Pakistan’s parliament demanded last week that the United States issue an official apology regarding NATO air strikes over Pakistan last November that killed two-dozen Pakistani soldiers. It also called for the ending of drone attacks over their territory.
But what Pakistan is demanding of the U.S. and NATO is more than a simple apology and drone removal — they are making a political point.
The point: National sovereignty. The Pakistani parliamentary panel described the NATO air strike as a “blatant violation of Pakistan’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.” The apology will force the U.S. and NATO to recognize that Pakistan will not always be compliant with their policy pursuits in the region. Pakistan wants to make it clear they are a sovereign nation that is only willing to comply with the U.S. and NATO, but on their own — and not anyone else’s — terms. By issuing an official apology, the U.S. would acknowledge their political and militaristic limitations in the region.
But underneath Pakistan’s political point is also an economic agenda. Pakistan said that if no official apology is issued by the U.S., they will begin to tax supplies sent to foreign forces in Afghanistan that are funneled via Pakistan. By taxing supply lines that run through their territory, the Pakistani government could earn around $1 million per day. Essentially, Pakistan will capitalize on U.S. policy in the region, thus making their political point a profitable one.
Shifting the focus away from Pakistan-U.S. relations here — the apology and subsequent tax threat demonstrates, yet again, the limited capacity of multilateral organizations, which in this case is NATO. Not only is Pakistan playing the sovereignty card to limit future NATO action in the region, but they are also planning to impede the flow of existing NATO supply lines running through their country.
Pakistan’s demand for an apology is a significant international event. Although the U.S. and Pakistan have never had the friendliest of relations, the U.S. has had relatively little issue pursuing their regional goals with Pakistan by their side. Now, Pakistan isn’t just talking back. Pakistan is threatening the U.S. and NATO, sending a message to the entire international community that the region doesn’t have to be compliant with NATO and especially the U.S. If taken any further, this could significantly alter U.S. clout in the region.
Nations have agency. Pakistan is demanding the U.S. and NATO recognize this agency by openly apologizing, and thus recognizing their faults, perhaps inspiring other countries in the region to adopt a more inquisitive, rather than compliant frame of mind when dealing with the U.S. and NATO.
Shaza Elsheshtawy is a junior journalism and politics major. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.