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Thread: Drones Are Too Big a Challenge for Nawaz !!!

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    Drones Are Too Big a Challenge for Nawaz !!!

    Drones Are Too Big a Challenge for Nawaz
    By Karamatullah K. Ghori
    Toronto, Canada
    As these lines are being written, Nawaz Sharif, Pakistan’s three-time lucky PM, is still waiting for his audience with President Obama in the White House. Nawaz’ meeting with the leader of the ‘free world’ is scheduled for Wednesday, October 23, afternoon. But he descended on Washington exactly three days in advance of it—with a plane-load of ministers, advisers and what have you. This is typical of our heavily-mandated leaders and even those never given a mandate. The ugly—some say filthy—practice of travelling with large entourage of hangers-on and free-loaders begun by the self-styled “Quaid-e-Awam” ZAB hasn’t gone out of fashion with leaders and rulers of all stripes in Pakistan. Cynics and detractors of Nawaz—and there are legions of them at home and abroad—have been sniggering that it’s not only a colossal waste of precious and paltry national resources but also marks the servility of our leaders. What business compelled the PM to hunker down in Washington three days ahead of the date with Obama, they are asking with disgust. But what these critics and cynics perhaps inadvertently overlook or forget is the nature of our political culture continually hogged by an oligarchy of fortune-seekers and moneyed landlords. Nawaz is after all one of them. And to these fellas the ultimate cachet of legitimacy in power comes only via an official pilgrimage to the White House. The Americans know this too. So they have been regal in dispensing this esoteric favour to their Pakistani satraps and in being both munificent and niggardly. Take, for instance, their ill-disguised aversion to that rogue, Asif Ali Zardari. He wasn’t blessed with an official invite to Washington, although he was a duly elected and, by virtue of his election, a legitimate leader. Zardari, on his part, tilted at all the windmills within his reach and grasp, to court Washington for it but was rebuffed and kept at arm’s length. By contrast, Pervez Musharraf, a Bonaparte who’d seized power by deception and trickery and was an illegitimate ruler by any definition of law, was a frequent visitor to Washington. Given this devious track record of the denizen of the White House, it’s nothing less than a stroke of serendipity for Nawaz to have managed an invitation to the White House within months of returning to power in Pakistan. Obama seems not only obliging but—pardon the hyperbole if you so think—anxious to court Nawaz, especially since rebuffing him last month when Nawaz and Manmohan—leader of Pakistan’s principal adversary and nemesis, India—were both in New York for the UNGA. Manmohan was favoured with an audience in the Oval Office while Nawaz was told to wait for his turn. But one shouldn’t think Obama is conferring some gratuitous favour on Nawaz. It isn’t altruism; no, not at all. Don’t think I’m trying to be the devil’s advocate, but hard would it be to deny the fact that in the prevailing global scenario no world leader matters as much to Obama—on his check-list of priorities—as Nawaz Sharif. Pakistan holds the key to Afghanistan, especially to Obama’s planned withdrawal from that war-stricken and terror-ravaged land, come 2014, which is only months away. And Nawaz, as Pakistan’s duly elected leader has it within his power to make the US back-tracking from Afghanistan smooth or unpleasant—depending on how Washington plays its cards with Pakistan. Contn on page 2..................



     



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    Cont from page 1..... So Nawaz will not be meeting Obama as a supplicant but on a footing of equality, depending on what sense of ‘equality’ one has in their mind.
    However, that’s where Nawaz would be akin to a man trying to walk, gingerly and with trepidation, on egg shells. That’s where he dilemma comes up for him. Nawaz, for none of his faults, has too many expectations riding on him at this sensitive—in fact, hyper-sensitive—juncture in US-Pakistan relations. Obama expects him to smoothen America’s painful—if not exactly humiliating—withdrawal from Afghanistan after an unsuccessful and fruitless mission. US has waged the longest war in its history, to date, in Afghanistan. Its expensive war wasn’t waged against a regular army but a rag-tag band of fighters determined to thwart the world’s mightiest military force. George W. Bush may have thought Afghanistan would be a piece of cake for his adventure but that turned out to be a horrible nightmare for the US. It’s Obama’s unfortunate call to preside over a humiliating retreat. He knows that he could lessen the pain of humiliation with a good dose of Pakistani co-operation. That’s where Nawaz becomes the key man for him. He has just tried to sweeten the pot for Nawaz by reviving Pakistan’s aidpackage—a dollop of $ 1.6 billion in military and economic assistance was announced from the White House as Nawaz was winging his way to Washington’s Andrews Air Force base. But Nawaz will have to come to terms with the Pakistani Taliban—the notorious TTP—in order to ensure that they don’t queer the pitch for the Americans when they start beating a quick retreat from the beleaguered Afghanistan. Nawaz, in turn, would need a helping hand from Obama, especially in regard to the thorny question of American drones raining down hell-fire on the tribal areas of Pakistan with a regularity that has made life a living hell for the unfortunate inhabitants of the tribal belt. One of the prime conditions laid down by TTP for peace talks with the Pakistani government is complete cessation of drone strikes against Pakistan. They aren’t the only ones demanding it; the people of Pakistan—en masse—want a full and total halt to what has become a scourge from the skies. The people of Pakistan expect their leader to prevail upon his White House host to put an end to the torture that the drone strikes are for them. They wouldn’t mind Nawaz squandering their hard-earned money on his lavish kingly style of travelling with a regal entourage if he could win his battle of wits with Obama on the drones. But, sadly, that looks like a deal beyond Nawaz’ reach. That’s a circle Pakistan’s luckiest political leader simply can’t square. Nawaz raised the issue of drone strikes against unsuspecting civilians of Pakistan in his UNGA speech last month. He said he would be raising the issue in his talks with Obama in the Oval Office. He has facts to buttress his case. In this calendar year alone—or the first nine months of it—Pakistan has had 45 visitations of the deadly drones. Even on the basis of conservative estimates, figured out by independent sources, not those from Pakistan, at least 6500 people have been killed in these notorious strikes over a period of past ten years, an overwhelming number of them being civilians—men, women and children—who have never had anything to do with terrorism. Nawaz’ hands have been strengthened—if he chooses to be strong and forceful in his talks with his interlocutor—by the latest report of the UN Rapporteur, Ben Emmerson, a South African lawyer and expert of international law, submitted to UNGA last week. Nawaz’ mission on drones—if he looks at it as a mission and a challenge—has also been given a hefty boost by two prestigious human rights watch dogs—Amnesty International, and Human Rights Watch—accusing US, in a report unveiled on the eve of Nawaz’ meeting with Obama, of willful and wanton violations of international law. They have warned Washington of potential war crimes prosecution for its repeated practice of attacking innocent civilians through its predatory drone strikes. White House has been quick to reject the human rights groups’ allegations out of hand. Obama’s spokesman, Jay Carney, claimed that whatever his government was doing, vis-à-vis the innocent victims of drone strike,s was legal and legitimate. He also claimed the US was “choosing the course of action least likely to result in the loss of innocent life.” Just note the pun in the White House explanation. It arrogates to itself the right to decide who’s innocent and who’s not. It doesn’t deny or refute killing civilians in the blind fury of the drones but insists , by implication, that those civilians killed aren’t, really, innocent in its book. So let’s not get carried away that Nawaz would convince the Oval Office occupant because he, Nawaz, has the voices of 180 million Pakistanis behind him crying out for an end to the nightmare of drones. Obama thinks he has, in the dreaded drones, an efficient and cost-effective weapon to wage his war against terror. Nawaz may huff and puff, plead for an end to the scourge but is unlikely to move his interlocutor. Drones are unlikely to go away—at least not in foreseeable future. And let’s also be honest to ourselves. The Pakistan government—both its military and civilian components—have been complicit in the dreadful and dastardly game. It was that devious, treacherous commando, Pervez Musharraf, who signed on the dotted lines and sold his country and its unsuspecting people down the drain to perpetuate his illegitimate rule. The man is now living it up in his plush house-arrest outside Islamabad. One wonders if he has any human instinct in him to realise what a terrible crime against the people of Pakistan he has committed in his lust for power. He’s, for all intents and purposes, beyond the reach of the Pakistani law. Don’t be surprised when you get the news that Musharraf has flown out to safety. It doesn’t hurt to be realistic. (The author is a former ambassador and career diplomat)

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