Thank you, Admiral Mullen!

By Shamshad Ahmad

(Former Foreign Secretary,Pakistan).

During my recant visit to the US, I found from a yard sale a book entitled ‘America’s Stake in Asia’ written in 1968 by Drew Middleton, a renowned foreign correspondent, first for the Associated Press, and later for The New York Times who covered the World War II from D-Day to V-Day before returning to New York in 1965 to become The New York Times’ chief correspondent at the United Nations.

A chapter in his book entitled ‘Pakistan: The Lost Friend’ gave an incisive account of how Washington’s total insensitivity to its close ally and partner Pakistan’s legitimate security concerns vis-à-vis India had generated a sense of alienation among the people of Pakistan.

While deploring Washington’s nearsighted policies, Middleton presciently called Pakistan the “pattern” for Asian nations of the future; independent, tough and opportunistic. In his view, Pakistan’s “geographical situation and a dozen other considerations made it virtually important to peace in the whole of Asia and the world at large.”

This old book on America’s stakes in Asia may have ended in the trash, but Pakistan, a fiercely independent country, has rarely disappeared for any length of time from America’s strategic radar screen. For more than 60 years now, it has loomed large in one form or another, either as a staunch ally and partner, or a troublesome friend, or even as a target. Now, for the first time, it is all of these things. The war on terror may have provided the rationale for the current US ‘engagement’ with Pakistan but this war neither limits the relationship’s scope nor exhausts the challenges it faces.

The Pakistan-US relationship is not about any particular incident or individual said to be based in our tribal areas or about any Afghanistan-related setback to the US-led Isaf forces. It is an old relationship that has survived many ups and downs, and yet remains fundamentally strong and enduring. As Drew Middleton said nearly half a century ago, Pakistan’s unique geo-strategic importance makes it indispensable to peace and stability not only in this region but also for the world at large.

Its location gave Pakistan an unrivalled relevance to the Cold War dynamics. The policy of containment in its final decisive phase was enacted on our soil. The post-9/11 situation yet again made Pakistan a pivotal US ally and partner in its war on terror in Afghanistan. The Afghans are not the only victims of the Afghan tragedy. Pakistan has suffered more in multiple ways in terms of refugee influx, socio-economic burden, rampant terrorism, unabated violence and protracted conflict in its border areas with Afghanistan.

And yet, one is bewildered at Pakistan’s demonisation by its friends and allies. With almost daily violations of its territorial integrity and sovereign independence in violation of the UN Charter, and regular accusations and slander hurled at it, our people wonder in anguish whether their country is America’s partner or target in fighting a common enemy. Coercive and sometimes accusatory and slanderous approaches towards Pakistan, its armed forces and security agencies have been counterproductive and have only fuelled anti-Americanism. Any perceptional differences could have been sorted out through mutual dialogue channels, not through media or military-led public diplomacy.

There is something fundamentally wrong with US public diplomacy when it comes to Pakistan. Our most distinguished frequent diplomatic interlocutors from Washington are not State Department officials but hardcore senior officials and military commanders from the Pentagon and the CIA. Leon Panetta, Admiral Mike Mullen, Gen Petraeus, and the likes of Bruce Reidel are now the ones calling ‘diplomatic’ shots when it comes to Pakistan. Ambassador Munter, poor he, is standing on the margins caught in this most undiplomatic CIA-led militarist volley against Pakistan. It is time to correct this approach lest the mastless US public diplomacy leads to total alienation of this country and its 180 million people.

Indeed, since 9/11, it is the US military or the CIA that communicates with foreign audiences, at times through missiles and drone attacks. American diplomacy in Pakistan, in particular, is a classic manifestation of this approach. According to a veteran US diplomat, this “mission creep” has gone way out of hand. Pentagon-led US public diplomacy is a dismal failure. Never in our history did we have so much public resentment against US policies and behaviour.

Critics all around, Washington insiders and the public beyond the Beltway, members of both major political parties, even America’s friends abroad, all recognise that US public diplomacy has had a great fall. A number of separate studies, reports and findings on American diplomacy prepared by academic groups and non-governmental commissions endorse this conclusion. The common theme in these reports is that the US now has totally different priorities in the world. US image-building is now left to the Pentagon, leaving very little to non-military institutions for articulation of America’s “ideas and ideals” overseas and advance its foreign policy goals.

Instead of continuing with the lamentable “blame game” using Pakistan as an easy “scapegoat” for their own failures in this war, the US and its allies must accept the reality that for Pakistan, Afghanistan is an area of fundamental strategic importance. If the Soviet presence in Cuba almost triggered a nuclear war in the early 1960s, India’s continued ascendancy in Afghanistan will remain a danger of no less gravity to the already volatile security environment of this nuclearised region. The risk of a Pakistan-India proxy war in Afghanistan is fraught with perilous implications for regional and global peace, and must be averted at all cost.

Whatever the end-game, durable peace in Afghanistan will remain elusive as long as Pakistan’s legitimate security concerns in the region remain unaddressed. The US will need Pakistan’s active involvement in any Afghan-led political settlement if it is genuinely seeking one for its honourable exit from this unwinnable war. It seems over the last couple of years, the two countries have had no control over the growing list of unwanted irritants, some of which could have easily been avoided if both sides were guided by the concept of mutuality of interest in their relationship.

But let’s be honest. The problem is not the US-Pakistan relationship. The problem is its poor and shortsighted management on both sides. For Washington, it remains a transactional relationship. On our side, this relationship has been used by our inept rulers solely as their political and economic crutches, and for their self-serving notorious deals. It is time to make this relationship a normal relationship based on mutuality rather than one-sided transactions, conditionality-based aid packages or notorious deals impinging on this country’s sovereign independence and dignity.

The US may have a long list of its own unlearnt lessons, but for Pakistan and its civilian and military rulers there is only one lesson to be learnt now. There is a silver-lining in this current impasse. Throw your begging bowls and the crutches of foreign aid. America’s first president George Washington in his farewell address in 1796 had left some advice for you. Lamenting the fate of nations that leave themselves at the mercy of other powers, he said, “it was a folly to be the satellite of the latter or looking for disinterested favours from another” because “it must pay with a portion of its independence and its sovereignty for whatever it may accept under that character.”

Our foremost challenge at this critical juncture is not what we are required to do for others’ interests; it is what we ought to do to serve our own national interests. We need to regain our lost sovereignty, independence, freedom of action and national dignity. We should thank Admiral Mike Mullen for shaking us upside down, and giving us this opportunity to stand up again with our chins held high.

*This is a cross post from THE NEWS.

Post a comment or leave a trackback: Trackback URL.


  • S U Turkman  On September 29, 2011 at 2:24 am

    But what about Sovereignty of people of Pakistan from Pak Army?
    What about Sovereignty of Pakistan Occupied PakhToon Khwah, Baluchistan, Sindh and Saraikistan?

  • Brig Latif  On September 29, 2011 at 10:50 am

    Short, crisp and to the point !

  • khan saheb  On September 29, 2011 at 12:10 pm

    Another possible title to this article could be……

    The PK-US carrot and stick game continues

    Can PK possibly survive even one day without the US respirator? Is there any smart guys/gals around with an answer?


  • MAB  On September 29, 2011 at 12:11 pm

    This is the usual rhetoric. After listening hours to Pakistan Media one does not hear anything beyond that.

    The Foreign Minister did not in the address to GA lay out clearly how Pakistan proposes to handle the terrorists who

    have killed 30,000 Pakistanis.At least from Imran Khan you get an idea that at stake is North Waziristan and who is to

    bell the cat.. Pakistan or US.Why cannot we tell the world that consequences in both cases would be disastrous for Pakistan

    and that is why we are opposed to it. On the other hand you cannot tell Americans: take it easy we have lost more men.

    Karzai seems to have inadvertently hit on the right idea.He said since Pakistan is controlling the Taliban we will have to talk to them.

    Why not, and Taliban, and all those who are supplying them arms and money.


  • Imtiaz Hussain  On September 29, 2011 at 12:12 pm

    My Question to Mr Shamshad is
    Why you did not undertake what you mentioned last in you article
    ‘ Our foremost challenge at this critical juncture is not what we are required to do for others’ interests; it is what we ought to do to serve our own national interests. We need to regain our lost sovereignty, independence, freedom of action and national dignity’
    When you were at the helms of the affairs …. ??
    when v r in service we keeps our lips tight lipped
    I am sure one day the the present Foreign secretary will write the same 10 years after his retirement
    Sheikh Rasheed is giving sermons all round today but when he was minister in the government responsible primarily for all this did he mention anything not to support all what traitor musharaf did ?
    As for the closing remarks of this article
    ‘ We should thank Admiral Mike Mullen for shaking us upside down, and giving us this opportunity to stand up again with our chins held high’
    I agree but know we will never be able to held our chins high, because I see people all over who say that its hard for us to live without american aid… yes its hard to live without american aid .. we can live with out ALLAH, but not without American aid … so obviously
    sit tight
    Allah will address you soon …. either through USA or self …

    • MAB  On September 30, 2011 at 1:07 pm

      Dead elephant. That is a good expression.

      The dust that has been by Mullen’s remarks suggest that charges are more serious.

      Sometimes reactions from the other side are tell tale.Gillani not allowed to attend Rabbani’s funeral,
      Meetings with Pakistan cancelled, Karzai rushing to Delhi, Indian statement in General Assembly, hawks in
      Washington openly saying Pakistan is a bygone case indicate a radically different strategic situation.
      Even in the Political Conference there have been strong dissents.

      Policies do run their course. There is no harm in replacing them when they are “dead elephant”.


  • Sohail Khan  On September 29, 2011 at 12:13 pm

    Salam alaykum
    I feel the article is very well written and depicts the US position accurately.

    There is no doubt that Pakistani leaders have made mistakes over the decades in their dealings with the US, but these mistakes cannot be used as a justification for the way the US has behaved.

    I work in a multi-national environment which includes a few Americans as well. Under the prevailing conditions in Pakistan/Afghanistan, it is impossible for us not to have discussions on the subject. I assure you, on most occasions, they accept the flaws in the US Foreign policy, specifically related to Pakistan.
    I am sure most of us have already watched the video clip on youtube where Hillary Clinton is addressing an American audience, which is either from the Congress or the Senate of the US. I am giving the link below for those that have not seen it.

    If people at Ms. Clinton’s level recognize this, I can’t understand why Pakistanis would disagree with what Mr. Shamshad Ahmad has written, and try to undermine his views by asking him counter questions or referring to his article as “usual rhetoric”.

    With best regards,
    Sohail H. Khan

  • Nadeem  On September 29, 2011 at 12:17 pm

    The blatant accusations of the American brass seem to have unified the Pakistani nation, at least for the time being. Thank you is in order.


  • Rauf  On September 29, 2011 at 12:17 pm

    Nadeem Kausar Ji.
    It is, believe me, the right time to shun aside all the differences which
    exists among us, and face the world and the adversaries as a single unit.

  • Brig Larif  On September 29, 2011 at 12:18 pm

    A short, crisp and to the point article with very pertinent recommendations both for America and Pakistan, especially for Pakistan.

  • Khalid Mahmood  On September 29, 2011 at 12:19 pm

    I believe he is the same guy who also talked about Salim Shehzad’s
    case and blamed ISI, where he had no right, authority or concern to
    poke his nose as far as his job was concerned. He seems to have some
    serious personal problems with some ISI top guys.


  • Shahid  On September 29, 2011 at 12:25 pm

    Good post.Well written.Pakistan must follow Ambassador Shamshads’ advice.

  • Salim Nawaz Gandapur  On September 29, 2011 at 4:18 pm

    A good article, Sir.
    Ikram Sehgal’s article on same page suggests ” out of box” thinking in drawing up clear “terms of endearment” with the US.
    May I request you both to shed further light on (admittedly) his proposal?

  • Imtiaz Hussain  On September 30, 2011 at 9:16 am

    What Mr Shamshad has said or written is absolute truth and we do need to listen to Mst Clinton to endorse the correctness of Mr. Shamshad views….. What I ask him today may perhaps make those today realize that what they may speak after 10 years of their retirement, MUST SPEAK NOW. Today is relevent by gone is history good or bad ….
    Japan loses three prime ministers in short period of 9 months, the country stand as ever and nothing happens, Allah Subhan o Tallah himself took the responsibility of Islam’s protection till the end of universe, but our PM / President cannot be asked questions and they cannot be removed because Pakistan will disintegrate and Fanatics kill indiscriminately in the name of saving Islam and those cannot be questionsd because we will be declared kafirs ….
    and we have reached to the extent that we are been discouraged now even to ask from a ‘ dead elephant’
    Mr Shamshad would have been assest to us if during his tenure he was able to bring a change today he writes only to earn his bread and butter so what he writes today no matter atruth even can be acclaimed ‘ usual rhetoric ‘ like after every bomb blast our PM, President, and political intellentsia issue condemnation statement …
    I am sorry Sohail sahib This is what I believe you may continue to believe what you desire



  • Mansoor Mubeen  On September 30, 2011 at 1:44 pm

    dear ms. yasmeen,

    i am not an expert on international politics, and not a very learned person either. but i have a conviction. that is like an individual nations have a personality and character. and when a person begs, and continuously begs, he loses his self esteem and pride. he loses the confidence in himself, and forgets the lesson of hard work, honesty and sincerity.

    like wise, when our nation has become so habitual of living beyond its resources and continuously accepts grants and aids, it certainly affected its character and personality beyond repairs.

    now as a nation we have lost the will to work hard and earn a decent living, because of accepting these grants. from the day one, our policy should have been to fight for equal trading rights instead of accepting aid cheques.

    i do not know, what is going to happen if america stops all the aids. although under kerry luger bill, 7.5 billion dollars aid assistance for 5 years, we have been doled a mere 500 million dollars in 2 years time. but our intellectuals and american zar khareeds are crying and making the whole nation so fearful of aid stoppage, as something very very terrible is going to happen. i am sure despite of our leaders misconduct, corruption, incompetency and hypocrisies, our nation is still very resilient and will survive insh Allah and will bounce back with great bang.

    the thing which is needed, is just first put our house in order and then work like Chinese with hard work, sincerity and honesty.


    • S U Turkman  On October 3, 2011 at 3:39 am

      Yeah, yeah all the corrupt looters of Pakistan are okay, just Charity giving USA is bad and making everybody its ‘Zar KhreeD’. Why not stop listening to all ‘Zar KhreeD’ and just declare war against USA and see what happens?

  • Yasmeen Ali  On September 30, 2011 at 1:45 pm

    Dear Mansoor Sahib,
    I completely agree with what you state. I would like to share here, my views on Kerry Lugar Bill:
    It is a known fact, whether or not we want to accept,that repeated loans & debts have already compromised our sovereignity. However, should this mean, compromising it even further?
    I am reproducing some clauses from the proposed bill with my queries in blog. I will be interested in your response. I quite agree we need the money offered. Only an insane person will not. The point of diffference,I believe,raised in many circles is not questioning this need but some conditions attached:
    Limitation on Arms Transfers: For fiscal years 2012 through 2014, no letter of offer to sell major defence equipment to Pakistan may be issued pursuant to the Arms Export Control Act (22 USC 2751 et seq.) and no license to export major defence equipment to Pakistan may be issued pursuant to such Act in a fiscal year until the Secretary of State, under the direction of the President, makes the certification required under subsection (c) for such fiscal year.
    Does this control & dictate our foreign policy?
    Limitation on Security-related Assistance: For fiscal years 2011 through 2014, no security-related assistance may be provided to Pakistan in a fiscal year until the Secretary of State, under the direction of the President, makes the certification required under subsection (c) for such fiscal year.
    There is no comment in the Bill or clause stating the outcome of such a certifucation is rejected. Who will arbitrate,if at all? will it be a one sided decision of the donor to deliver a decision on whether or not Pakistan has delivered on various grounds & stop aid if they feel it has not? Does this undermine our sovereignity?
    the Government of Pakistan during the preceding fiscal year has demonstrated a sustained commitment to and is making significant efforts towards combating terrorist groups, consistent with the purposes of assistance described in section 201, including taking into account the extent to which the Government of Pakistan has made progress on matters such as (A) ceasing support, including by any elements within the Pakistan military or its intelligence agency, to extremist and terrorist groups, particularly to any group that has conducted attacks against the United States or coalition forces in Afghanistan, or against the territory or people of neighbouring countries;
    Does this allege & indict Pakistan Military of supporting terrorism ? Will acceptance of this clause translate to accepting the allegation?
    (3) the security forces of Pakistan are not materially and substantially subverting the political or judicial processes of Pakistan.

    This is not defined here. Who will define “substantial subversion”? Is this interfearence in domestic politics?
    ) Appropriate Congressional Committees Defined:
    I think the Congressional Committee defined relates to one formed by the USA Parlimentarians? If yes, with each report to be submitted to the Committe,does this place Pakistan directly under USA’s Parliment & answerable directly to them?
    and (15) an assessment of the extent to which the Government of Pakistan exercises effective civilian control of the military, including a description of the extent to which civilian executive leaders and parliament exercise oversight and approval of military budgets, the chain of command, the process of promotion for senior military leaders, civilian involvement in strategic guidance and planning, and military involvement in civil administration.

    Can this be viewed as domestic institutional interfearing?
    Waiver: (1) IN GENERAL – The Secretary of State, under the direction of the President, may waive the limitations contained in subsections (a), (b), and (d) for a fiscal year if the Secretary of State determines that is important to the national security interests of the United States to do so.

    May this be seen as a one sided clause to guard US interests ONLY?
    It is I think, important to view each and every clause closely,with an eye to safeguard Pakistan’s interests.
    Whereas unannounced meetings with military leadership are being held to frame a better understanding of the proposed bill, would you also suggest a broad based panel of legal experts to review the same?

    Regarding US diatribe against Pakistan, I cannot state to what degree ISI’s alleged involvement with Haqqani Group is correct, if at all. Following is my take on it:
    1- Nations all over the world including US have supported groups,movements to serve greater interests. US’s support of rebels in Libya, India’s support via RAW for separatist movement in Baluchistan may be viewed as examples. The border between Afghanistan & Pakistan is one of the roughest terrain in the world. Afghanistan holds strategic importance for India as New Delhi seeks friendly allies in the neighborhood, and because it is a gateway to energy-rich Central Asian states such as Turkmenistan and Kazakhstan. It is no surprise then that Pakistan sees India’s growing influence in Afghanistan as a threat. After India opened consulates in Herat, Mazar-e-Sharif, Jalalabad, and Kandahar, Pakistan charged that these consulates provide cover for Indian intelligence agencies to run covert operations against Pakistan, as well as foment separatism in Pakistan’s Baluchistan province. If Pakistan supports a group to cover her back, it is nothing to be surprised about. USA needs to realize strategic goal difference between USA & Pakistan on certain levels. Pakistan has a right, to look after her interests in the Region.
    2-As to the question whether or not USA will go for an outright attack on Pakistan, I personally feel the threat is made to put our house on fire, divert Pakistan from developments & future power structure(s)in Afghanistan and move for greater Indian involvement there and increase drone attacks within Pakistan and counter international criticism who oppose the same.
    There is a strong lobby who claim that US is after Pak Nukes. To be honest, one may only opine on this.Time can tell?

    • S U Turkman  On October 3, 2011 at 3:44 am

      Thank God Yasmin, USA has not already started bombing Pak Military to resolve her Haqqani Group and Taliban Problem instead of keep bullshitting against USA. Pakistan has been at war with USA for the last 10 years covertly. USA has not been at war with Pakistan and you do not want US Attack so, the simple solution is to stop backstabbing USA thanklessly or USA may cause end of Pakistan.

  • Shahid  On September 30, 2011 at 4:10 pm

    Unite.Say,”NO”,to all aid.Convey readiness to face all “options on the table” threats.

  • Latib  On September 30, 2011 at 4:11 pm



    • S U Turkman  On October 3, 2011 at 3:51 am

      If this was possible, had not it had been already done instead of waiting for your advice 64 years later?
      Hell with US Aid but starving Afghans could flee to Iran and Pakistan, when US Aid had stopped and your loving Taliban were following orders of people like you in ISI. Where would Pakis flee to?

  • Pervez  On September 30, 2011 at 4:14 pm

    Well said.

    Pakistan does not need aid to become prosperous and the best place in the world to be in. We have everything to do that without outside help. I believe those who misled us, looted us, sent national money and treasures abroad have been sufficiently identified to bring them to justice.

    The Madadgar Pakistan way starts with a chance to repent and avoid punishment by bringing back the loot. An additional system exists to be forgiven the legal and social consequences of the admitted crime.

    If this olive branch is spurned, increasingly unpleasant ways, as dictated by the people and within the law will make life miserable for the thieves and those enjoying the nation’s stole wealth.

    If new laws have to be enacted, so be it. Madadgar Pakistan will enact them, leaving no viable choice but to repent. Members of the legal profession wishing to frame and contribute such laws are welcome. Contact me for details of to how to proceed further.

    The misery and disgrace, in or out of prison, must be such that it becomes worthwhile to repent. The days of comfortable jails, you scratch my back and I scratch your variety are gone.

    You will hear more and more about Madadgar Pakistan after the party has been registered by the EC. This systems based party will start to function through a Shadow Government as soon as a few more preparations are finalized. All Incumbent Posts will be open to counterpart Shadow Posts. You can get details of what is required to be appointed to a shadow post of your choice by contacting me.

    Kind regards,

    Parvez Amin
    SB Mech E MIT ’56; FRSA
    Chairman Madadgar Pakistan

    Gulkalee, Harbanspura Road
    Cell: 0333 422 77 51

    • S U Turkman  On October 3, 2011 at 3:53 am

      How can Pakistan be prosperous, when its Establishment does not want it to become Prosperous and wants to just keep looting?
      Which Pakistan do you live in?

  • MAB  On September 30, 2011 at 6:57 pm

    Situation exploded when H group assassinated Rabbani and killed American citizens in Kabul.

    That is not covering Pakistan’s back.

    So what do you do dump them as a liability, recognize them as a combatant or just deny
    their acts of omission and commission. That is the question. To be or not to be !

    Kabul has taken its decision.Karzai is flying to Delhi to ask Indians for help.

    Islamabad and Washington are like “Sassy” in the desert:

    “Paer paer te pahn phulakehe !”

    What is the exit strategy for Pakistan ?


  • Yasmeen Ali  On September 30, 2011 at 7:19 pm

    Dear Bajwa Sahib
    If Haqqani killed Rabbani, or attacked US Embassy in Kabul, it does not conclude that it is ISI’s doing or ISI was aware of the intentions. When a group is supported directly or indirectly, the degree may be different. The support may vary issue to issue and in some issues there may be no co ordination at all.I personally find it impossible to stomach that ISI directly or indirectly was involved in commission or planning or awareness of both these incidents.Simply because it will be suicide. ISI is not governed by fools.They know the stakes & they know the cascading effect if involved. This does not gel.

    • S U Turkman  On October 3, 2011 at 3:59 am

      But my question is, why Haqqani Group exists despite that Pak Constitution does not permit any Non Government Militias?
      Why Pak Military has to develop these groups to do what it can not do by itself?
      Why Pak Military has to hide behind these groups and be so duplicitous if its Moslim?
      Is lying, cheating, duplicity, ‘Reyaa Kaari’ a part of Islam that owner of Fort of Islam has to keep practicing it hook or crook?
      Is Pak Military’s interest more important or Pakistan’s?
      Is Pak Military Pakistan or Pakistanis?

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