The Nato assault on a Pakistani checkpoint close to the Afghan border which killed 24 soldiers on Saturday must have been deliberate. Nato commanders have long been supplied with maps marking these checkpoints by the Pakistani military. They knew that the target was a military outpost. The explanation that they were fired on first rings false and has been ferociously denied by Islamabad. Previous such attacks were pronounced ‘accidental’ and apologies were given and accepted. This time it seems more serious. It has come too soon after other ‘breaches of sovereignty’, in the words of the local press, but Pakistani sovereignty is a fiction. The military high command and the country’s political leaders willingly surrendered their sovereignty many decades ago. That it is now being violated openly and brutally is the real cause for concern.
In retaliation, Pakistan has halted Nato convoys to Afghanistan (49 per cent of which go through the country) and asked the US to vacate the Shamsi base that they built to launch drones against targets in both Afghanistan and Pakistan with the permission of the country’s rulers. Islamabad was allowed a legal fig-leaf: in official documents the base was officially leased by the UAE – whose ‘sovereignty’ is even more flexible than Pakistan’s.
Motives for the attack remain a mystery but its impact is not. It will create further divisions within the military, further weaken the venal Zardari regime, strengthen religious militants and make the US even more hated than it already is in Pakistan. So why do it? Was it intended as a provocation? Is Obama seriously thinking of unleashing a civil war in an already battered country? Some commentators in Islamabad are arguing this but it’s unlikely that Nato troops will occupy Pakistan. Such an irrational turn would be difficult to justify in terms of any imperial interests. Perhaps it was simply a tit-for-tat to punish the Pakistani military for dispatching the Haqqani network to bomb the US embassy and Nato HQ in Kabul’s ‘Green Zone’ a few months back. read more