Pakistan has given them bases and logistic support as well as intelligence sharing but what the US is now demanding from Islamabad has shocked the Defence and Foreign Ministries and the initial reaction has been a rejection of what are highly intrusive demands for the US military and auxiliary personnel in Pakistan.
This scribe has learnt of the latest set of 11 demands the US has put to the Government of Pakistan through the Ministry of Defence. As one goes down the list of the demands, they become increasingly untenable.
The first demand is for granting of a status that is accorded to the technical and administrative staff of the US embassy. The second demand is that these personnel be allowed to enter and exit Pakistan on mere National Identification (for example a driving licence) that is without any visas.
Next, the US is demanding that Pakistan accept the legality of all US licences, which would include arms licences. This is followed by the demand that all these personnel be allowed to carry arms and wear uniforms as they wish, across the whole of Pakistan.
Then comes a demand that directly undermines our sovereignty – that the US criminal jurisdiction be applicable in Pakistan to US nationals. In other words, these personnel would not be subject to Pakistani law.
In territories of US allies like Japan, this condition exists in areas where there are US bases and has become a source of major resentment in Japan, especially because there are frequent cases of US soldiers raping Japanese women and getting away with it. In the context of Pakistan, the demand to make the US personnel above the Pakistani law would not be limited to any one part of the country! So the Pakistani citizens will become fair game for US military personnel as well as other auxiliary staff like military contractors.
The next demand is for exemption from all taxes, including indirect taxes like excise duty, etc. The seventh demand is for inspection-free import and export of all goods and materials. So we would not know what they are bringing in or taking out of our country – including Gandhara art as well as sensitive materials.
At number eight is the demand for free movement of vehicles, vessels including aircraft, without landing or parking fees! Then, at number nine, there is a specific demand that selected US contractors should also be exempted from tax payments.
At number ten there is the demand for free of cost use of US telecommunication systems and using all necessary radio spectrum. The final demand is the most dangerous and is linked to the demand for non-applicability of Pakistani law for US personnel. Demand number eleven is for a waiver of all claims to damage to loss or destruction of others’ property, or death to personnel or armed forces or civilians. The US has tried to be smart by not using the word “other” for death but, given the context, clearly it implies that US personnel can maim and kill Pakistanis and destroy our infrastructure and weaponry with impunity.
Effectively, if accepted, these demands would give the US personnel complete freedom to do as they please in Pakistan – in fact, they would take control of events in areas of their interest.
It is no wonder then that Pakistan’s Defence Ministry, the Foreign Office and the Law Ministry have reacted with complete rejection. But, as one official source feared, “This is just the opening salvo of demands and the US can be expected to bargain in order to seek the most critical of these demands.”
As he put it, “Any hesitation or weakness that the US senses on part of Pakistan will put us on a fatal slippery slope to total submission. This would result in increasing instability in the country.”
So, for those who feel there is bonhomie and complete understanding between the Pakistan military and the US military, and the trouble only exists at the political level, it is time to do a serious rethink. The first step in dealing rationally with our indigenous terrorist problem holistically and credibly is to create space between ourselves and the US. As the US adage goes: “There is no free lunch”. For Pakistan lunching with the US has become unacceptably costly. When US embassy in Islamabad was approached for reaction to this report, Elizabeth Colton, US Embassy Spokesperson, said, “We will not dignify this attack with a comment.”
By Dr. Shireen M Mazari, Director General, Institute of Strategic Studies, Islamabad.