Eric S Margolis, a veteran American journalist, once wrote: “Anyone who still wonders why so many in the Muslim World hate the West needs to look no further than Pakistan, where, in the name of ‘democracy’ and ‘counterterrorism’ Washington and London are stirring a witches brew of dictatorship, intrigue and violence.”
Pakistan’s national concerns, be they short term or long term, ought to be aligned with none other than Pakistan itself. And, God forbid, if that is not the case then Pakistan is betraying its own national interest.
Let us be very clear. Pakistan shares no such commonalities with the US, nor has our relationship over the years developed on the basis of equality, equity or respect. The interest of United States, as reflected in its lethal foreign policy, is purely US-centric. It would be naïve for America to expect us to believe that in some way Pakistan’s national interest is accounted for in American policies. As seen through the eyes of a Pakistani, America’s relationship with Pakistan is purely that of a patron and client, whereby, through years of flawed policies, Pakistan has reduced itself to being a subservient rent state.
The source of anti-American sentiment is not Pakistani’s lack of acknowledgement and appreciation for America’s economic assistance, rather, our sense of resentment and deprivation is the result of the pound of flesh which America demands in return—that is, the sovereignty of our people..
America’s unaccountable and unquestioning generosity towards our military has made it resistant to democratic checks and has severely distorted the balance of powers between important state institutions, creating an air of conflict and mistrust between them. America pays military governments several million dollars a year and many more directly to our military, and in return it uses our military and our land to further its own political agenda in the region. On the one hand America professes the importance of democracy in Pakistan in which the ultimate sounding board is the will of the people, and on the other hand America has deprived the people of their power.
What better example of this than the current political crisis in Pakistan? Deny all it will, America has and continues to micro-manage our affairs. Despite all its hollow claims of supporting democracy and fighting terrorism, America continues to back autocratic, dictatorial, military rulers, and thereby increasing public alienation, social turmoil and political instability.
In the elections of 2008, the people of Pakistan gave General Musharraf and his cronies the order of the boot. In no uncertain terms, the message given by the people of Pakistan was that they no longer want a military rule which does not empower the people, and which does not put national interest first, and which is exceedingly obedient to foreign orders. Being seen as a close American ally cost Musharraf and his cronies heavily. However, once again, the will of the people was vetoed by America, and regardless of the fact that the majority of the people would like to see the back of Pervez Musharaf, he remains seated in the Presidency, probably sending thank you emails to President Bush every morning.
If America genuinely wants to help Pakistan, then it must show respect for the will of the people of this country. If the “war on terror” is really a war on terror and if America is committed to winning it, then the best thing it can do is help create a stable and moderate Pakistan. This can only be done if America distances itself from the governance of the country and alleviates the feeling of alienation and helplessness amongst the people by allowing them to play their rightful role in the political process.
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Written by: Alizeh Haider, a barrister and human rights activist currently based in the UAE.