Pakistan-US relations: Who will blink first (Part-IV)

February 14th, 2011 - 2:04 pm ICT by ANI  

First, anti-Americanism in Pakistan is deep-rooted. Recent incidents like the Aafia Siddiqui case and the continuing drone attacks have heightened such anti-Americanism. The handling of the Raymond Davis affair and US pressure and threats to have him released has created the perception that the US is belittling Pak’s sovereignty. For the average Pakistani, especially in Punjab, the incident is a graphic example of the impunity with which Americans operate in the country and ride roughshod over its democratic institutions, especially the judiciary in this case.

Such anti-Americanism has got morphed with the agitation led by religious parties on the blasphemy law. Anticipating elections this year, the religious parties have linked the Raymond Davis case to the blasphemy agitation in order to galvanise public support so that the federal government, under US pressure, does not release Raymond Davis. They have raised the question of Pak sovereignty and pride and are egging people to stand up against US efforts to get Davis released.

Given the heightened hatred of America, it is extremely difficult for the Pakistan Government to release Davis, especially under US pressure. Having become an emotional issue, any perception of the law being bent under US pressure will bring people to the streets in a manner that will make Egypt look like a picnic.

Second, the issue has brought into sharp focus the shadow boxing between the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP)-led federal government and the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N)-led Punjab province.

The PML-N believes that elections will be held this year and would want to take advantage of any adverse situation that the PPP would find itself in.

It had, prior to this incident; given the PPP government a kind of ultimatum to improve its performance that most believe is beyond the capacity of the government to fulfill. Both sides are shifting the blame for the situation on the other and trying to obtain a much mileage as they can from it.

Third, how would the possible stoppage of US aid impact on its economy and on the Pakistan army? An emotional response has been that stoppage of aid would do Pakistan a favour, which will then learn to stand on its own feet. Others, more mature and reasoned feel that this would be catastrophic and that since Pakistan has a begging bowl in its hand it can’t afford to confront the US.

It is perhaps to formulate a political consensus that President Zardari has called for a round table conference. He would like all political parties to be on board on any decision taken in the matter and evolve a consensus to either buckle under US pressure and hand over Davis to the US or to confront the US. He would not like any political party to make capital out of any decision that the Government may be forced to take. For precisely that reason, the other political parties are unlikely to oblige and will probably let the government face the flak and take the tough decision itself.

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