Pakistan hears US sabers rattling

In Pakistan, a dozen Al-Qaeda-linked suspects have been arrested, after Afghanistan demanded the US to put more pressure on Islamabad to fight terrorism.

­But that is not enough to eliminate thoughts in America that Pakistan is a safe haven for terrorists and the country’s government is sheltering them.

Some officials in Washington, where the drums of war beating loud and clear, are even ready to support action against Islamabad.

“We cannot have terrorists coming across the border, attacking our forces, attacking Afghanistan and Afghanis and then disappearing back into a safe haven – that is not tolerable,” insists recently-appointed US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta.

Admiral Mike Mullen, the former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, retired on Friday, claims that “The Haqqani network for one example is a veritable arm of the Pakistani internal services intelligence agency.”

Pakistan is furious over the accusations, calling them unsubstantiated, and saying that Washington came very close to losing a major ally in its War on Terror.

Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Hina Khar assures that “if you talk about the links – I’m quite sure the CIA has links with many terrorist organizations around the world, by which we mean intelligence links.”

Over the last 10 years, Pakistan has repeatedly compromised its own sovereignty to help the Americans in their operations. The US, while chasing down suspected terrorists, has been bombing Pakistan with drones on a regular basis.

The strikes have killed thousands of civilians.

“The use of drones is not only against our sovereignty – it is also counterproductive. It alienates the people that you want to build as friends in this fight against terrorism,” insists Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Hina Khar.

After the latest threats from Washington, fearing an even tougher assault, thousands of Pakistanis angrily rallied to say “enough is enough”.

For these people, the US is a hostile power. It is China that they see as a friend.

Ahmed Quraishi, the president of PakNationalists Forum in Islamabad shared that “because of the threats America in one instance has handed over the major hearts and minds victory to the Chinese.”

In spring 2011, China officially notified Washington that any attack on Pakistan would seen as an act of aggression against Beijing.

The Pakistani prime minister praised his country’s relations with China, calling them “higher than mountains, deeper than oceans, stronger than steel and sweeter than honey.”

Washington, on the other hand, seems to have mastered the art of alienating friends, with Pakistanis taking America’s accusations that they support terrorists as a way to shift the blame for the failure of US policies on Pakistan.

But the blame-game may blow up into full-scale aggression.

“If the experts believe that we need to elevate our response, they’ll have a lot of bipartisan support on Capitol Hill,” appalls US Senator Lindsey Graham.

US lawmakers have already signaled that if there is the will for tough action against Pakistan, they will support it. And when Washington says the words “safe haven for terrorists”, that is what you expect – tough action. And if it does happen, Pakistan could be the new Afghanistan. But with China as a friend and nuclear bombs at hand, that adds up to a deadly combination for the United States.