A recent survey conducted by Pew Global Attitudes (a project of a research center in Washington) in Pakistan has proven that the 64% of the people of Pakistan despise the USA and see it as one of the greatest threats to Pakistan. On the other hand only about 9% believe that the US can ever be Pakistan’s allies. However 70% of the Pakistanis who were questioned are absolutely against the Taliban and seek their utter elimination. Another survey conducted for the international broadcaster Al Jazeera by Gallup Pakistan found that 59 percent of Pakistanis felt the greatest threat to the country was the United States rather than the Taliban.
As the report suggests Pakistanis despise the USA but do not side with the Taliban or Al Qaeda. Generally Pakistanis view them unfavourably but they see both of them as two sides of the same coin.
Unfortunately the Americans cannot come to understand why Pakistanis see them as their foremost enemy rather than the terrorists. On the other hand Pakistanis feel they have been constantly betrayed despite seeing the Americans as allies. They believe they have been used to accomplish USA’s strategic goals and interests in the region and then abandoned.
A look at history
The Taliban were formed, supported and funded by the USA in the 1980’s in order to drive away the Soviets from Afghanistan and offset the defeat they suffered to the Communists in the Vietnam War. According to newly opened CIA files USA wanted the Soviets to intervene in Afghanistan and aid was being transferred to Anti communist elements since July 1979 which was before the Soviets had officially invaded.
Pakistan was not always keen to join the war and did so upon USA’s insistence. Sources even claim that Zia Ul Haq did not want to get involved in the war but many promises of opening up military and economic assistance were offered to President Zia by American diplomats for joining the war. This and the promise of a long lasting relationship with the USA convinced Pakistanis.
However by directly interfering in neighbouring Afghanistan on the behest of American urging Pakistan suffered over 120 incidents of terrorism which killed many citizens. One such bombing was the Islamabad depot bombings were blamed on Najibullah’s government. USA suffered no losses as they had no troops on the ground and were too far away from the region.
Not surprisingly when the war was over Pakistan was not needed and the country was abandoned. In 1990 military and economic ties were cut off with Pakistan under the Presler Amendment which required proof that Pakistan did not possess a nuclear weapon.
Unfortunately the fact that America itself has one of the largest stockpiles of nuclear weapons in the World and is the only Nation to have used them is ignored when talking about the nuclear aspirations of other Nations.
Pakistan’s Nuclear Tests
India conducted its first surprise nuclear test in 1974 known as the “Smiling Buddha.” USA turned a blind eye to the first test but India’s second test in 1998 which followed a similar test by Pakistan almost immediately received international condemnation. Initially sanctions were imposed on both India and Pakistan.
However after a few months the sanctions on India were removed while those on Pakistan remained. Certain military sanctions specially relating to nuclear technology continue till today however no such sanctions are being imposed on India. The differential treatment annoys Pakistanis as India has 10 times Pakistan’s population and is much larger than Pakistan. The military as well is larger than Pakistan’s own.
Furthermore Pakistanis can also not understand why USA signed a nuclear deal with India but is not willing to sign the exact same deal with Islamabad which has sent clear signals that it wants a peaceful nuclear deal with the USA for power generation purposes. Pakistan is facing crippling power shortages that are affecting the daily life of its citizens. In major cities people have to make do without 4-8 hours of electricity in a day.
The relationship today
Americans believe that the aid they are giving Pakistan in the War on Terror is more than enough and is a message to Pakistan to forget the past and move on. However what they don’t seem to understand is that the losses of Pakistan in the WOT have crossed $35.5 Billion in damages to Pakistan (These figures are from January 2009 and the figure may now be more than 48 Billion). The aid does not compensate Pakistan for the losses given that $11 Billion is not even a quarter of this figure.
To aggravate things further much of the aid given to Pakistan has still not been delivered and much of it will be eaten up by the administrative costs of the USA.
In addition the Americans have expressed no sympathy for the 8000 Pakistani civilians and 2000 soldiers killed in a highly unpopular war but have always pushed Pakistan to do more as if it were their colony.
Many Pakistanis as a result believe that USA is supporting terrorism in their country. The fact that the US has released several Taliban commanders from its custody such as Abdullah Mehsud who have attacked Pakistani Nationals soon after their release has further supported this belief. The latest addition to the long list of such commanders is Mehdi-Mohammed Ghazali who was captured in Pakistan recently and is a Swedish National released from Guantanamo Bay.
The American media has a way of aggravating the situation and pouring salt to the fresh wounds of the Nation. The baseless suggestion that Pakistani nukes may fall in the hands of terrorists only fuels rage and in turn is seen as a scheme to take possession of Pakistan’s nuclear weapons. On the other hand the constant campaigns of accusations aimed at Pakistan’s premier intelligence agency the ISI and the military are seen as an attempt to isolate and destroy the military and ISI so that it cannot stop CIA’s designs in the region.
When it is stated that Pakistan is not serious in the War on Terror despite the death of thousands of its own people it also fuels Anti Americanism. The Pakistanis have now become even more suspicious of the USA because of these media campaigns.
Due to the American policies towards Pakistan in the past and those that still continue today many Pakistanis simply see the terrorist organizations as American agents. For the majority of Pakistanis the USA and Taliban are basically two sides of the same coin.
Can US-Pakistani ties ever develop?
The very attitude of the USA towards Pakistan leaves lingering resentment and rage amongst Pakistanis. It does nothing but make terrorist organizations more powerful.
Where yesterday only a section of the population believed no productive ties could ever develop between Pakistan and USA today this phenomenon is noticeable even amongst the moderates as they see the USA as their sworn enemy.
USA’s foreign policy is based on egotism and to protect their self interest the Americans are willing to cross any limit. For Pakistan it is the moment to take a tougher stance with the USA and design a policy that is in turn beneficial to the Nation.
Most Pakistanis are already suggesting that either the Pakistanis take a tougher stance towards the USA and demand to be treated with the respect they deserve or withdraw from the War completely declaring themselves neutral to both the USA and the Afghan Taliban.
Whatever the case it is high time for Pakistan to present itself on an equal footing as the USA otherwise it will continue to be taken for granted and will be used and abandoned as has been the case in the past. Pakistan cannot have a relationship with the USA where Pakistan’s sovereignty itself is lost. After all Pakistan is not a colony but an Independent Nation.