By Shahid R. Siddiqi
THOSE were the good old days — the 1950s. Pakistanis enjoyed hip hop American culture that made inroads into their households without worrying about its mean political attitude. Majority of Pakistanis looked upon America as an icon of capitalism, progress and democracy.
It fascinated young minds with its ideas of freedom of thought and speech. Pakistan’s founding fathers aligned their country with America because its leadership evoked confidence. Sentimental Pakistanis took America to be a friend in literal sense.
But if one was to ask people in the streets of Pakistan today, 7 out of 10 will blame America for all of Pakistan’s ills. They will cite a pattern of deceit, exploitation and misuse of trust by America over five decades.
They perceive America to be an arrogant, war mongering superpower which, propelled solely by its global agenda and imperial hubris, foments trouble, attacks and destroys people and countries.
Over a period of 50 years, Pakistan’s admiration for America has turned into a feeling of suspicion, outrage, even scorn. This is reinforced by the emerging perception elsewhere in the world shown by the polls that America is the most hated country. The wide-eyed Washington beltway insiders shake their heads in disbelief and question this hatred.
The answer is simple. The world outside America hates Shylocks that rule America. It refuses to meet their increasing demand for their pound of flesh.
Pakistanis got the first taste of change in America’s behaviour — and of Machiavellian approach to international relations — when it stood aside to let India attack Pakistan in 1965, bilateral and multilateral defence treaties notwithstanding. Not content, it slapped an embargo on arms sales.
In 1971 it again watched India dismembering Pakistan and taking 93,000 troops as POWs. An outraged Pakistani nation condemned this American attitude as treachery. In the 1970s, America created roadblocks for Pakistan’s nuclear programme and threatened Bhutto of dire consequences. Most Pakistanis believe General Zia acted in cahoots with the Americans when he overthrew Bhutto and sent him to the gallows.
To crush the Soviet invading army in Afghanistan, America unhesitatingly sought Pakistan’s support, set aside all ‘concerns’ about Pakistan’s nuclear programme, declared it the ‘frontline state’, the ‘most allied ally’, and began pouring dollars and weapons in Afghanistan to bolster Pakistan’s jihad against the Soviets. ISI, presently a villain, was then America’s darling because it successfully masterminded the largest covert operation in history, which was music to American ears.
No sooner the Soviets lost the war and the Americans extracted a quid pro quo — safe withdrawal in lieu of Soviet cessation of support to anti-US movements in South America, Pakistan was ordered to cease fire. When a defiant Zia refused, Junejo, his weak handpicked prime minister, was encouraged to bypass Zia and sign Geneva Accords.
Zia was to soon vanish from the scene, dying in an air crash, for which Pakistanis blame the Americans. In the period that followed, thanks to imbecile rulers, America treated Pakistan like a colony, most blatantly intervening in its domestic affairs.
As if describing Zia’s fate, Henry Kissinger said: “In this world it is often dangerous to be an enemy of the United States, but to be a friend is fatal”.
America then walked away, leaving Pakistan and Afghanistan to deal with the consequences of the war. A dysfunctional, war-torn Afghanistan was left to fend for itself and sank into chaos. The ‘most allied ally’ — Pakistan, was used and abandoned.
Soon after the Afghan war in 1990, America suspended all military assistance and economic aid to Pakistan under Pressler Amendment to punish Pakistan for its nuclear programme. More sanctions followed nuclear explosions in 1998. Pakistan was refused delivery of F16 aircraft ordered and paid for in the mid-’90s. America’s “most allied ally” was now the “most sanctioned ally”.
After 9/11 the Americans were back in Islamabad begging and coercing President Musharraf into joining their war on terror because America couldn’t go it alone. Washington’s hullabaloo about Pakistan’s nuclear weapons once more went out of the window and dollars and weapons began to flow again for the war.
But later, after falling apart with Musharraf, they manipulated to bring in a more pliable Benazir Bhutto. Some say Benazir later repented her decision. Unfortunately she did not live to tell the truth. Musharraf was eased out and Benazir’s widower, who waited in the wings, was eased in.
Pakistan has suffered thousands of casualties — both of soldiers and civilians. Its fragile economy stands shattered. Its estimated losses of $35 billion due to war are yet to be reimbursed. Assistance given for war expenditure is very minimal compared to Afghanistan ($143 billion). Pakistan’s poor and the middle classes have collapsed due to recession, job losses and mounting poverty.
Pakistan was subjected to a reign of terror coming from Fata, supposedly the work of ‘Islamic extremists who wanted an Islamic order’. But their actions contradicted their claim.
They killed people and created chaos, actions that violated Islamic teachings and earned hatred. The truth is they were mercenaries hired to destabilise Pakistan at the behest of foreign interests.
As if in concert, the West began a chorus about Pakistan’s imminent fall to militants and the risk of nuclear assets being seized and used against the West. No matter how silly and impossible, this scenario was aimed at denuclearizing Pakistan.
Pakistan Government insists that Afghan and Indian agencies are also supporting BLA and other insurgents fighting for independent Balochistan, a concept reportedly having origins in the Pentagon. It is inconceivable that America is unaware of such conspiracies hatched under its nose, while it occupies Afghanistan and operates an elaborate intelligence network.
America’s overtures towards India have also raised alarm. The civilian nuclear deal and offer to train Afghan National Army are bad decisions. The former is in clear contravention of the spirit of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and the latter creates insecurity for Pakistan.
A recent survey for ‘al Jazeera’ by Gallup Pakistan found 70 per cent Pakistanis holding America to be the greatest threat to Pakistan’s sovereignty. Another survey in mid-2009 by Washington based Pew Research Centre found that 64 per cent of Pakistanis regard America as an enemy, only 9 per cent believing it to be a partner.
In another recent poll by World Public Opinion, Pakistan’s perception of the US under the Obama administration was found not substantively different from that of the US under Bush. Only 30 per cent of Pakistanis showed any confidence that the US president would do ‘the right thing regarding world affairs’.
After prolonged mistreatment and exploitation these conclusions are logical and it is no surprise that Pakistanis strongly oppose close ties with America. America is incapable of bringing about fundamental and visible changes in its thinking, attitude and policies that could bridge these differences. It committed a strategic blunder by mishandling and losing a nuclear armed nation of 170 million people, straddling a sensitive South and South West Asia.
America’s meddling in Pakistan’s internal affairs is hated and must stop. No regime carrying ‘Made in America’ label will survive and the present government remains in serious trouble.
President Obama in his December 2009 policy speech admitted: “In the past, we too often defined our relationship with Pakistan narrowly. Those days are over…. The Pakistani people must know America will remain a strong supporter of Pakistan’s security and prosperity long after the guns have fallen silent, so that the great potential of its people can be unleashed”.
Reassuring words indeed, but similar assurances in the past brought no substantive change in the American attitude. Even if Obama’s message is a signal for change of policy towards Pakistan, it remains to be seen how his words are translated into actions. The way Pakistan has been treated is more a question of wrong attitude, less of wrong policy. Policies can change overnight, attitudes take much longer time.
America would do well to cease threatening Pakistan’s nuclear assets, directly or through proxies. For the people and the army, Pakistan’s nuclear programme is the cornerstone of the country’s existence and anyone trying to subvert it is considered the enemy of the state.
President Obama’s recent statement that America has no intentions of seizing Pakistan’s nuclear assets should begin to clear the air. But there are host of other issues that continue to agitate Pakistani minds and need to be addressed.
Source : http://www.dawn.com