Pakistan Has Had Enough

The assumption that it has no choice but to obey America may turn out to be a dire strategic error

By Simon Tisdall 

November 27, 2011 “The Guardian” — Readers of Dawn newspaper, commenting online, were in no doubt how the Pakistani government should respond to Saturday’s killing by US forces of 24 soldiers on Pakistan’s side of the Afghan border. “Pakistan should acquire anti-aircraft defence systems … so that in the future Pakistan can give Nato forces a proper reply,” said Ali. “This is outrageous,” wrote another reader, Zia Khan. “We should cut off all ties with the US. As long as we are getting US [anti-terror] aid … Pakistan will be attacked in such a manner. They can never be trusted.” Another, Obaid, turned his wrath on the Pakistani authorities: “Our self-centred establishment with their fickle loyalties can’t even demand that the killers be tried in a neutral court … What is the ability of our armed forces? If they can’t repel or intercept an attack of this intensity, then what’s their purpose? This is not a time to get mad. It’s time to get even.”

The fury of these respondents comes as no surprise, but Washington should treat it with deadly seriousness all the same, for this latest outrage is another fateful signpost on the road to a potential security and geostrategic disaster that may ultimately make Afghanistan look like a sideshow.

The 10-year-old Afghan war, neither wholly won nor lost, is slowly drawing to a close – or so Washington postulates. But what has not stopped is the linked, escalating destabilisation of the infinitely more important, more populous, and nuclear-armed Pakistan. If Washington does not quickly learn to tread more carefully, it may find the first US-Pakistan war is beginning just as the fourth Afghan war supposedly ends.

Anti-American feeling in Pakistan is becoming institutionalised at the higher levels of government, while opposition figures such as Imran Khan see their popularity rise on the back of diatribes aimed at Washington. Pakistan’s western-educated, secular political elite is under brutal attack from Islamist militants who revile them as Washington’s stooges. The knock-kneed government is mocked and despised for failing to stand up to its infidel paymasters even as Pakistan’s own “war on terror” death toll rises into the tens of thousands.

Since 2001, when the Bush administration bluntly told Islamabad it must take sides, be either “for us or agin us” in the newly declared “war on terror”, Pakistan has struggled under a plethora of imperious American demands, démarches and impositions that are at once politically indefensible and contrary to the perceived national interest.

The last year has been another humiliating one at the hands of the country’s principal ally. Pakistanis have looked on impotently as US special forces flouted its sovereignty and killed Osama bin Laden under the army’s nose; as the US stepped up drone terror attacks in Pakistani territory despite repeated protests; and as people-pleasing US senators and Republican presidential candidates have taken to picking on Pakistan and its aid bill in uninformed foreign policy rants.

Hillary Clinton and the Pentagon top brass have responded to Saturday’s killing with the usual expressions of regret and of determination to “investigate”, without formally admitting responsibility. Their pronouncements are worthless, transparently so.

The belief that weak, impoverished, divided Pakistan has no alternative but to slavishly obey its master’s voice could turn out to be one of the seminal strategic miscalculations of the 21st century. Alternative alliances with China or Russia aside, Muslim Pakistan, if bullied and scorned for long enough by its western mentors, could yet morph through external trauma and internal collapse into quite a different animal. The future paradigm here is not another well-trained Indonesia or Malaysia. It is the Islamic Republic of Iran.


Simon Tisdall is anassistant editor of the Guardian and a foreign affairs columnist. He was previously a foreign leader writer for the paper and has also served as its foreign editor and its US editor, based in Washington DC. He was the Observer’s foreign editor from 1996-98


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  • Michael  On November 29, 2011 at 2:43 am

    I like the anti-aircraft idea. How do you think Pakistan should respond?
    Sent via BlackBerry by AT&T

    • S U Turkman  On November 29, 2011 at 3:38 am

      Anti Aircraft Canon was there at the place of incident but it was attacked by a Rocket and was promptly disabled. Pakistan still has hundreds of Stinger Missiles also. Pakistan can not respond more harshly than she has responded against a Super Power for attacking Pak Soldiers, who had just came back after attacking her Soldiers.It was a pretty good Scam. Pak Soldiers in Plain Clothes pretending to be Taliban attacking US Soldiers and then crying out loud after getting attacked back.

  • Ardeshir  On November 29, 2011 at 2:59 am

    An interesting article. Tisdall has great insight in Pak affairs have found his articles balanced v

    Sent from my iPod

    Begin forwarded message:

  • S U Turkman  On November 29, 2011 at 3:41 am

    He doesn’t have any insight, Ardeshir. The article was written in ISI Headquarter. He got paid for signing his name under it and for getting it published with his Picture. .

  • Hamid Qazi  On November 29, 2011 at 4:42 am

    I am sure Turkman you are privy to it. Bullshit, troops were there to fight and controll cross border infiltrations. They were not expecting friendly forces to attack from air. However it must be repaid un to them and hopefully it will be.

    • S U Turkman  On November 29, 2011 at 5:33 am

      And what should be done with the Satellite Made Movie showing Pak Soldiers were the ones, who had attacked Afghan and US Troops?
      Should Facts be denied because you say it didn’t happen?

  • Arif Khan  On November 29, 2011 at 9:57 pm

    This attack and killing of Pak soldiers of a Regular Infantry Battalion is BAD News these were not Scouts or Rangers but the Regular Army.. US and Nato must pay compensation, to family members and “apologise” if they Overreacted. It is the only decent civilised way out of this mess. Forget about Macho Patriotism….

    • Yasmeen Ali  On November 30, 2011 at 12:56 am

      Arif I respect & appreciate your response.

  • S U Turkman  On November 29, 2011 at 11:41 pm

    That’s right. We have every right to infiltrate in to Afghanistan to kill Afghans and US Soldiers. USA has no right to retaliate back. US Job is only to keep letting Pakistan live off her Charity of Aid and Loans, right?

  • S U Turkman  On November 30, 2011 at 1:02 am

    If USA has to pay for killing, who have been attacking her Soldiers, Pakistan should also pay for Pakistani Citizens, the Taliban killing US Soldiers because Afghanistan is not their country. They were Occupiers of Afghanistan and Afghans hate their Guts. They have no right to decide, what should Afghans do just like Afghans or Indians have no rights to decide what should Pakistanis do.

  • Jamil Zaidi  On November 30, 2011 at 3:15 am

    I agree. this is the time when Pakistani leadership gets out of its
    deep slumber.It is the occasion for the Pakistani topnotch to realise
    that its alliance withe the UShas compromised the very existence of
    the State for playing second fiddle to its so called ally Uncle Tom.
    It is time when Pakistan should realise the urgency of coming out of
    the ugly claws of US; especially when the sun is setting on the
    hegemony of this American power which always acted against the
    political interests of Pakistan from the year 1965 to the present day.
    Its secret saympathies with Bharat during critical moment of history
    are also well known.

    Jameel Zaidi

    • S U Turkman  On November 30, 2011 at 7:18 am

      That’s right, Pakistan should go to war with USA and take Afghanistan back and then let Pakistanis starve like Afghans were being starved by our Taliban. If USA and the West could provide them $ 200 million worth of Food every year to not to let them starve during Taliban Rule, USA would provide Pakistanis food too. Why worry about it?
      If we die, we die. We are supposed to be living for Life After anyway and would get our Hoor o Gholmaan in JunnaT without any problems, right?

  • khan saheb  On December 1, 2011 at 1:23 pm

    Good article but unfortunately, HMV will prevail. It is naive to expect PK leadership to groan loudly against the drone activity, when it has itself agreed to turn a blind eye and look the other way, all part of the aid package…… when it has it has itself offered US to use the Shamsi air base for the purpose……when PK complicity in Operation Abbotabad is getting progressively more evident …when Raymond David was let go and PK media now treats it as a “don’t ask/don’t tell” matter. Expecting an Arab Spring in PK is like expecting Switzerland to attack Russia!


    • S U Turkman  On December 2, 2011 at 7:12 am

      Arab Spring like uprising can never take place in Pakistan because Punjabis would never revolt against their own Benefactor, Punjabi Pak Army.
      If Non Punjabis stand up, they would be shot to death. Egyptian Army could not shoot Demonstrators because its Ethnically same as Demonstrators. In Pakistan, its not the same situation. Egypt had Egyptian Army. Pakistan does not have Pakistani Army. Its Punjabi Army.
      Whoever stand up against Punjab is shot dead from East Pakistan to Baluchistan. People know this.

  • Sohail  On December 3, 2011 at 11:34 am

    I guess I am fiercely patriotic – I did not read the article beyond the first line – I stopped at WSJ, the factory producing confusion in Pakistan, in my opinion, is on your side of the Atlantic.
    I don’t want our difference of view get us into an argument, you can continue to believe the likes of Bush, Rumsfeld etc. and I will refuse to even read what they say
    Best wishes,
    Sent from my iPad

  • S U Turkman  On December 3, 2011 at 7:54 pm

    Thanks for your comments but I can’t figure out, who are you addressing here. Who is Siraj?
    I had not voted for Bush in both Elections. Your Mollaas had taken out full page Ads in Newspapers of USA giving a kind of FaTwa, why Moslims in USA should vote for him in 2000. They had done so because Bush had promised to grant Govt. Money to their ‘MuDrissaa’ and so called fake Social Welfare Organizations that never do anything for American Moslims, who are poor.
    Bush had won 2000 Election with such a small margin that he would have lost without Votes of all those Moslims in USA.
    I was against Iraq Invasion and bombing of Libya recently. I am against intervention in Syria also and am glad that Russia and China has vetoed Military Action against Syria.
    On Pak Situation, all I have to say is, Pakistan has been at war with USA covertly since 2001 and has fooled USA perfectly so far.

  • Arif Khan  On December 4, 2011 at 6:11 am

    This incident was extremely unfortunate and must be resolved peacefully and Amicablly ASAP.. We have been close allies of the USA since 1953 and INVESTED TOO much Time and Energy into this relationship to be Hijacked by some JackAss Cowboys trying to destroy it. We must calm things down , and return to the Peace table and make it easier for The Nato Troops to withdraw by 2014.. Emotional responses are not NEEDED and NO Macho talks from either side. US knows that they “Goofed” now Ractify the situation… WE are NOT going to do a “Tit for Tat” we are too mature for this kind of response which is highly COUNTER PRODUCTIVE for both Countries…

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