Pakistan's relationship with the US remains rocky despite the recent reported assassination of Baitullah Mehsud. He was an anti-Pakistan terrorist and not an anti-US terrorist. He was a new sore on the face of this relationship but by no means the only one.
Whether Baitullah Mehsud is dead or alive, there is little question that he was someone's asset. This unnamed someone is based in Afghanistan and is not Mullah Omar. Since there are so many foreign forces openly and covertly present inside Afghanistan at present, it is difficult to pin down the actual culprit. But one thing is for sure: the CIA spared him for the past three years. His predecessor Abdullah Mehsud was also spared in a similar way.
Over the past 13 months, Baitullah Mehsud's activities and his bottomless Afghan supply lines became a bone of contention between Pakistan and the US, starting from a July 2008 meeting in Rawalpindi between Pakistani and American military and intelligence commanders. In this meeting, the CIA or elements within it were accused of supporting terrorism inside Pakistan and deviating from the stated US government policy.
It is interesting how the mainstream American media refuses to cover this side of the Baitullah story. Or the fact that his senior aide, Qari Zainuddin Mehsud, came out in June to expose Baitullah's links to US and Indian interests on Afghan soil. He was promptly eliminated after that.
The American alibi was good: the CIA is interested in hunting down the anti-US Afghan Taliban and not in targeting anti-Pakistan terror groups. That was Pakistan's responsibility. But the Pakistani contention and the piles of evidence were also very obvious: several tribal rebels had risen in power between 2004 and 2008 claiming to fight the American occupation in Afghanistan while actually targeting Chinese and Pakistani interests inside Pakistan.
So did CIA drones attack Baitullah Mehsud this time?
After the July 2008 meeting, the CIA dragged its feet over Baitullah Mehsud. The Pakistani government also appeared too indebted to Washington, for many reasons, to effectively raise this and India's terror outposts in Afghanistan. It was the military-to-military channel between Islamabad and Washington that helped break the deadlock. This is how William Burns was sent to New Delhi in June to ask India to stand down. Around the same time, the CIA began sending drones to Baitullah's territory.
So should we in Pakistan be grateful to CIA drones? Hardly. Our problems will persist as long as the unjust and mismanaged Afghan occupation continues. What is stunning is how the Pakistani government is sanctioning the construction of probably the largest US embassy in the world in Islamabad. In the past couple of weeks it has been reported that a security officer of the US embassy had a run-in with a Pakistani police officer in Islamabad. The diplomat reportedly cursed the country that is hosting him. And this is before 1,000 US marines reach Islamabad to guard the new huge embassy.
Pakistan's core contention with the US persists: how the US turned Afghanistan into a hub for anti-Pakistan forces from within and outside the region. US-occupied Afghanistan is a source of destabilising Pakistan, China, Iran and Russia. We want excellent relations with the United States but an imperial-size diplomatic mission in the Pakistani capital is a wrong start. Why is Mr Zardari sanctioning this?