up, they asked.
Analyst Ejaz Haider was critical of the way that Pakistani parliament goes about discussing and dealing with the issue. This is what he said as a guest on Talat Hussain’s News Night show on Dawn News:
“In Gen Musharraf’s time one or two people took decisions and then we took this giant leap and now we have 340 foreign ministers,” he said. Too many cooks spoil the broth?
He said that what should happen is that the members of parliament should have staff who do their research so that there is an informed discourse on the floor of the house.
He referred to the warning signal that Clinton discussed the man linked to the Mumbai attacks on India soil. “Hafiz Saeed was also brought up on Indian soil. What does this mean, what should we be aware of. Do we [Pakistan] believe that al Qaeda is dangerous for us?” He asked if it was not appropriate for Pakistan to work with America, which is for all intents and purposes a superpower and is likely to stay one. Should we not work it out so our common interests are dealt with in tandem? We should work it to our advantage.
What for example is Pakistan going to do about Hafiz Saeed? Clinton said we have not taken the “necessary action” against the man suspected of masterminding an attack by Pakistan-based gunmen on the Indian city of Mumbai in 2008.
India has repeatedly called on Pakistan to bring Saeed to justice, an issue that has stood in the way of rebuilding relations between the nuclear-armed neighbours since the carnage in India’s financial capital, where gunmen killed 166 people.
India is furious Pakistan has not detained Saeed, despite handing over evidence against him.
Washington has offered a reward of $10 million for information leading to Saeed’s capture.
Another guest on the show, a parliamentarian, commented on how Pakistani foreign policy is often said to be based on the emotion of the people. He questioned if this was the correct approach given that countries make their foreign policy given global realities and their national interest.
“We can’t give a figure of how many innocent people and terrorists were killed in drone strikes to the public. We need to decide where we stand in this war?” said the parliamentarian. This is perhaps an indication of the lack of transparency in the public sphere. People are not being taken along when it comes to the realities.
Most Pakistanis seem to have their head in the sand when it comes to terrorism, which is killing their very own people. Perhaps one step in the right direction has been the government’s creation of the National Counter Terrorism Authority.
Talat Hussain quipped, “The country is on auto-pilot.”
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