Pakistan’s Parliament has unanimously approved a set of 14 recommendations to reset ties with the US. The most highlighted recommendations are on reopening of NATO supply routes to neighbouring Afghanistan and an end to US-sponsored drone attacks inside Pakistan.
Every political party in Parliament is for better relations with the US. However, the recommendations indicate a strong desire for a new set of clearly-defined rules of engagement as a road map for future ties with the US.
The undercurrents of the recommendations are indicative of the popular sentiment in Parliament that the US has short-changed Pakistan in the past.
The open references to the security of Pakistan’s nuclear programme, FMCT (Fissile Material Cutoff Treaty), verbal agreements, private security contractors, overt and covert operations by foreign forces, indicate the grave trust deficit that haunts the relationship.
And last, but not the least, the recommendations, for the first time probably, ask the US to do more for Pakistan – as in, maybe, a civil nuclear deal, access to NATO countries and US markets, and overall consideration for Pakistan’s sensitivities and sensibilities.
The fact that Dr. Affaia Siddiqui’s release was kept out of recommendations in spite of the initial insistence from the main opposition parties, as also a popular demand on the streets of Pakistan, is all about keeping the US constraints and sensibilities in mind.
There is a desire and logical understanding in Islamabad that Pakistan-US relations should improve, but there is also a lot of disillusionment with the way the engagement has worked out so far.
It is election year in the US and the drums are beating in Pakistan too. The hope is that in spite of this, when the terms of re-engagement are negotiated, sanity will prevail. The stakes for both US and Pakistan run high.
The footnote to all this is that it is for the first time Pakistan’s Parliament has done a substantial democratic accountability of its foreign and security policies. It may be a small step, but it’s a step in the right direction and it should be encouraged, consolidated and reciprocated.
(Huma Baqai is an Associate Professor, Chairperson, Department of Social Sciences, IBA Karachi. She as an analyst and anchorperson and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)