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Defence of Pakistan Council Antics, Premised on delusional vision


By Imtiaz Gul

Weekly Pulse, April 27,2012

“When studying any matter or studying any philosophy, see what are the facts what is the truth that facts bear out, never let yourself be diverted either by what you wish to believe or by what you think could have been.” 

Renowned philosopher-writer Bertrand Russell gave this advice probably to the authors of the Defence of Pakistan Council (DPC) because whoever conceived the conglomerate called Defence of Pakistan Council (DPC) represents a fossilized mindset, an idea that is out of step with the current realities. The move drew flak from all those who think this was a handiwork of – or at least instigated by – the military establishment, known for employing tools for foreign policy that turned out to be strategic blunders. Tactical maneuvers were misconstrued as grand strategies. 

The DPC, indeed, is addition to the litany of mistakes committed in the past, and reflective of the inability or refusal to learn from those mistakes. If the authors thought they would leverage this forum in relations with the United States, they are grossly mistaken. And if they really believed this would grant them success (by which they would probably mean extracting more economic concessions), then they are oblivious to the disparity between the United States and a crisis-ridden Pakistan. 

The architects, it looks, predicated the creation of this so-called council on the presumption that Pakistan’s geo-strategic location makes it almost impossible for the US to bypass it, hoping thereby to mount pressure on Washington for relenting the drone strikes and to force it to include Pakistan in the Afghan reconciliation process. At rallies and public for a most of the DPC leaders, as well as Imran Khan, keep thundering and warning against the re-opening of the supplies, and it has won Pakistan quite an ire from the rest of the world.

Little does the anti-NATO-Supply lobby realize that diversion of these supplies – with the clear objective of reducing dependence on the volatile Pakistani route – had been afoot since early 2009. 

A US Senate Foreign Relations Committee report, quoted by Reuters news agency in December last year, had pointed out that the US is meanwhile increasingly relying on the Northern Distribution Network (NDN ) to send non-military supplies to Afghanistan since 2009. 

“Close to 75 per cent of ground sustainment cargo is now shipped via the NDN,” the report had said. 

One of the NDN routes stretches from the Georgian Black Sea port of Poti, through Baku, Azerbaijan, across the Caspian Sea, and into Central Asia. The other transports goods from the Latvian port of Riga through Russia, Kazakhstan, and Uzbekistan. The third route originates in Latvia and travels through Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and passes into Afghanistan via Tajikistan.” 

The Reuters report cited figures from the US Transportation Command to underline that only 29 per cent of cargo goes through Pakistan (a sharp contrast to over 75 % in 2008/2009). Some 40 per cent of the cargo goes through the NDN, and the rest is shipped by air. 

The Foreign Relations Committee, according to Reuters, also conceded that the NDN is not an ideal replacement for current supply routes in Pakistan because: 

a) it only allows goods to be sent to Afghanistan and not back, 

b) it only allows for the transit of non-lethal supplies (forcing the transportation of “sensitive and high-technology equipment by air only” , and 

c) the NDN supply route is far more expensive than the southern i.e. the Pakistan route. An $10,000 is spent on sending a 20-foot container to ship via the NDN as opposed to sending it through Pakistan. 

Airlifting supplies into Afghanistan is the costliest way – with an additional $40,000 per 20-foot container spent on sending it by air. 

Now if push came to shove and the short-sighted sabre-rattling kept resonating out of Pakistan, the US-led nations would most probably stick to the NDN. A few billion dollars worth of additional cost would mean little for the three dozen nations that are currently engaged in Afghanistan. 

The cumulative political and economic loss would be Pakistan’s; total suspension of US-NATO cargo via Pakistan means substantial loss of business for almost 7,000 trucks that are involved in these supplies. 

Imagine the number of direct and indirect employment that this business brings i.e. more than 20,000 families live off this business. If cargo transit through Pakistan came to an entire halt, this would mean a direct hit on the business activity from Karachi to Khyber and Chamman. 

But the DPC and its supporters don’t mind this because their focus is not the people or the economic interests of the country. They are deluding themselves with the grand vision of “beating and humbling the United States.” They may manage to do so, but not before setting Pakistan on the path that Somalia and Sudan have taken, and thus reduced to pariah states.

Imtiaz Gul is the Executive Director of the independent Centre for Research and Security Studies, and is currently a Fellow of International House of Japan/Japan Foundation, Tokyo

Email: imtiaz@crss.pk