Washington: The Pakistan government, led by President Asif Ali Zardari, has been “playing a particularly cheap form of politics” by secretly allowing the United States to increase drone strikes in the tribal areas on the one hand, and complaining about them publicly to shore up its waning popularity on the other hand, a US newspaper has said.
“Islamabad`s US cooperation has also been double-edged. The government of President Asif Ali Zardari allowed the US to increase the number of drone strikes,” The Wall Street Journal said in an opinion piece.
“Yet it has made a point of complaining about them publicly, playing a particularly cheap form of politics to shore up its waning popularity with a domestic constituency smart enough to see through the hypocrisy,” it added.
The article noted that the Pakistan Army was also happy to cooperate with the US when the targets of the drone strikes were members of the Pakistani Taliban who had their sights set on Islamabad, but it has been less cooperative when the targets were the Afghan Taliban based in Pakistan or the terrorist partners of the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI).
Referring to CIA contractor Raymond Davis’ one and a half month long detention and Pakistan’s bitter complaints against the March 17 drone strike in North Waziristan that allegedly killed tribal leaders meeting with the Taliban, the article said a “more charitable explanation is that Pakistan`s military is angry the CIA is sharing less intelligence with the ISI”.
“In this reading, the mass expulsion of US security officials is really a demand for closer cooperation, even if it’s a peculiar way of eliciting it. It’s also possible that Pakistan Army Chief Ashfaq Parvez Kayani is trying to burnish his own public image by way of an anti-American tantrum that will pass in time,” it added.
Still, if the CIA doesn`t trust the ISI, that is because it has demonstrated repeatedly that it is not trustworthy, said the article.
“The Pakistan Army has yet to reconcile itself to the idea that Afghanistan should be something other than its strategic backyard, preferably under the control of clients such as the Taliban, and it harbours paranoid illusions that India will encroach on Afghanistan to encircle its old enemy,” it added.
The article pointed out that Pakistan’s civilian government has also done itself neither credit nor favour by failing to tell the countrymen the truth about drone strikes, “which is that they strike with pinpoint accuracy and that claims of civilian casualties are massively inflated for the benefit of Taliban propaganda”.
The article also said that Islamabad must choose whose side it is on- it can choose to cooperate in the war on terror and reap the benefits of an American alliance, or it can oppose the US and reap the consequences, including the loss of military aid, special-ops and drone incursions into their frontier areas, and in particular a more robust US military alliance with India.