Let us tell NATO, “No More!”

This was originally written as my weekly column BAAGHI and appeared in Daily Times on Tuesday November 29, 2011

The anger in Islamabad is natural and understandable. The early morning attack on Pakistan’s two border security posts by NATO aircraft left nearly two dozen soldiers dead and several injured. Pakistan continues to claim (till Sunday late afternoon) that the attack was unprovoked, although a Kabul-based NATO official was quoted by The Guardian as saying that the Afghan-US joint forces deployed in the Kunar province of Afghanistan were the first to come under attack, thus “forcing them to return fire”, thereby implying that the attack was not unprovoked as claimed by Pakistan.

While the gory episode is still shrouded by an opaque mystery typical of the war on terror ever since it saw Pakistan’s doors, the Pakistani media has managed to build public sentiment over the attack. If people are feeling bad about it and are outraged, they cannot be blamed. Their country’s borders have been violated, their forces have been attacked and their soldiers have been killed. Therefore, protests by the people certainly do not amount to jihadism (Islamic fundamentalism).

The American people must be familiar with the pain caused from losing so many innocent lives, as they have been enduring this loss in Afghanistan and Iraq for so long. The same goes for the Indian people, who have experienced the same agony, as recently as Kargil. However, when an average American or an average Indian feels sorry for his or her troops and protests angrily, no one in Pakistan calls them jihadi. In fact, most of us, apart from a misguided minority that follows state-sponsored history, politics and leaders, stand with their fellow humans who are victims of terrorism irrespective e of where they are. In Mumbai or in NYC, human blood is red and human massacre is horrifying and shameful. But what makes us — the Pakistanis — unique is our dense denial, ignorance of ‘whodunit’ and our stark refusal to listen to reason.

Any foreign attack on Pakistan’s borders must be fiercely opposed and retaliated by all possible means — diplomatic and military. There is nothing stopping us from taking on every violator of our sovereignty in a non-selective manner. The public outrage against all such violations is important as it keeps the troops’ morale high and also pushes them to act. If we allow our sovereignty to be violated once, we will only be inviting more such violations, by everyone. For getting others to respect our sovereignty, we need to be firm about safeguarding it all the time and from all foreign forces.

By giving certain foreign countries and groups a free hand to operate on our soil and use it for terrorism everywhere else in the world, we are surrendering our sovereignty to them. Since we are all very patriotic, we strongly believe that the ceding of the sovereignty of Pakistan by anyone, within the powers of the constitution, is nothing less than treason. We, as a nation, have proven that just a week ago when on mere suspicion of ‘ceding the sovereignty’ via a suspicious memo supposedly dictated by our former ambassador to the US, we got him to resign from office and have since pressed for an investigation into the matter. It is important for the world to know that we care for our country and that our sovereignty is a sensitive issue for us.

Since NATO has violated our sovereignty, it must not only be condemned in the strongest possible terms but an apology must also be sought and border security must be ensured, failure to abide by which shall result in the perpetrator to be taken to the International Court of Justice. For doing so, we will have to establish that we care for our sovereignty and that whosoever violates it will be subjected to the toughest measures. We would also have to take action against all such violations that we normally let go of. That Osama bin Laden was present on our soil and was living in plain public sight with immunity for years is to be regarded as one of the most blatant violations of our sovereignty. That he could not have enjoyed the luxury of complete security for such a long time had someone on our soil not helped him is a reality. Should we, the people, not immediately demand an independent probe on that? Should we not ask for the constitution to be invoked for this treasonous act?

That the northern areas of our country are no more under state writ and are being ruled by militants from various foreign countries is also a sheer violation of our sovereignty. If someone from the machinery of our state, including the holier than holy cow institutions, is protecting or supporting them, let us try them under the treason act of the constitution. If a country patronises and triggers the business of child kidnapping to use them for camel races or the killing of endangered species of our wildlife for pleasure, that too is a violation of our sovereignty and so we must also deal with it in a befitting manner. The fact that foreign criminals have sanctuaries in our country and are training suicide bombers on our soil, killing hundreds and thousands of our innocent civilians, is a brazen violation of our sovereignty. Our free judiciary should feel free enough to take notice of the presence of foreign militants as was admitted by Major General Ghayur Mehmood, the general officer commanding the 7th corps, earlier this year.

It was a violation of our sovereignty when militants put the Pakistan Army’s general headquarters under siege. It was again a flagrant violation of our sovereignty when the Mehran base of the Pakistan Navy in Karachi was attacked and besieged in May this year. It was a violation of our sovereignty when American choppers came, killed Osama bin Laden and disappeared into the thin air of the night without our army even knowing what had happened. It is an act of sheer violation of our sovereignty when security forces are continuously under attack by militants and go uncontrolled by our mighty army. Again, it is very much a violation of our sovereignty when hundreds of our troops are kidnapped and kept hostage by the militants without firing a bullet.

In failing to address all these violations and punishing those responsible, we are only telling the world that whatever happens to our sovereignty we will not be moved an inch. It appears that our media only screams when a couple of individuals sitting at the top of two institutions are questioned and confronted by something as silly as an unsigned memo allegedly dictated by a civilian official. If the killing of troops by militants does not bother us, the maiming of our soldiers by terrorists, bloodshed of our civilians by our own security forces in Balochistan and suicide attacks in the rest of the country do not trouble us, we are giving the message that we do not care.

The US and NATO have to be given a clear message of “no more”, and that can only be done once we start taking our sovereignty seriously as well. Let us stop the violators of our sovereignty getting away with all this so easily and let us stop behaving like a nation with an IQ below 20 — a nation that can be led in any direction by half a dozen nincompoops sitting in the idiot box. The slogan of ‘no more’ needs to be raised for everyone who violates our sovereignty.