The military says it's a protest against recent drone and air strikes in Pakistan but there is far more to it than that.
Pakistani officials said Thursday that NATO supply trucks had been blocked from entering Afghanistan at a key border post in response to an early morning NATO airstrike that they said killed three Pakistani border security soldiers.Pakistan is currently embroiled in another political crisis with the country's independent judiciary in a stand off with President Asif Ali Zardari over whether he should have received immunity for numerous crimes prior to his taking office. The immunity agreement was made with former dictator Pervez Musharraf and was subsequently declared unconstitutional by the courts.
According to a Pakistani military statement, the attack occurred at 5:25 a.m. at the Mandata Kandaho border post about 600 feet inside Upper Khurram agency, a region in Pakistan's tribal belt that borders Afghanistan's Khost province. After the helicopters "engaged through cannon fire" with the post, the six soldiers stationed there fired warning shots with their rifles, and the helicopters responded with two missiles that destroyed the post, according to the Pakistani account.
Within hours, the border crossing at Torkham had been ordered closed by federal officials, and NATO supply trucks were idling there, according to transporters stuck at the pass and officials in the region, who spoke on condition of anonymity. The pass, which lies north of Peshawar, is the most important entry point for coalition forces' fuel and supplies, most of which come into Pakistan through the southern port of Karachi.
"We will have to see whether we are allies or enemies," Pakistani Interior Minister Rehman Malik said of the border incident, without mentioning the blockade.
There is a real chance that Zardari's government will fall if the Supreme Court rules that Zardari's immunity is no longer in force. That decision is expected in a couple of weeks after a crisis was avoided earlier this week when the court agreed to extend a deadline to hear Zardari's defense.
The blockade sends a signal to the civilians that the military has a strong say in the country's national security and foreign policy. While most observers don't expect a coup by the military, the army appears to be flexing its muscles in anticipation of the court's decision on Zardari.