Articles Comments

Pak Tea House » Opinion » What Pakistanis think about Americans

What Pakistanis think about Americans

By Raza Habib Raja

Orginally published at Huffington Post

Martin is one of my American friends and has travelled frequently to Pakistan on official trips. Almost all of his trips have come in the recent days and thus have coincided with some of the most turbulent times in Pakistani history. I initially got to know Martin because he was a government consultant sent by the US government for providing technical assistance to my organization (Central Bank of Pakistan) and therefore I was required to assist him in understanding its various functions.  Martin was very inquisitive about Pakistan and its people. Since I became close to him during his stays, he asked me a lot of questions and also expressed his views as they were being formed.

Martin was surprised at the contrast of the picture portrayed by Media about Pakistan and what he actually witnessed. He candidly told me that before coming here he had believed the widespread media narrative about Pakistan being a radical country like Iran where almost everyone was either supporting a beard or  a Burqah. Moreover, he had assumed that since Pakistanis were known to possess strong anti American sentiments therefore those would translate into some sort of personal hostility towards him also. However, he was really surprised as he came in contact with the Pakistanis. In Martin’s own words which he wrote to me after he left Pakistan:

“My views of Pakistan changed quite markedly after I had the chance to visit the country and work at State Bank on four different occasions.  I had come to believe that there was some sort of personal animosity between American and Pakistanis, which certainly wasn’t the case with the folks I worked with — in fact, I was stunned by the level of trust my SBP colleagues were willing to place in me considering that I was a contractor for the US Treasury.  There had always been rumors in other countries where I’d worked that advisors for USAID were working for the CIA (utterly ridiculous and risible in the case of bank supervision at least!), so I wasn’t prepared for such a level of trust and confidence.  I found it quite liberating to be rid of all the false images I’d learned of Pakistanis from the US media.

So in retrospect, I would have to rank Pakistan as one of the most interesting, surprising (in a pleasant way) and personally rewarding countries in which I’ve ever worked.  Had it not been for the security situation in Karachi, I would have considered a residency assignment since this was in fact the original intent of the technical assistance.  I sincerely hope that Pakistanis and Americans can see through the all rhetoric and political posturing and realize how much we have in common.  That will show the way to reconciliation rather than conflict.”

These words are coming from someone who was initially sceptical but whose opinions changed a lot as he started to mix with the Pakistanis from all walks of life. Martin of course is not the only person as so many people have come to Pakistan. Some have hated the place and its people and some have loved it. However, seldom those people have gone back claiming that they were the victims of widespread anti Americanism and that racial tinged personal animosity was shown to them. As they say that seeing is believing and their opinions underwent a radical transformation after personally witnessing Pakistan and its society. Reality at least in some aspects was not what the media narrative had portrayed.

Everything on this world is eventually seen or understood through a paradigm which in turn is influenced by some narrative.  This is particularly true if you are formulating views about a society in which you are not living. Your perception about the society is not firsthand but heavily influenced (whether positively and negatively) through the media. In our lives we are heavily reliant on media for information and are views are often an outcome of the way media spins its stories. This holds true for any society whether it is Pakistan or United States.

In Pakistan, the media has often portrayed a negative picture of the US and consequently the people too have a negative perception. However, despite media’s negative propaganda the negative feelings about US have not translated into hatred against American people and society. If anything the Pakistanis want to emulate the American lifestyle and have a ferocious craving for American movies and products. Yes it is a fact that Pakistanis-whether rightly or wrongly- are not appreciative of United States and its global policies but the assumption that they hate American citizens and society is a negative spin often perpetuated by the media. In fact if given a choice virtually half the country would be in United States to settle. You do not want to do that if you hate a country and yes while desire for economic prosperity is a chief motive but that alone does not explain that why would Pakistanis want to work in a society which they supposedly “hate’.

The “mixed” opinion about America exists because of this dichotomy that Pakistanis like American lifestyle while being critical of United States foreign policy. So many Pakistanis are settled in US and have blended in. If there was one Faisal Shehzad who professed inhuman hatred, there are countless others who have integrated very well into the US society and have made significant contribution to the society.

It is important for the US people to know that Pakistanis may be having mistrust (whether right or wrong is a separate debate) of their government but they do not hate them or their lifestyles. And yes while it is true that Taliban originated from Pakistan and Osama Bin Laden was found hiding a few meters away from the Military Academy, Pakistan still remains a moderate country. Yes, we are passing through an unfortunate phase where we are reeling under extremism but while the state can be blamed for that, the people of Pakistan by and large cannot be. In fact in Pakistan, the democratically elected governments seldom have power and are often the weakest part of the state. The real state (dominated by military-intelligence establishment and often termed as the “deep” state) is seldom the reflection of the aspirations of the people. Ordinary men and women in Pakistan just want to make ends meet and while they may be having a negative impression of the US government, they do not endorse killing of American citizens or for that any actions of militants.

What has really happened in Pakistan is that religious extremists which had in the past been cultivated for “strategic” purposes have attained a critical mass and are in a position to put the government on the back foot though suicide bombings and other violent tactics. However, these militants may have attained a critical mass but by no means do they enjoy mass popularity. Pakistan still votes for middle of the road parties, is not a radicalized country like Iran and its populace does not hate the Americans.

We need to understand that political perceptions do not necessarily reflect judgment about people. There is at times no concrete linkage between perception about actions of a certain government and those who have elected it. This facts needs to be understood by all and particularly the people of United States. Pakistani people wish well for them and do not harbour any ill will.

And it is this fact, above anything else, which necessitates that US government, should try to only engage with the elected representatives of the people rather than shady characters of the establishment. In case if people of Pakistan are properly taken into confidence then the chances of success in fighting extremism are much greater.




Written by

Filed under: Opinion · Tags: , , ,

16 Responses to "What Pakistanis think about Americans"

  1. [...] What Pakistanis think about Americans [...]

  2. noItAll United States Safari Mac OS says:

    last sentence is mind bogglingly stupid.
    American Government does not work like a democracy outside its border.
    What is so hard to understand.
    Dumb American comes to Pakistan and in 5 minutes understands all.
    What a moron.
    Apparently radicalization only effects 80% of the population yet
    the public is not radical.
    More BS about how a technocrat liberal fascist will rescue pakistan
    only if American let pakistanis do it. What a fantasy.

  3. RHR Pakistan Internet Explorer Windows says:

    @ noITAll

    And how do YOU know that 80% is radicalized?

    And what is liberal fascist and where did I suggest that a technocrat liberal fascist would rescue Pakistan..

  4. Lady Guinevere United States Mozilla Firefox Windows says:

    Dear Raza; What a lovely, enlightening article!

    As always, Lady Guinevere

  5. hiob Germany Mozilla Firefox Windows says:

    What are Pakistan’s and islam’s long term goals?
    The answer to this question determines and causes (and will continue to cause) anti-americanism in Pakistan.

    That individual pakistanis – depends upon whom Martin met or could meet – received him with smiles and pedhas and barfi is no criterion for judging the US-Pakistan antagonism of fundamental interests.

    Furthermore, Pakistanis know how and why to camouflage their intentions and feelings too. It is not a nation founded on honesty but on played-up ideas of murderous honor, fake victimhood and islamic superiority complex. Did Zia not say to the americans that it is alright to lie (or lie low) for islam?

  6. teerandaz United States Internet Explorer Windows says:

    The majority of people everywhere are ‘decent’. It is what they do to actively counter the always-present minority of violent people in their midst that matters. If I lead a pious life but do nothing to curb my drunk criminal son who bothers my neighbours and disturbs the peace in my own home, my piety amounts to a big fat nothing.

    In Pakistan, the ideology the criminals espouse forms a continuum with the religious beliefs of the majority. This makes isolating and countering them more difficult than if they were simply criminal. Opposing them runs the risk of being tagged a kafir oneself. It is this problem that needs a solution, not a PR campaign directed at the wider world.

  7. ssk United States Internet Explorer Windows says:

    We have to learn to differentiate between American paople and American state. While American people in general are friendly and believe in democratic values for all, American state promotes democracy when and how it suites its own interests. Those who do not believe this, read history of nations who were and are being exploited by the super power in the name fo democracy.

    People like martin, if they are sincere, can render a great service to pakistan by tellin about their experineces in Pakistan to the American public, not just to Pakistanis ( there is an element of patronization when they do that).

  8. NoItAll United States Safari Mac OS says:

    @RHR,

    80% comes from survey that say liberals make up at most 20% of the population.
    Hatred is taught in school, only kids who escape are the ones going to private school
    or have schooling outside pakistan but they are more clever in hiding their views
    in terms of western talk to mask their ugly side.

    “Liberal Fascist” is term used by authors in this blog and other liberal columns.
    I didn’t invent it. You have to pay attention to your own blog.

  9. observe Germany Mozilla Firefox Windows says:

    teerandaz writes:

    “In Pakistan, the ideology the criminals espouse forms a continuum with the religious beliefs of the majority.”

    Which religion is that then? Buddhism?

    Why with that particular religion (from Arabia) of which the pakistanis want to believe and enforce that it is the final, divine, perfect one? Do other religions offer that ease of continuity?

    Does that not explain why Jinnah jumped on to the bandwagon of islam and related megalomania?

  10. RHR Pakistan Internet Explorer Windows says:

    Dear No1atall

    Funny name…

    liberal fascist is an oxymoron and that is why I asked you to explain…
    I know the term is being used in pakistan but the term is ridicolus

    80% radicalized or 80% religously conservative..being conservative does not mean you are radicalized…get your concepts straight.

  11. observe Germany Internet Explorer Windows says:

    I asked:

    “Why with that particular religion (from Arabia) of which the pakistanis want to believe and enforce that it is the final, divine, perfect one? Do other religions offer that ease of continuity?”

    (it was about continuity between evil and religion)

    The arab “lord” (syed) replied “Not Much!”

    ————-

    to RHR

    Religion prides in being radical. So religious means radicalized. And the arab religion has this continuity to criminality since 1400 years. Even Chairman Mo’s biography shows that up. So radicalization in the arab religion is necessarily concomitant with criminality.

    No wonder Jinnah found his finalist fulfilment (after having tried everything else!!!) in this very religion of “his forefathers”.

    Pakistan is “resilient” in the sense that it is a society that can endure “unlimited” amounts of deceit and self-deceit. How journalist after journalist in Pakistan prides about Pakistan being resilient! Actually it is a society that is RESISTANT to truth.
    What an achievement!

  12. Cronous United States Mozilla Firefox Mac OS says:

    “In Pakistan, the media has often portrayed a negative picture of the US and consequently the people too have a negative perception. However, despite media’s negative propaganda the negative feelings about US have not translated into hatred against American people and society. If anything the Pakistanis want to emulate the American lifestyle and have a ferocious craving for American movies and products.”

    Frankly that is pretty overblown. A small portion (maybe 20%? probably less) of the upper/middle class may crave America but the remainder despise it because they view American culture as being decadent in the context of hyper-religiosity. Even that 20% takes a contradictory view where they love America for its wealth but that turns to visceral hate when it when they feel America remotely impinges on their “honor”. That is Pakistan today, religious insanity with some cheap bravado on top.

  13. observer Germany Internet Explorer Windows says:

    And what about the pakistanis living in USA who hate USA and wish to convert USA into an ummah sub-entity? Idiocy has a name. And that is Pakistaniyat. They can’t manage their own land but wish to pull everyone down into their foul heap.

  14. KMR Overseas Egypt Internet Explorer Windows says:

    @ Cronous.
    “..Even that 20% takes a contradictory view where they love America for its wealth but that turns to visceral hate when it when they feel America remotely impinges on their “honor”..”

    @ NoItAll
    “..Hatred is taught in school, only kids who escape are the ones going to private school or have schooling outside pakistan but they are more clever in hiding their views in terms of western talk to mask their ugly side..”

    One such classic example for above is Pakistani blogger Moin Ansari (Rupeenews). Being in the west, all his views are anti American, anti non Muslims not to mention anti India & Hindu. Despite being anti non-Muslim he is part of Tikkun community an Interfaith organiation. He also runs another organization American Joint Multifaith Associsation. But his anti American, anti Indian, anti Hindu rantings are plenty in his website http://rupeenews.com/ (latest article, Insanity: US ‘suspends’ unused aid shunned by Pakistan military).

  15. Sri United Kingdom Mozilla Firefox Windows says:

    The Pakistanis I personally know here in the UK seem to be decent enough. I send my child to a playgroup run by Pakistani women, and I find that they take pretty good care of her. But I despair when many educated Pakistanis pretend that the current precarious state of their society has nothing to do with their individual attitudes, and its all due to the military and to the wrong policies followed by USA, and that all of this would be corrected if USA engages with the people directly.

    When you have to depend on an outside country to deliver you from your misery, my friends, understand that you’re goners. Its another matter that even if that country(USA) wants to give succour to yours, they can’t unless you people reform your government/society yourselves. I hope you understand that the government(in your case that includes the military) is “of” and “by” the people, so you can’t dissociate from that. That is a classic case of denial.

Leave a Reply

*

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>