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After Chicago

After much posturing,Pakistan managed to get an invite to the NATO Summit in Chicago earlier this week.

Written by Ruchika Talwar |
May 26, 2012 2:55:03 am

AFTER CHICAGO

After much posturing,Pakistan managed to get an invite to the NATO Summit in Chicago earlier this week. And when Pakistan President Asif Zardari made it to the conference to “deliberate” on Pakistan’s role in Afghanistan post 2014,all he got from his American counterpart was a cold shoulder. Newspapers were brimming with reports and opinion articles on how Barack Obama barely said hello to Zardari,all the while ensuring that he did not share the dias with him. The News on May 24 interviewed Bruce Riedel on the snub: “Bruce Riedel,who led the administration’s initial strategy review on Afghanistan and Pakistan after Obama took office in 2009,criticised the US decision not to hold a full-fledged meeting with Zardari in Chicago. ‘Maybe I’m old-fashioned,but that’s bad form,’ said Riedel,a former US policymaker who is a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution. ‘Zardari is an extremely proud person and to be snubbed in the way that he was,I think is going to come home to haunt us,’ Riedel said.”

Last week,this column carried details about Pakistan not being initially invited to Chicago after it barred the transport of NATO supplies across its territory,following an airstrike at Salala in 2011,killing 24 Pakistani soldiers. Later,Pakistan had also ordered the immediate vacation of a strategically-important airbase in Balochistan,the Shamsi Airfield,which was being used by the US to launch drone strikes in Pakistan’s tribal areas. When Pakistan climbed down (still only in word),with its foreign minister announcing that they had registered their anger and now must move on,Zardari’s spokesman said that the invite was unconditional and the decision to reopen the NATO supply route would be taken after Zardari’s return to Islamabad. While news on that is yet to come,the new hiked price set by Pakistan for the trucks has met with criticism,reported The News on May 24: “US Senators John McCain and Carl Levin,the chair and ranking members of the Senate Armed Services Committee said the US should not pay up to $5,000 per truck,which McCain called ‘extortion’,to Pakistan…” Before the suspension last November,the going rate per truck was $250. A US Senate panel also threatened to cut aid to Islamabad over the standoff.

At Chicago Zardari made a point about renegotiating their terms of engagement post the Salala strike,The News reported on May 22: “Such a venture is sustainable on a long-term basis only on the foundation of mutual respect for sovereignty and cooperative spirit.” Right wing political parties in Pakistan are vociferously against reopening the route.

THE DOCTOR IS IN

WHILE the world thanks Shakeel Afridi,a doctor,for his help in guiding America’s manhunt for its most wanted (Osama Bin Laden) to its desired end last year in Abbottabad,his own country has awarded him a long jail sentence. Newsapers reported that Afridi,who worked at a government hospital,was handed 33 years in jail by a tribal court for treason. The court falls under the jurisdiction of the controversial Frontier Crimes Regulation,a parallel penal code prevalent in Pakistan’s restive FATA region.

The announcement has earned Pakistan much flak internationally. Daily Times reported on May 25: “A US Senate panel voted to cut aid to Pakistan by a symbolic $33 million… $1 million for each year of jail time handed to Afridi…” The report added that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton termed the sentence “unjust and unwarranted”. The Express Tribune said on May 24: “US Republican Congressman Dana Rohrabacher… called it ‘decisive proof that Pakistan sees itself as being at war’ with the US.” America’s reaction to its “internal” matter irked Pakistan,as suggested by a report in The Express Tribune on May 24 quoting the spokesman of Pakistan’s Foreign Office: “It was in accordance with Pakistani laws and by the Pakistani courts,and we need to respect each other’s legal processes”.

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