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Posts Tagged US-Pakistan Relations

Pakistan – US Relations by K.Hussan Zia

Pakistan – US Relations

K.Hussan Zia

 

 

 

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To understand a country one has to really know the ethos of its people. This is not always easy for someone who is not a part of the culture. The inability to understand often leads to poor judgement and miscalculation. Just to give one example, a joint US National Intelligence Council and CIA report released in 2000 predicted: “by year 2015 Pakistan would be a failed state, ripe with civil war, bloodshed, inter-provincial rivalries and a struggle for control of its nuclear weapons and complete Talibanisation” (The Times of India, 13th February, 2005). 2015 is almost here but the dire prediction seems nowhere near coming true.
There is much misinformation and many misconceptions about Pakistan. Unfortunately, most of these are negative as well as deeply embedded. There is conceptual and practical confusion that some people think has been fostered deliberately. Human beings tend to sub-consciously erect a defensive wall of cognitive dissonance in such situations. Perceptions are not easily dispelled. The best I hope to do is to explain the facts as I see them and leave the rest to you.
Not Intolerant
There is a general impression that people in Pakistan are bigoted and intolerant. In reality they happen to be anything but that.
According to a survey published in The Washington Post last year (15th May 2013), Pakistanis are more tolerant than people in almost all the countries in Europe, including France, Germany and Holland. Only Norway, Sweden and Britain have a higher rating. About 6.5% of Pakistanis said they would not like to have a neighbour from a different race. In India, on the other hand, more than 40 % of the people would apparently not like it.http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/worldviews/wp/2013/05/15/a-fascinating-map-of-the-worlds-most-and-least-racially-tolerant-countries/
Also not Violent
Pakistanis are also not violent. The rate of deaths due to violence per 100,000 people in Pakistan is still less than that in the US (5.0 as against 6.5). It is only a fraction of what it is in almost all of Africa, Latin America (including Mexico) and also Russia. It is about the same as for India and Israel but less than in most of Eastern Europe. (http://www.worldlifeexpectancy.com/cause-of-death/violence/by-country/)
The incidents of rape in Pakistan are among the lowest in the world —- less than one thousand a year for a population of 180 million. France on the other hand, with one-third the population of Pakistan, averages more than 10,000 cases a year. President Carter, in his recent book ‘A Call to Action: Women, Religion, Power and Politicsclaims some 12,000 women in the US military alone were raped in 2012. Yet, ironically, human rights organizations in the West chose a rape victim from Pakistan and paraded her around the world to symbolize the plight of women in general. (http://www.salon.com/2014/04/10/america_as_the_no_1_warmonger_president_jimmy_carter_talks_to_salon_about_race_cable_news_slut_shaming_and_more/?source=newsletter).
Karachi is often labeled in the western media as the ‘most dangerous city in the world’ (The Financial Times, 28th June, 2014). If you were to do a Google search of the top fifty most dangerous cities in the world you will not find Karachi’s name on the list. http://www.businessinsider.com/most-dangerous-cities-in-the-world-2012-10#
The rate of violent crime in Detroit, Michigan is seven times greater than that in Lahore, Pakistan’s second largest city. (http://www.beyondtheheadlines.org/lovely-lahore/)
 
Terrorism
Much is also made of religious extremism and incidents of terrorism in the country. These are not peculiar to Pakistan or the Muslims. Yet, the word ‘terrorism’ has been made more or less synonymous with Muslims which has no basis in fact. According to the list compiled by the FBI for the twenty-five-year period between 1980 and 2005, Muslims were involved in only six per cent of all the terrorist acts committed in the US as against the Jews in seven per cent and Latinos in forty-two per cent. http://www.zerohedge.com/contributed/2013-05-01/non-muslims-carried-out-more-90-all-terrorist-attacks-us-soil
 
The European Union’s Terrorism Situation and Trend Report for 2010 indicates that out of a total of 294 ‘failed, foiled or successfully executed’ terrorist attacks in Europe in 2009 only one was by Muslim extremists. As against two by the group opposed to the importation of wines from North Africa (article by Dan Gardener in The Ottawa Citizen of 5th January 2011).
 
Extremists are found in any religion be it Christianity, Judaism or Hinduism. The same is true for acts of terrorism but the two, that is, religious extremism and terrorism are not synonymous (The Battle for God, by Karen Armstrong). IRA in Northern Ireland, ETA in Spain, Shining Path Guerillas in South America, Naxallites, Nagas, ULFA, NDFB, the Khalistan Army to name a few in India, Tamil Tigers in Sri Lanka, FLQ in Canada —- are not Muslims. (Dying to Win, by Robert Pape, University of Chicago).
 
The threat posed to the West by Muslim extremists may well have been exaggerated and even misplaced according to Sir Richard Dearlove who had been head of Britain’s MI6. He thinks the 9/11 attacks put a ‘distortion’ towards Islamic extremism in the public consciousness which has remained ever since. According to him we should be concentrating on Russia and China instead:
http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2684077/ISIS-threat-exaggerated-says-former-MI6-chief-Sir-Richard-Dearlove-thinks-pathetic-Britons-spreading-messages-internet-ignored.html#ixzz37GNeZ95N
There was no terrorism in Pakistan to speak of until General Musharraf, under pressure from the US, broke longstanding agreements with the tribesmen and sent troops into Waziristan to hunt down Taliban escaping from Afghanistan. The force used was excessive, inappropriate and unlawful. It is the basic cause of terrorism in Pakistan today (The Thistle and the Drone, by Akbar S. Ahmed).
Taking advantage of the situation, some other actors have jumped into the fray using Afghanistan as their base. India, for instance, has about one million people of Indian origin living in the United Kingdom and she needs only two consulates to look after their needs. On the other hand in Afghanistan, where there are only 3,600 or so Indian nationals, she now maintains seven consulates, most of these in towns along Pakistan’s border. They are widely believed to be involved in supporting terrorism inside Pakistan.  
Similarly, CIA memos reveal that in 2007 and 2008 Israeli agents posed as American spies and recruited men to work for the terrorist outfit Jundallah in Pakistan to carry out false flag operations against Iran (‘False Flag’, by Mark Perry, foreignpolicy.com, 13 January 2012).
 
US – Pakistan Relations
Coming to the US-Pakistan relations; political co-operation between the US and Pakistan has been primarily determined by the needs and policies of the US. This is not to say that Pakistan gained nothing from it; only that she has almost always done what she has been told to do, sometimes even at the expense of her own best interest.
In 1974, India decided to go nuclear leaving Pakistan with little option but to follow suit, much to the annoyance of the US. It remains a serious issue between the two countries. Most Pakistanis are convinced that removal of this capability will always remain the principal objective of the West in Pakistan. It is the primary reason for the trust deficit that exists between the two countries (See Douglas Jehl’s review of the book ‘Lawless World in theNY Times of 14th October 2005).
New World Order
The collapse of the Soviet Union left the US as the only super power in the world. Many a strategist scrambled to find a new role for her. One of the first among them was Zbigniew Brzezinski who in his book, The Grand Chessboard hypothesized that any power looking to dominate the world needed control over the Euro-Asian land mass.
This was followed shortly afterwards by Samuel Huntington’s ‘The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order. His thesis about ‘civilization’, meaning race and religion, forming the basis of future conflict in the world was not entirely convincing, nonetheless, it received inordinate amount of publicity.
To some it appeared as if the West was now in search of a new common threat to replace the one posed by the erstwhile Soviet Union. This would hopefully prevent the western nations from turning against each other, as has so often happened in history.
A 1992 US Department of Defence report under envisioned the United States as a colossus astride the world, imposing its will and keeping world peace through military and economic power. It drew too much criticism at the time and was withdrawn shortly afterwards. The issue was revived in 2000 under the name ‘Project for New American Century’.
President Bush apparently went along with its recommendations as reflected in his 2002 National Security Strategy Report. It envisaged permanent U.S. military and economic domination of every region on the globe, unfettered by international treaty or concern. Among other things the US also embraced the right to pre-emptive attacks against perceived enemies (see Gen. Wesley Clark interview with Amy Goodman on ‘Democracy Now’:http://www.democracynow.org/shows/2007/3/2).
 
Aftermath of 9/11
The attacks on 9/11 created understandable anger and calls for revenge and retribution for the atrocity. According to Bob Woodward in his book ‘Bush at War’, the President was intent on invading Iraq but the Secretary of State, Colin Powell suggested it should be Afghanistan because she was more ‘doable’. Ironically, there was neither any Iraqi nor Afghani among the alleged hijackers.
More bombs were dropped on Afghanistan than had been during the entire World War II. Significantly, on 31st January 2002, even before the bombs had stopped falling, the US Government announced it would support the construction of an oil pipeline across Afghanistan into Pakistan. A month later, Pakistan’s Musharraf signed an agreement with Hamid Karzai to build an oil and gas pipeline from the Caspian Sea basin to a port in Pakistan.
General Musharraf, who had previously staged a coup to overthrow an elected government, did everything he was told. It included provision of naval and air bases to NATO, opening land and air routes to Afghanistan, deploying 60,000 Pakistani troops along the border, apprehending and handing over to the US, without due process, any fighters escaping from Afghanistan; providing long-term logistic support and invaluable intelligence. In the first year alone, the US Central Command made a total of 2,160 demands and Pakistan acceded to each and every one of them. http://www.centcom.mil/Operations/Coalition/Coalition_pages/pakistan.html.
In the process Pakistan’s economy suffered major losses, to the tune of over 10 billion dollars in just the first year alone. This does not include the military expenditure and wear and tear of infrastructure, etc. The total loss that Pakistan’s economy has suffered until now exceeds 200 billion dollars. She has also lost more soldiers in this war than all the NATO countries put together.
We don’t hear any of this from the politicians or media in the West; the talk is only about the 20 billion dollars given in ‘aid’ over a period of twelve years which includes re-imbursements for the cost of logistic supplies provided by Pakistan to NATO troops in Afghanistan.
 
Drone Attacks
As the occupation continued, casualties among the western troops mounted which was not popular at home. There was also public weariness with the war. A new strategy was evolved using drones and night raids by Special Forces to minimize US casualties. It has had little effect on the final outcome of the war but the damage done to the US image, particularly in the affected countries, is immense (http://www.spiegel.de/international/world/pain-continues-after-war-for-american-drone-pilot-a-872726.html#spRedirectedFrom=www).
The surgical nature and pinpoint accuracy claimed for these operations is a myth. So is the claim that it is only the terrorists who are targeted. In an article on Facebook entitled ‘Are We at War With Pakistan? Congressman and at one time presidential hopeful, Ron Paul writes, ‘former US ambassador to Pakistan, Cameron Munter, when asked to define who can be targeted by the drones, said: ‘The definition is a male between the ages of 20 and 40’. (http://www.facebook.com/ronpaul/posts/10152361365996686 and
Colonel Kilcullen, who has served as adviser to General Petraeus in both Afghanistan and Iraq, estimates the kill ratio of innocent civilians and terrorists is more like 50 to 1 (‘Death From Above, Outrage Down BelowThe New York Times. 16th May 2009). The Peshawar High Court in its judgement on a case about the drones put it closer to zero per cent.
Imagine having up to six drones circling overhead twenty-four hours a day, not for a day or a week or a month but for years on end, making a constant buzzing sound that never ceases. Anyone listening to it knows that it can bring death and destruction to anyone at any time. It creates a deep-seated psychological fear —- a sort of unending emotional torture for all the inhabitants.
The lives of people in the area have changed completely. Children aged five to ten no longer go to school. Men are afraid to gather in groups of more than two or three. Weddings, which used to be such joyous affairs with music, dancing, and drumming, are now subdued events with only close family members present. Since funerals have also been targeted by the drones, they are now small gatherings as well.
It has not made the US any safer. The children of those killed in Waziristan are and will continue looking for Americans, wherever they can find them, to avenge the killing of their kith and kin for a very long time, indeed for generations to come. The tribal law, Pakhtoonwali, more or less makes it obligatory for the descendants of anyone killed to seek revenge from the offending party. It is known as badal or badla —- you kill one of mine, I will kill one of yours —- and there is no time limit on it (Living Under Drones: Death, Injury and Trauma to Civilians From US Drone Practices inPakistan’, NYU School of Law and Stanford University Law School) .
This is not all by any means. Eleven and twelve year old boys and men well in their seventies, including even a ninety-year-old, as well as Afghanistan’s ambassador to Pakistan, were incarcerated and tortured at Bagram, Guantanamo and other places. There were no charges laid against them. To the outside world it gave the impression of hubris and contempt for the feelings of others and humanity itself.
On the night of 25–26 November 2010, US helicopter gunships attacked two army posts well inside Pakistan without any provocation. The attack lasted almost two hours and stopped only after all but two of her soldiers had been killed. To make matters worse, for a long time the US even refused to apologise for the atrocity.
Two months later a Blackwater mercenary working for the CIA shot and killed two Pakistanis on a busy road in Lahore and fled the scene as hundreds of people watched. President Obama even claimed diplomatic immunity for him which he did not have. There was uproar in Pakistan as was to be expected.
To add salt to the wounds, a bill was introduced in the US House of Representatives in support of the claim of some separatists in the province of Baluchistan to secede. These very people had been earlier declared as terrorists by the US and the European Union. It was perhaps the lowest point in relations between the two countries: http://baluchsarmachar.wordpress.com/2012/02/17/rep-rohrabacher-introduces-bill-recognizing-baluchistans-right-to-self-determination/
 
Not Doing Enough
Ever since she invaded Afghanistan the US has accused Pakistan of not doing enough to stop infiltration by Taliban, which is a euphemism for the Pashtoon or Pathans who are resisting the occupation.
It is next to impossible for Pakistan to stop the volunteers given the nature of the terrain, the familial connection between the people on either side of the border and their commitment to each other. There are also three and a half million Afghan refugees who have not gone back since the Soviet invasion. They are even more committed to the liberation of their country.
NATO had 100,000 plus troops who had done very little to secure the border on their side which makes any criticism of Pakistan disingenuous. The general feeling in Pakistan is that the US was trying to make her a scapegoat for what is now generally accepted as an impending debacle.
If the West has an interest in Central Asia it is a mistake to have an adversarial relationship with Pakistan. Realistically, the West can only have access to the Central Asian resources either through Iran or Pakistan. It needs both of these just in case one becomes unavailable for some reason. It is in the interest of the West to exercise caution in relations with both these nations.
 
Conclusion
Terrorism kills only a fraction of the people every year than are killed in accidents on the roads. Wars against terrorism, on the other hand have killed millions and climate change threatens to kill many times more. So why are we ignoring climate change by giving it benefit of the doubt which isn’t there and destroying entire societies and countries in the name of fighting terrorism —- worse still, accumulating trillions of dollars in debt in the process?
There is plenty of evidence to suggest that these wars have only created enemies where none need to exist. Dealing with the causes that led to terrorism in the first place, would have been much more effective and advisable. If only a part of the three trillion dollars that have been blown away so far on the ‘wars on terrorism’ had been used to better the lot of humanity, the world would be a far more peaceful and prosperous place for everyone to live in. As an example, only one per cent of it ($ 30 bn.) was enough to put an end to world hunger.
The United States is a great country, perhaps the greatest the world has ever seen. So much good was expected of her. What she has done especially since the turn of this century has not made the world a safer or better place. One can only hope that things will soon change and she will use her tremendous potential for the benefit of humanity and the future of mankind as a whole and not be seen to serve the interests of a selected few.
The writer is author of the books, ‘Pakistan: Roots, Perspective and Genesis’ and  ‘Muslims and the West: A Muslim Perspective’.  This article is an extract from the keynote address delivered by him at a conference on US – Pakistan relations held in the United States in July this year.

 

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Little by little, Pakistan is being hollowed out bit by bit

Little by little, Pakistan is being hollowed out bit by bit  

Amir Zia, 

Monday, May 12, 2014

The ruling elite still see opportunity to perpetuate rule and make money……….

  

Slowly but surely the violent non-state actors are pushing Pakistan towards the brink. Little by little we are witnessing the state’s writ being eroded. Gradually Pakistani society’s descend into lawlessness is gaining momentum. And step by step Pakistan’s status as an internationally pariah state is being paved and cemented.

Our rulers may not agree with this cheerless account of today’s Pakistan. They may still think that they hold all the cards. They may still believe that they remain firmly in control. But living in self-denial and a make-believe world – no matter how grand – can’t stop Pakistan’s one-way backward march.

The reality is grim and the signs of the times ominous, underlining the weakening of the state authority. Yet, our lords and masters do not seem to see the writing on the wall.

The latest drag for the state has come in the form of the spurt in cases of the polio virus – thanks to our so-called holy warriors who declare the vaccination drive against this crippling disease a ‘western conspiracy’ to make our future generations infertile.

As a result, the goal of a polio-free Pakistan – which once appeared within reach in 1999-00 – now seems unattainable. Fourteen years down the road, as Sharif completes the first year of his third term in power, Pakistan is one of the only three countries – along with Syria and Cameroon – that threaten the world by exporting this virus to other countries.

UN efforts to eradicate polio globally by 2018 are being torpedoed mainly because of our Islamic republic’s inability to carry out effective vaccination drives in many parts of its territory – especially in the troubled tribal region. The outcome of this failure is manifested through 59 new polio cases so far this year in Pakistan out of the total 74 in all the 10 polio-affected countries. 

Out of the 59 local polio cases, 46 have been reported in the tribal belt where despite frequent appeals by both government and non-government quarters, the militants do not allow health workers to administer polio drops to children age five years and below. The Afghan Taliban militants are better in a sense as they facilitate the anti-polio campaign by holding temporary ceasefires. 
6944677-big-thief-stealing-a-lot-of-moneywonder the WHO has now recommended polio vaccination a must for all Pakistanis travelling abroad. What does that mean for the country? It is not just simply a new obstacle for Pakistani travellers, but another triumph for the pro-Al-Qaeda local militants against the backdrop of the civil and military leadership’s near policy-paralysis on how to deal with the twin scourge of terrorism and extremism. It is another symbolic blow to this struggling state, which faces the greatest internal threat in its recent history.

The best our rulers have offered so far against this internal challenge remains half-hearted, incomplete reactive operations against militants and the self-defeating exercise of holding talks with them. There appears to be no roadmap for victory despite the immense sacrifices of Pakistani soldiers. There seems to be no urgency to end the prolonged conflict, which should have been the top item on the government’s agenda.

For all the different shades and colours of extremists, including the Al-Qaeda inspired militants, the triumph on the poliovirus front is not the first one against the Pakistani state. They have been expanding their influence and stifling the state called Pakistan in a gradual manner. For any country, this endless state of conflict is the worst case scenario as it results in fatigue and draining out of its resources. Our rulers seem oblivious to this age-old code of war and peace in politics.

The extremists, who have kept the initiative in this protracted conflict, have scored one symbolic psychological victory after the other as successive governments continued to debate and discuss whether to fight or not to fight.

The militants successfully banished international sports from Pakistan with the 2009 attack on the Sri Lankan cricket team as our decision-makers tried to make a distinction between the ‘good and bad’ militants. The precarious state of security forced many western diplomatic missions to scale down operations and declare Pakistan a hardship posting but our successive rulers gloated over their ‘success’ of bringing in foreign aid, grants and loans – as they are doing now. 

Security concerns forced most foreign investors and businesspeople to stop visiting Pakistan, but our decision-makers claimed they had been reviving the economy. Footprints of almost every major incident of global terrorism led to Pakistan, but our politicians and decision-makers saw ‘a foreign hand’ behind many of our ills. Pakistan’s worst era of lawlessness and bloodletting at the hands of terrorists and extremists consumed thousands of lives, but our political parties kept arguing over whose war Pakistan has been fighting.

After sacrificing more than 4,000 soldiers in the northern tribal belt alone, Pakistani leaders still do not know the real enemy and remain undecided whether to fight or to talk.

While a segment of violent non-state actors and their foreign militant allies have taken on the state, creating their terrorist safe havens on Pakistani soil, many other extremists groups are waging their unholy wars against members of ‘rival’ sects or dissident voices within society.

The state and its institutions seem powerless as extremists commit one atrocity after another. It is the terrorists who are on the charge, while the ones who should be upholding the law remain on the defensive. 

Killing anyone by exploiting the sacred name of Islam is now easy. The government is surely to turn a blind eye towards the organised gangs of militants rather than provide justice to the victims and their families. It is an abject surrender by the state and its institutions.

The recent assassination of human rights activist Rashid Rehman in Multan is one more addition to the ever-growing list of victims killed because of their views. He was apparently killed for pleading the case of a man accused of blasphemy. His murder failed to create ripples in the society, barring a small vocal section of civil society members – many of whom themselves remain in the line of fire.

In the same long list of victims, we also have governor Punjab Salmaan Taseer, who was killed by his own police guard because he too spoke about a controversial blasphemy case. The Pakistani state remains unable to prosecute his assassin in what is an open-and-shut case because of the fear of an organised minority. And this is just the tip of the iceberg.

We see confusion, polarisation and conflict escalating in the society, but the state appears unable to resolve these contradictions, which is vital for its own survival.

Perhaps for the ruling elite of Pakistan, the party is not yet over. There is still some opportunity to perpetuate rule and make money, but the state called Pakistan is being hollowed out bit by bit, little by little. 

There appears to be no political force in the ring that can turn the tide as gangs and bands of militants, terrorists and criminals hold sway. Tough times never seem to be over in the land called Pakistan.

Additional Reading

Destroying a Nation State: US-Saudi Funded Terrorists Sowing Chaos in Pakistan!

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  • Destroying a Nation State: US-Saudi Funded Terrorists Sowing Chaos in Pakistan! 
    by Tony Cartaluccilanddestroyer.blogspot.com, via http://www.globalresearch.ca/ 
    [originally published in February 2013]
    Quetta, the capital of Pakistan’s southwest Baluchistan province, bordering both US-occupied Afghanistan as well as Iran, was the site of a grisly market bombing that has killed over 80 people. According to reports, the terrorist group Lashkar-e-Jhangvi has claimed responsibility for the attack. Billed as a “Sunni extremist group,” it instead fits the pattern of global terrorism sponsored by the US, Israel, and their Arab partners Saudi Arabia and Qatar.

    The terrorist Lashkar-e-Jhangvi group was in fact created, according to the BBC, to counter Iran’s Islamic Revolution in the 1980′s, and is still active today. Considering the openly admitted US-Israeli-Saudi plot to use Al Qaeda and other terrorist groups across the Middle East to counter Iran’s influence, it begs the question whether these same interests are funding terrorism in Pakistan to not only counter Iranian-sympathetic Pakistani communities, but to undermine and destabilize Pakistan itself.

    The US-Saudi Global Terror Network
    While the United States is close allies with Saudi Arabia and Qatar, it is well established that the chief financier of extremist militant groups for the past 3 decades, including Al Qaeda, are in fact Saudi Arabia and Qatar. While Qatari state-owned propaganda like Al Jazeera apply a veneer of progressive pro-democracy to its narratives, Qatar itself is involved in arming, funding, and even providing direct military support for sectarian extremists from northern Mali, to Libya, to Syria and beyond.

    France 24′s report “Is Qatar fuelling the crisis in north Mali?” provides a useful vignette of Saudi-Qatari terror sponsorship, stating:
    “The MNLA [secular Tuareg separatists], al Qaeda-linked Ansar Dine and MUJAO [movement for unity and Jihad in West Africa] have all received cash from Doha.”

    A month later Sadou Diallo, the mayor of the north Malian city of Gao [which had fallen to the Islamists] told RTL radio: “The French government knows perfectly well who is supporting these terrorists. Qatar, for example, continues to send so-called aid and food every day to the airports of Gao and Timbuktu.”

    The report also stated:
    “Qatar has an established a network of institutions it funds in Mali, including madrassas, schools and charities that it has been funding from the 1980s,” he wrote, adding that Qatar would be expecting a return on this investment.

    “Mali has huge oil and gas potential and it needs help developing its infrastructure,” he said. “Qatar is well placed to help, and could also, on the back of good relations with an Islamist-ruled north Mali, exploit rich gold and uranium deposits in the country.”

    These institutions are present not only in Mali, but around the world, and provide a nearly inexhaustible supply of militants for both the Persian Gulf monarchies and their Western allies to use both as a perpetual casus belli to invade and occupy foreign nations such as Mali and Afghanistan, as well as a sizable, persistent mercenary force, as seen in Libya and Syria. Such institutions jointly run by Western intelligence agencies across Europe and in America, fuel domestic fear-mongering and the resulting security state that allows Western governments to more closely control their populations as they pursue reckless, unpopular policies at home and abroad.

 

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Understanding Pakistani Mistrust of the United States

Over the years, U.S. bashing has become a national pastime in Pakistan. This trend is dominant almost everywhere, ranging from drawing room discussions to media talk shows, and in recent months has assumed alarming proportions due to host of events such as Afia Siddique verdict, Raymond Davis’s capture and subsequent release, incessant drone attacks and above all, the recent killing of Osama bin Laden.

Although it would be an exaggeration to say that everyone in Pakistan mistrusts and hates the U.S., a substantial majority does. Several surveys have revealed that majority of Pakistanis consider USA as an enemy rather than a friend. In fact Al-Jazeera-Gallup Pakistan Survey 2009 revealed that 59% identified the U.S. as the greatest threat to Pakistan. Even India, the arch rival was considered as the greatest threat by only 18% of the respondents. And Taliban, despite blowing off thousands of people, were considered as the biggest threat by only 11%.

Likewise, drone attacks, which are designed to efficiently kill militants while minimizing the collateral damage, evoke far more condemnation from the public than brutal and indiscriminate suicide attacks carried out by the Taliban. It is baffling that majority of Pakistanis feel aggrieved over drone attacks because they consider it a violation of sovereignty despite the fact that the tribal areas targeted by the drones are largely lawless with no effective writ of the state. In essence, so called violation of the sovereignty becomes a meaningless accusation because the writ of the state as well as its monopoly over physical violence, which underpin the entire concept of sovereignty, are simply absent from the tribal areas.

What makes this mistrust and hatred somewhat of an anomaly is the fact that throughout its history Pakistan has received humungous amount of USA economic aid as well as assistance of various types. In fact, Pakistan has registered its highest growth rates during times when it was also the recipient of uninterrupted US aid. It is incomprehensible how Pakistanis keep censuring the US for all of their problems, yet continuing to receive economic and military assistance which is vital for their survival.

Why do Pakistanis hate a country that has helped Pakistan so much? Explanations abound, including an oft-repeated one that Pakistanis, and for that matter a substantial chunk of the Muslim world, are envious of the lifestyle of and economic progress made by the U.S. But this begs another question: why the U.S. is being especially singled out when economic prosperity and liberal lifestyles are prevalent in many other countries.

In my opinion Pakistanis’ irrational hatred of the U.S. emanates from complex interplay between the way the state has cultivated the Pakistani brand of civic nationalism, exaggerated self importance, which a majority of Pakistanis feel, and the U.S. role in the international events particularly those involving the Muslim world. And overarching these reasons is the deep mistrust of the U.S., which makes it impossible for the Pakistanis to believe that U.S. may actually be carrying any noble intentions for Pakistan.

Since independence, the state in Pakistan has tried to cultivate civic nationalism through fusion of Islam and “Honour” centered patriotism. The central purpose of infusion of religion with state has been to use it as a unifying force. Let’s not forget that Pakistan is a home to various ethnicities that have a strong penchant for greater autonomy. To prevent the emergence of any ethnic based secession movement, the state has tried to unite diverse ethnicities through the promotion of the common factor of religion. While this approach has failed to check ethnic strife, it has nevertheless nurtured a mindset that is very conscious of its Islamic identity and consequently feels aggrieved when anything happens to the Muslims around the world. Even purely regional disputes of Muslims with non-Muslims have a potential of creating a strong reaction in Pakistan. In the case of the U.S., its support to Israel has created a very strong resentment in Pakistan and even huge U.S. assistance to the country has not been able to ameliorate the situation. Pakistan, like most of the Arab world, yet despite being a non-Arab country, is held hostage by the Palestine issue. Whereas Arab resentment can still be somewhat understood due to its regional context, Pakistan’s ferocity apparently defies logic. Due to this particular way of perceiving things, Israeli attacks in Gaza give rise to far more anger against the U.S. than against Taliban atrocities committed within Pakistan.

Another issue is that as a nation, Pakistanis needs some citable evidence of their country’s importance in the international arena. Unfortunately, since economic success has largely eluded Pakistan, things like “strategic location” and nuclear arsenal become the “symbols” of national pride and importance. Due to this exaggerated feeling of self importance as well as interpretation of the U.S. as an-anti Muslim country, a majority of Pakistanis actually believe that the U.S. is fearful of the nuclear arsenal and is waiting for an excuse to purge it. In fact everything, from war in Afghanistan to suicide blasts on the Pakistani soil, is interpreted as U.S. conspiracy to create “conducive” environment for purging nuclear arsenal. Conspiracy theorists argue that the U.S. has “bought” Taliban and is using them to destabilize Pakistan with the eventual aim of taking hold of the nuclear arsenal. Unfortunately, the U.S. invasion of Iraq on flimsy grounds has merely exacerbated the situation, providing the conspiracy theorists irrefutable “evidence” of US hegemony. They argue that if the U.S. can invade a country that did not possess weapons of mass destruction then to assume that it would leave a nuclear armed Muslim country alone is sheer naivety. This belief is so pervasive that immediately after the recent attack on the navy compound in Karachi, some of the media persons were openly alleging that USA was behind the attack and the sole purpose was to create doubts about the capability of the armed forces to defend the nuclear assets in case of a terrorist attack. Nuclear Arsenal, more than anything else, is the main driver of the conspiracy theory industry in Pakistan. And this conspiracy theory mindset is deeply suspicious of everything the U.S. does. The Pakistani media has been responsible for aggravating the situation more than anyone else. Its hard earned independence has unfortunately come at the time where it has actually become jingoistic. Consequently rather than playing any meaningful progressive role, it is merely reinforcing rabid anti Americanism in order to commercially capitalize on the existing hatred. Opinions are not changed or even challenged, just reinforced and strengthened.

To some extent the suspicion ridden environment has also worsened due to the negative perception about the dealing tactics of USA with Pakistan. The impression of the majority of the Pakistanis is that U.S. does not consider it more than a client state. Instead of engaging with the people of Pakistan, US strikes deals with shady characters in the establishment and political top tier. Most of the Pakistanis feel that the case for war on terror has never been convincingly presented to them. The irony is that the elements which are striking deals with the U.S. are also highly critical of it, when it comes to public posturing. This kind of double behavior merely aggravates the negative impression of the U.S. in the eyes of masses. Apart from behind the door deals, another perception is that U.S. often bullies Pakistan and cares little for what the people of Pakistan feel. The recent issue of Raymond Davis merely worsened USA’s repute in the eyes of ordinary Pakistanis who construed the release of Raymond as an affront and open coercion by the superpower.

Despite the mistrust, the fact is that both countries need each other as they are fighting a common enemy. The U.S. cannot and should not leave Pakistan completely in isolation even after withdrawal from Afghanistan as to do so would be a repeat of the grave mistake it made in late 1980s when after the defeat of Soviet Union it simply packed up from the region. However, the prevailing deep mistrust has to be removed and both the parties need to take concrete steps. Pakistani media has to exercise maturity and try to cultivate rational self interest instead of indulging in rightwing hollow sloganeering about so called national honor and violation of sovereignty. Media needs to understand that freedom of expression comes with a responsibility that it would not be used for cheap sensationalizing and petty commercial interests. Pakistanis need to be convinced that due to their irrational and delusional mindset, they are getting completely isolated in the world while at the same time strengthening forces of extremism. They need to understand that USA and Pakistan are facing a common enemy and Media can potentially play a constructive role by at least allowing space to liberal opinion. At present the media is overwhelmingly dominated by the right wingers.

The U.S. has to engage with the people of Pakistan and dispel this impression that it is just a bullying coalition partner. It has to highlight its contributions to the country of Pakistan and those are many. Above all, it needs to strengthen democracy in Pakistan and should completely discard the previous policy of dealing with the unelected institutions.

 
 Additional Reading

FT Article: Distrust runs deep between Pakistan and US

By Farhan Bokhari in Islamabad and James Lamont in New Delhi

Reference

 

Shops burn following a deadly car bombing at a market in Peshawar©AFP

Inferno: shops burn following a deadly car bombing at a market in Peshawar

As the death toll steadily rose on Wednesday from a powerful car bomb in Peshawar, Hillary Clinton, the US secretary of state, stood up grimly in Islamabad to appeal for Pakistanis to overcome the misperceptions and stereotypes they had of the US.

Misperceptions carry the weight of fact in Pakistan; nowhere more so than where the US, and arch-rival India, are concerned.

Before the latest wave of terror attacks that have swept Pakistan’s big cities, rumours swirled in the capital about the US’s imperial ambitions for Pakistan.

A large contingent of US marines was imagined to be stationed at the embassy compound. Likewise, hundreds of houses were supposedly rented in the city to house staff of Blackwater, a private military company.

 

These fictions unnerved embassy staff, all too familiar with the incendiary nature of the society around them. They feared a possible repeat of the 1979 storming of the embassy. Then, an inaccurate radio report blaming the US for bombing the Masjid al-Haram in Mecca stirred students to burn the embassy down. Yet the attack on the mosque was the work of someone closer to home: a Saudi Arabian zealot.

Thirty years later, such grand misunderstandings still play themselves out on the streets of Pakistan. The brutal killings meted out by Taliban militants on Pakistan’s people are somehow either the US’s fault, or the handiwork of India.

Afghan map

Distrust between Islamabad and Washington runs deep, in spite of an embrace that spans decades when Pakistan was seen as a strategic counterweight to Moscow-leaning New Delhi and Soviet-occupied Afghanistan. Times have changed and more development assistance is on offer. Yet perceptions of the US have worsened. On the streets, Pakistanis are openly defiant towards the US. In the highest offices in government, officials are similarly resentful. They complain that the US has treated Pakistan as a “hired gun” to fight the Soviets and more recently al-Qaeda militants responsible for the 2001 terror attacks on New York and Washington.

Mrs Clinton’s visit offers a chance for the top US diplomat to present Washington’s case for a long-term relationship with a country where anti-US sentiment is fervent. “I want you to know that this fight is not Pakistan’s alone,” she said in remarks aimed at Pakistani sceptics. “So this is our struggle as well and we commend the Pakistani military for their courageous fight and we commit to stand shoulder to shoulder with the Pakistani people in your fight for peace and security.”

Mrs Clinton’s formidable task is to convince Pakistan’s leadership of Barack Obama’s determination to turn a page. Her visit comes amid controversy in Pakistan over the passage of a bill to triple US help to the country to $1.5bn a year. It also comes in the face of a widespread militant assault.

“The US in the past has only preferred to do business with people who suited its own interests. The interests of Pakistanis have never been considered,” said Ghaus Khan, an Islamabad student, on Wednesday, echoing wider public views.

General Ashfaq Pervez Kiyani, the Pakistan army’s chief, in a rare public criticism, cited “serious concern” over the Kerry-Lugar bill which was viewed as intrusive in areas including military promotions and Pakistan’s nuclear program.

Mrs Clinton has tried to emphasise development goals over military ones. On Wednesday, she offered US help to modernise Pakistan’s electricity infrastructure. Little investment went into power during Mr Musharraf’s time in office and now cities are blighted with outages.

“What do people in Pakistan want? Good jobs, good healthcare, good education for our children, energy that is predictable and reliable – the kinds of everyday needs that are really at the core of what Americans want,” she said.

That question is on the minds of many Pakistanis too. Instead of jobs, schools and hospitals they have escalating terror attacks.

“The people of Pakistan will be convinced of good American intentions when we see them in real life,” Mr Khan said. “There is a long history of bad American behaviour towards our people.”

 
 

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