On the night between November 25 and 26, the American and Nato aircrafts attacked two Pakistani border posts in Salalah area of Mohmand Agency and killed above 20 soldiers, including two officers, which is a blatant violation of the country’s territorial sovereignty and the terms of cooperation with the International Security Assistance Forces (Isaf).
In fact, it is part of a vast conspiracy against Pakistan due to the growing frustration of the Isaf, who having lost the war, have begun to leave from Afghanistan without the guarantee for a safe exit. The Salalah incident is a clear indication of their desperation as well as sinister design.
The Pakistani troops operating in the Salalah area, on the night of November 25-26, had trapped the Tehrik-i-Taliban-i-Pakistan (TPP) militants, about 50 strong, belonging to the Waliur Rahman/Fazalullah group, engaged in anti-Pakistan activities.
The militants gave the SOS to Isaf and Nato, and the American aircrafts and gunships rushed to rescue them. The two Pakistani posts came under intense fire. The officer in charge immediately contacted the Isaf and warned them that it were the Pakistani posts, which were under attack and it must stop. But the message was ignored and the attack continued for over two hours till the militants were rescued and taken to the Afghan territory.
The brutal act of the Isaf is not the only incident, because previously our border posts have been attacked by the militants, who were supported by the foreign forces, killing many of our troops. This was the third time that the Isaf violated Pakistan’s territory. Last year, in September 2010, a similar incident had occurred on our border, during which a number of our soldiers were killed. The second time, they intruded deep inside Pakistan to kill Osama bin Laden near Abbottabad and got away with it.
A few months back, in a meeting of senior officers held at the GHQ, I had warned that the Isaf would “again test our nerves” and we better be prepared to retaliate against such intrusions, and recommended that they should have a look at the “Selective Punishment Concept” of 10 Corps, implemented by Major General Safdar, SJ, GOC 12 Division in 1990, who silenced the Indian guns along the Line of Control, through bold and “prompt retaliatory actions.” But in this case, at Salalah, such a ‘prompt retaliatory action’ could not be taken; therefore, we now have to consider choosing the next best option to ensure that such incidents do not occur again.
A retaliatory action, “to draw blood for blood”, is the best option, but the enemy is on high alert now. ‘Retorsion’ would be the next best policy, i.e. “to return upon the assailants with sharp punitive moves.” In this regard, some of the actions have already been initiated by the government, such as rejection of the expression of regrets; the Isaf supplies through Pakistan have been stopped; no more drone attacks; Shamsi to be vacated; Pakistan not to participate in the Bonn Conference on December 5; cancellation of all visits, tours, sports events, etc involving USA and EU; diplomatic engagement with friendly countries to solicit support; no more business as usual; and the need to re-evaluate ties with USA. Since the occupation forces are operating under the UN mandate, therefore, Pakistan has taken up the matter with it to investigate and punish the perpetrators of this crime.
Despite the 10-year long struggle by the occupation forces, they find themselves trapped in a ‘nutcracker situation’ of having lost the war and unable to retain control over Afghanistan with no guarantee for a safe exit. And yet, the Isaf wants it their way, forcing Pakistan to eliminate the Taliban support bases on Pakistani territory and compelling Mullah Omar to negotiate peace “on the losers (Isaf) terms.” But since this illogical demand is not achievable either, the Isaf may decide to leave Afghanistan in a state of panic. In 1990, the Americans induced a civil war that led to the rise of the Taliban, who were attacked in 2001, and the country was occupied on the flimsy charge of sheltering Osama bin Laden and members of Al-Qaeda. Afghanistan, once again, will be in a state of turmoil with no peace in the region.
The Salalah incident has provided the opportunity to correct the course of Pak-US relations and indemnify the past losses. Pakistan’s priority, therefore, could be:
Re-evaluate ties with the US and establish relations based on equality and mutual respect.
USA must not be allowed to establish Indian hegemony over Pakistan and Afghanistan, because that would amount to changing the geo-historical reality, confirmed by Quaid-i-Azam to guard Pakistan’s security interests.
Pakistan must bring an end to the ongoing battle with its own tribals and establish peace on the borders, and eliminate the ingress made in these areas by the foreign agencies.
The Isaf is likely to leave Afghanistan in a state of disorder. It is, therefore, our responsibility to help our brotherly neighbour to eliminate the traces of deceit, intrigues and divisions created during the last 30 years of foreign occupation.
In 2001, we joined the Isaf in the war against Afghanistan and committed the greatest sin. We must correct this mistake by establishing our relations with the Afghan people and engage with them wholeheartedly to rebuild the country and its traditional way of life.
Pakistan is passing through very difficult times, which demand the best from the nation. The nation will not be wanting in resilience and response to face these challenges. Its geo-historical heritage is drawn from the Indus Civilisation and imbibes the élan and ethos of the great civilisations with whom it shares the borders. Let nobody take Pakistan lightly and let there be no doubt in anybody’s mind that out of such depths of sorrow and sacrifice, Pakistan will rise into a vibrant and progressive country to claim its rightful place in the comity of nations.
The writer is former chief of army staff, Pakistan.