After a five month showdown, congratulations, Pakistan is about to unblock the NATO supply route soon. This followed an invitation to participate in the NATO conference currently underway in Chicago. In the meantime, a decision will be finalized in the Federal Cabinet meeting.
The blockade was imposed in November last year following a NATO airstrike that killed 24 Pakistani soldiers. As far as any Pakistani could recall, this was one of the rarest moments when the political and military establishment of Pakistan were on the same page together in front of the US and NATO.
Pakistan initially demanded an apology for the incident which was not given. Hence, the blockade continued. However, it’s important to understand how the overnight change took place, to the extent that Pakistan is now concerned about the rest of 48 countries who are a part of NATO treaty.
As the Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gillani applies his Gillani-logy to the issue by saying, “This is not a matter of one country, the issue of NATO supply is linked with 48 countries.” These would be the 48 countries serving the NATO treaty. But, which country is going through a similar situation like the one in Pakistan? Which country is paying the price of terrorism? And which country, pray tell, is being attacked by drones every day?
The issue is simple. The Pakistani government needs to come up with its budget for 2012 this month and for that, like always, they are desperately relying on US aid – the aid that will only influx once the supply lines are restored.
Moreover, it would be unjust to single-handedly accuse the civilian establishment for all this. The military establishment is equally responsible. The sudden silence of this semi-credible institution on the issue does reveal a few chinks. That the army is rubbing its hands to grab their chunk in the budget which is the largest one goes without saying, and for that, the restoration of NATO supply lines is inevitable.
Apart from all this there are also reports that Turkish President Abdullah Gul and others from the Gulf States such as Saudi Arabia and UAE have exerted pressure in the form of backdoor diplomacy to help Pakistan understand the gravity of the situation. Therefore, it was not possible for Pakistan to diplomatically resist all of them simultaneously.
Nevertheless, there is also a flip side to the entire thing that must not be sidelined. The NATO blockade has paradoxically given Pakistan a fresh opportunity. US elections are coming in November which means that there will be no upcoming decisions regarding Afghanistan before November. In this case the NATO Summit in Chicago holds pivotal importance as it is being held at a time when the sociopolitical instability of the region is at its peak.
The deadlock of discussions with the Taliban coupled with other incidents like the burning of Quran and Kandahar killing spree by the allied soldiers posted in Afghanistan, are some of the trump cards that Pakistan still has at its disposal. All she needs is the leadership with a concrete agenda to capitalize upon all of the above.