The reported arrests by Pakistan of at least five people who are said to have helped the Central Intelligence Agency locate Osama bin Laden in Abbottabad are a sign that the Pakistan Army is now furiously engaged in repairing the dents to its power and authority since the killing of the al-Qaeda leader in a secret operation by the U.S. military. Since the May 1 operation, the Pakistan military has been accused at home, even by its own ranks, of allowing national sovereignty to be brazenly violated by the Americans and of gross incompetence in not being able to prevent it. The attack by militants on the Mehran Base was yet another blow to its image. After a mensis horribilis, the military is eager to demonstrate control. Arresting CIA “collaborators” is a good way to do that, particularly as it taps into the anti-American mood in the country. Tellingly, the Pakistan military has denied only that the arrests include an Army major. It can be assumed a similar crackdown on those who helped bin Laden is unlikely, as is any anti-Haqqani group operation in North Waziristan. The Pakistan military is also said to be considering restrictions on U.S. drone operations. There are renewed suspicions of an intelligence breach by the Pakistanis after the CIA shared information about two militant compounds in the tribal areas, only to find its quarry had cleared out soon after. This was possibly one incident a senior CIA official had in mind when, asked recently by a Senate committee to rate Pakistan's cooperation in U.S. counter-terrorism efforts on a scale of 1 to 10, he declared it to be a dismal 3. But if all this places more tensions on its already fraught relations with the U.S., this is a risk the Pakistan Army is apparently prepared to take. Its priority now is to regain lost ground at home.
Perhaps it is confident that its decades-old marriage of convenience with the U.S., which has weathered other storms, is not about to break down. Indications abound that such confidence is not misplaced. Answering angry questions about Pakistan's conduct at a Senate Committee hearing, U.S Defense Secretary Robert Gates said countries — even allies — routinely lie to each other, spy on each other, arrest each other's spies, “and that's the way business gets done…that's the real world that we deal with.” Meanwhile, the New York Times has raised fears of a coup by disgruntled junior officers against Pakistan Army chief General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, who is viewed as pro-American. A top U.S. military official has jumped to his defence, declaring that the Pakistan Army needs “time and space to introspect”. Mr. Gates too has urged patience with Pakistan, saying “we need each other” in the interests of “regional stability.” That really sums it up for this relationship — it's not that complicated after all.