Pak, US ties plunge to new low post-Osama killing

Pak`s traditional focus on India receded to the background in 2011 as it struggled to bring its relations with the US back on an even keel following a string of crises.

Islamabad: Pakistan`s traditional focus on
India receded to the background in 2011 as it struggled to
bring its relations with the US back on an even keel following
a string of crises, including strains caused by the covert
American raid that killed Osama bin Laden on Pakistani soil.

Relations between Pakistan and the US, key allies in the
decade-old war on terror, teetered from one crisis to the next
almost since the beginning of the year, prompting Prime
Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani to order the framing of new "terms
of engagement" for the US and NATO forces in Afghanistan.

On January 27, relations between Islamabad and Washington
plunged to a new low after CIA contractor Raymond Davis shot
dead two men allegedly linked to the spy agency Inter-Services
Intelligence on a crowded street in Lahore. The powerful
Pakistani security establishment retaliated by launching a
drive to flush out American agents and to disrupt an extensive
clandestine network that had been created by the CIA.

Scores of CIA and US military personnel were sent home
before the standoff over Davis was resolved in mid-March under
an Islamic law over USD two million were paid, reportedly by
the US, to the families of the dead men as blood money and the
CIA contractor was hurriedly flown out of Pakistan.

The strains caused by the Davis affair had barely been
addressed when bilateral relations were hit once again by the
US Special Forces raid on May 2 that killed the world`s most
wanted man al Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden in a compound
located a stone`s throw from the Pakistan Military Academy in
the garrison town of Abbottabad.

As top US officials contended that the Pakistani military
was either complicit or negligent in failing to detect bin
Laden`s presence in Abbottabad where he had reportedly lived
for five years Washington imposed curbs of civil and
military aid and pressured Islamabad to act against other
terrorist leaders and groups based on Pakistani soil,
including the Haqqani network.

Several reports said Pakistan Army chief Gen Ashfaq
Parvez Kayani faced open resentment from army officers as he
toured garrisons in the wake of the bin laden raid to shore up
morale among humiliated military personnel.

The strains between Islamabad and Washington affected
efforts to find a political solution to the war in
Afghanistan. Pakistan persistently spurned US pressure to
launch a military operation in North Waziristan, which
American and Afghan officials say is a safe haven for the
militant group Haqqani network.

In the aftermath of the raid against bin Laden, the
Pakistan government organised a joint session of parliament
and an "All Parties Conference", which passed separate
resolutions that called for NATO supply routes to be shut in
the event of another attack and for giving "peace a chance" in
the country`s restive northwest.

Just as US-Pakistan ties seemed to be heading towards an
even keel, a cross-border NATO air strike on two military
posts killed 24 Pakistani soldiers on November 26 and took
relations to a fresh low. Within hours, Pakistan retaliated by
closing all NATO supply routes used to transport half the
supplies needed by US and allied force in Afghanistan and
giving the US an ultimatum to vacate Shamsi airbase,
reportedly used by CIA-operated drones.

Prime Minister Gilani`s cabinet decided to boycott the
Bonn Conference on Afghanistan on December 5 to protest the
NATO attack, raising fresh questions about Pakistan-US
cooperation in the endgame in the neighbouring country and in
efforts to bring the Afghan Taliban to the negotiating table.

Gilani ordered a sweeping revamp of Pakistan`s ties with
the US, saying new "terms of engagement" would be framed by a
joint session of parliament on the basis of recommendations
made by top diplomats and the Parliamentary Committee on
National Security.

Towards the end of the year, the bin Laden raid had a
fallout on domestic politics when Pakistani-American
businessman Mansoor Ijaz made public an alleged memo that was
sent to the US military seeking help to stave off a military
takeover in Pakistan in May.

The memo, which Ijaz claimed he drafted on the
instructions on Pakistan`s former envoy to the US, Husain
Haqqani, said a new national security set-up would be created
after flushing out officials with links to extremists.

Acting on a batch of petitions, the Supreme Court ordered
an inquiry into the Memogate scandal even though Gilani had
already asked a parliamentary panel to probe the matter.

The civilian government and the military adopted
divergent stands in the apex court, with the army and ISI
chiefs calling for a probe while the government insisted that
the petitions regarding the memo should be dismissed.

Amidst the crisis over the memo, President Asif Ali
Zardari abruptly left for Dubai on December 6 to seek
treatment for a heart condition, triggering speculation that
the unpopular and embattled head of the Pakistan People`s
Party was on the verge of resigning due to pressure from the
army after his name was linked to the Memogate scandal.

Zardari, who returned to Pakistan after being discharged
from the Dubai hospital, has said he is "fine" and dismissed
speculation that he could be ousted under a constitutional
provision on the removal of a President due to ill health.

On the India-Pakistan front, the two sides took a number
of steps to normalise relations but the shadow of the Mumbai
attacks continued to linger over the relationship. Indian
leaders, including Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, continued to
press Pakistan to act against the perpetrators of the attacks
on the financial hub in November 2008 that killed 166 people.

More details of the alleged involvement of the ISI and
Lashkar-e-Taiba in the Mumbai attacks emerged during terror
suspect David Headley’s testimony in an American court.

The Pakistani establishment denied these charges even as
virtually no progress was made this year in the trial of seven
suspects, including LeT commander Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi, by a
Rawalpindi-based anti-terrorism court.

Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar, the first woman and
the youngest person to occupy the post, made a high-profile
visit to New Delhi to review progress in bilateral dialogue
with her Indian counterpart SM Krishna.

The two sides took several steps to normalise trade
relations, including a decision by the Pakistan government to
shift to a "negative list" for commerce and a move to
eventually grant India Most Favoured Nation-status.

On domestic front, Pakistan battled with extremists who
killed Punjab Governor Salman Taseer and Federal Minority
Affairs Minister Shahbaz Bhatti.

Pakistan`s financial capital Karachi witnessed a series
of sectarian and terror attacks with militants even storming
the Mehran Naval base killing nearly a dozen security
personnel and destroying two US-made surveillance aircraft.

During the year, the PPP-led federal government witnessed
many political crisis which Prime Minister Gilani managed to
contain. The political stage also saw the emergence of Imran
Khan as a strong leader with his Tehreek-e-Insaaf Party
receiving nationwide support on his anti-US plank.

PTI

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