Ties between Pakistan and the US were at very dangerous low in 2011 after the special American forces killed al-Qaeda supremo Osama bin Laden during a raid in Abbottabad.

Pakistan played the ‘China card’ at that time, making clear to Washington that it had a “all-weather” friend in Asia. Later, America had to pay a heavy price (providing financial aid) to ‘normalise’ ties with Pakistan. Washington did so as it wanted to reduce China’s influence on Pakistan.

Recently, the bilateral ties hit a new low after President Donald Trump issued a warning to Islamabad to roll up terror outfits operating in the country. Immediately after Washington advised the US citizens (on December 8) not to travel to Pakistan, saying that foreign and indigenous terrorist groups are still posing a serious threat to them across the country, Islamabad didn’t make the same mistake it had made six years ago. This time, Pakistan didn’t play the ‘China card’. Instead, Islamabad decided to take on the US directly.

The South Asian country has decided not to allow any country to violate its airspace. Chief of the Pakistani Air Force Air Chief Marshal Sohail Aman ordered his forces to take down drones violating the country’s sovereignty, including that of the US. Speaking at an event at the Air University, he said: “We committed a mistake in Osama bin Laden’s case, but now the country’s sovereignty will be protected at all costs. We will not allow anyone to violate our airspace.” Air Chief Marshal Aman added: “We will shoot down drones, including those of the US, if they enter our airspace, violating the country’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.”

Incidentally, the American forces used drones to destroy some militants hideouts in a Pakistani tribal area near the Afghan border a couple of weeks ago. According to sources, three militants were killed in the attack.

Pakistani experts are of the opinion that the fundamentalists have always influenced a large section of the Pak Armed Forces and the Air Force chief made such an announcement weeks after the drone strikes. According to experts, it was Air Chief Marshal Aman’s message to Washington.

After the drone strike, Chief of the Central Intelligence Agency Mike Pompeo warned Islamabad, saying: “If Pakistan does not eliminate terrorist safe havens in its territory, the US will do everything it can to destroy them.” Experts believe that Pompeo actually hinted that the US was ready to conduct another operation (just like the one it did in Abbottabad) in Pakistan. So, Air Chief Marshal Aman sent a strong message to the CIA director (too).

In fact, all drone strikes – which have taken place in Pakistan since 2004 to November 2017 – have been conducted by the US Air Force as per the CIA’s instruction.

Koushik Das, based in the Indian capital of New Delhi, is a senior news editor with more than 15 years of experience. He also runs a blog – Boundless Ocean of Politics. E-Mail: [email protected]