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US blank cheque to Pakistan can always be cancelled

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clintonBy Kamal Hyder

On the surface it may seem like relations between Pakistan and the US could never have been better, but dig deep and you can see the fissures.

Pakistan's civilian leaders may think they are the epitomes of democracy, but there are suspicions about their own credentials and the tailor-made democracy may not be a good fit for the present lot of self-appointed leaders.

If you ask the critics, and cynics, they will tell you the Obama administration is talking to people they hand picked.

Like Asif Ali Zardari, the president of Pakistan, and the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP)-led government!

After General Pervez Musharraf decided to doff off his military uniform and hand over the presidency  to Zardari, (as agreed under a UK- and US-sponsored deal), Musharraf was given a ceremonial guard of honour.

As a soldier, he wanted an honourable way out, and the deal guaranteed that, even though, according to some critics, "his deeds in serving his nation may be questionable and the only people willing to give him a sendoff were the Pakistan Peoples Party leadership now in control of Pakistan's democratically elected government was willing to do so".

It may not have been a deal with the devil but was certainly seen as a deal with a dictator under the auspices of David Miliband and Dick Cheney.

Rewind a few years to September 2001. When president Bush made the famous call to Musharraf, the Us president probably did not have time for greetings.

The Americans were furious and wanted nothing but war to avenge 9/11. Bush's message was "Are you with us or against us?", it did not take much time for Musharraf to say we are with you and ditch his allies the Taliban.

Ironically, Musharraf himself once said that the Taliban were a reality and the world must recognise them as such. Now it seems he may be ready to fight them from his plush apartment in London.

Forward many years and you see a relationship marred by mistrust and suspicions.

Pakistan's foreign minister, known for his special rapport with the US secretary of state, talked about how the Americans have touched the hearts and minds of the people after the floods - perhaps music to the US secretary's ears.

But recent US drone strikes and cross-border manned incursions have left a bitter taste in many patriotic mouths.

Many Pakistanis feel the Americans are using one hand to make friends and using the other to stab them.

If it was blaming Pakistan for committing atrocities against unarmed Taliban fighters, Washington now has much to answer regarding  its own conduct after the WikiLeaks documents on Iraq.

The files are an embarrassing revelation about the conduct of the same US military which is lecturing other militaries in how to respect human rights.

Some people may be blowing the trumpets and hoping their leaders will bring back cash, but they will be disappointed to know that what their political leaders are bringing back may be a post-dated cheque that can always be cancelled.

America wants a bigger footprint in Pakistan and wants the country's military to launch a decisive operation in North Waziristan, a move that could become an Achilles heal for a Pakistani army used to conventional warfare and not counter-insurgency operations in difficult and mountainous territory.

If the Americans, Nato and their allies could not defeat the Taliban in Afghanistan , no one can realistically expect Pakistan to bail anyone out or go for the Afghan Taliban.

However, recently, Bob Woodward's, the Pulitzer prize winner, Obama's Wars, made stark revelations of an Iraq-like policy in Pakistan and the presence of special under cover units with a license to kill.

When I was in Afghanistan covering the war after the US-led attack on Afghanistan, an old man once told me "you may be educated and sophisticated but you cannot break the will of a people who look forward to martyrdom for the defense of what they call their country and for their faith".

As I look at it in retrospect, it is not difficult for me to imagine. I had seen the graves of British soldiers on the outskirts of Miran Shah in North Waziristan killed many years ago as they battled the tribesmen in another era.

Killed far away from their land, in the line of duty.

Afghanistan is not known as the graveyard of empires without reason, from the Mongols to the Mughals. and from the British Empire to the Russians. everyone found only one thing - that they would have to fight a 100 year war to achieve a semblance of what many call victory.

Already many soldiers have been killed in the inhospitable land of Afghanistan and by the looks of it many more may be destined to  die in the course of the next few months and years.

I know this land and I have lived there for many years.

Once you know the Afghan well, you will know that he will not give up until he is no more! The world may look at them as barbarians and terrorists but they also say one man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter.

Kamal Hyder, Al Jazeera's Pakistan correspondent, reports from across the country.


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