Washington, July 23 : Scholars keeping a strict eye on the recent developments (restoration of democracy) in Pakistan have said that the country's Army had 'strategically withdrawn' itself from the centrestage because it had realised that it was high time to take a backseat as over the years its image had got a beating.
The scholars were discussing US-Pakistan military ties against the backdrop of the recent increase in attacks on US-led coalition forces in Afghanistan.
"The Army realises that the last years have hurt the institution badly. They are out and they want to stay out," the Dawn quoted Shuja Nawaz, the author of a recent book on the Pakistan Army, as saying.
The speakers also noted that Pakistan grappled with its own burgeoning Taliban insurgency in the tribal borderlands. Such developments, they said, had created new challenges for US-Pakistan military ties, reported the Dawn.
More aggressive coalition counter-insurgency tactics in eastern Afghanistan were bringing US troops closer to the border with Pakistan and the situation required ever closer communication and joint efforts to strengthen counter-terrorism cooperation, the paper quoted the scholars as saying.
The organisers "Heritage Foundation" pointed out that the US' frustration with an entrenched terrorist safe haven in Pakistan's tribal areas and lack of faith in the efficacy of Pakistani negotiations to deal with the problem also are "creating misunderstanding and crossed wires".
David Smith, a senior director for Pakistan at the Office of the US Undersecretary of Defence, highlighted a change in Islamabad, saying that the Pakistani policy makers now realise the need to coordinate their defence needs with economic developments and are willing to spend more on social projects. He reportedly disagreed with the suggestion that the Afghans were getting tired of the US military presence in their country. "I have not seen any indication that the tolerance for US presence is decreasing," the paper quoted him as saying.
Smith also disagreed with another suggestion that the weapons given to Pakistan for fighting the Taliban and Al Qaeda will be used against India. The US military assistance to Pakistan cannot bring any significant changes to the conventional balance of power in South Asia, he said. "Besides, the 2006 joint statement also talked about meeting Pakistan's genuine defence needs," he added.
The US official rejected the suggestion that Pakistan was protecting the Taliban so that it could use them to fight its war in Kashmir. "Whatever utility anyone thought they had is false," he said and added: "They are a threat to the Pakistani army, they are a threat to the Pakistani government and they are a threat to the Pakistani nation."
Smith insisted that the militants had established a safe haven in Pakistan's tribal areas and were using it to attack US and coalition forces in Afghanistan. "We will not rest until the goal of destroying the militant groups is achieved," he declared.
Speaking on the occasion, younger brother of 10th army chief Gen Asif Nawaz Janjua, Nawaz emphasised on the need for the US to expand its ties with Pakistan and reach out to democratic forces. He said: "The United States should move away from the what-you-have-done-lately- for-us approach. If the Americans insist on dealing with the military alone and on ignoring the politicians, it will hurt US interests in Pakistan."