Socialist Worker

US provokes deep anger in Pakistan

by Yuri Prasad
Published Tue 17 May 2011
Issue No. 2252

President Barack Obama’s decision to send a hit squad to assassinate Osama Bin Laden has nudged up his faltering opinion poll ratings at home.

But in Pakistan it has stoked a crisis that threatens the country’s status as a US client state.

Even those emerging from the blood and debris of last week’s Taliban revenge bombing in Shabqadar had little but condemnation for the US and its loyal puppets in the Islamabad government.

Both were accused of having brought the “war on terror” to their doorsteps.

Violence linked to this “war” has killed some 30,000 Pakistanis in the past decade.

This includes at least 9,000 at the hands of the armed forces that have done Washington’s bidding along the long border with Afghanistan and in the near civil war in Baluchistan.

The ease with which the US Navy Seals violated Pakistani sovereignty has caused outrage, that has combined with anger at the ever-growing numbers killed by the US’s drone attacks.

In a bid to deflect the rage on the streets, Pakistan’s politicians are now eager to show that they are no longer the puppets of the West that most people rightly perceive them to be.

In an extraordinary parliamentary session last weekend they demanded the closure of Nato’s supply line that runs from the port city of Karachi through the Khyber Pass to the frontlines in Afghanistan.

That would be a disaster for a war that relies on thousands of tons of munitions every day.

Not to be outdone, the Pakistani military are keen to show that they too can turn on their US masters.

One MP told the Dawn newspaper that Pakistan’s airforce chief claimed to have ordered his jet fighters to shoot down US helicopters with Bin Laden’s body on board when they were leaving the country, but they were too slow.

Meanwhile, General Khalid Wynne, chair of Pakistan’s joint chiefs of staff, cancelled a planned visit to Washington this week.

The prospect of pictures of the general embracing his US counterparts appearing in newspapers back home was clearly not an endearing one.

Deteriorating

With relations deteriorating this fast, Obama has been forced to send Senator John Kerry, one of his top fixers, to Pakistan in an attempt to calm things down.

But Kerry’s job is being made harder by the Republicans. Far from being pacified by Obama playing armchair Rambo, they are insisting on a sequel.

“Where is Ayman al-Zawahri and when are we going to take him out?” they ask, referring to Bin Laden’s deputy. They know that it is likely he is hiding in Pakistan.

In the absence of another kill, the best the president can offer is a review of the billions of dollars in “military aid” the US gives to Pakistan every year.

But Pakistan is not entirely alone in the world.

Pakistan’s prime minister, Yousaf Raza Gilani, will be in the Chinese capital Beijing this week.

“China is the only country that has taken a sympathetic stand for Pakistan after the Bin Laden operation,” Talat Masood, a retired Pakistani general, told the AFP news agency.

“This visit is important in the sense that it could counter [US] pressure on Pakistan. It shows Pakistan wants to say we also have some cards to play.

“If US and Indian pressure continues, Pakistan can say ‘China is behind us. Don’t think we are isolated, we have a potential superpower with us’.”

China is the main arms supplier to Pakistan, which sees Beijing as an important

counter-balance to India—which has recently tightened its ties with the US.

The Chinese government has also agreed to build several nuclear reactors in Pakistan.

But trying to play off one great power against another is fraught with danger and could trigger a permanent expansion of the “war on terror” into Pakistan.

Were that to happen, the past decade of bloodshed in Afghanistan would be just a prologue to a far greater calamity.


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Tue 17 May 2011, 18:18 BST
Issue No. 2252
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