A study of Anti-Americanism in Pakistan – Part 1

by Abdul Majeed Abid

“Yours is a great country with enormous resources of wealth, experience and technical skill. We, who believe in individual initiative, effort and enterprise do not believe that the era of private ownership is over. But we do believe that we have entered upon an era when capital should come out of its shell and move in the spheres of international social objectives and move on from exploitation to production. 

Your country fought for its own independence once. You have been great exponents and the jealous guardians of freedom. Words from your Declaration of Independence and your constitution have inspired men in far-off lands. You have shown to the world what human effort can do for human welfare. You have no colonies and I believe no territorial ambitions. Has not your history therefore equipped you more than most nations to be among the leading architects of the enlightened internationalism of the future?”
(Prime Minister Liaqat Ali Khan’s speech at Berkley University, May 16th, 1950)

Every year, thousands of bright and young Pakistani students apply for admission to colleges in the United States of America. A few hundred of them are finally selected and even fewer students actually make it to the US for college education. Hundreds of thousands of people from Pakistan apply for a US Visa every year; most of them want to go there just for a job. Thousands of doctors, engineers, lawyers and businessmen from Pakistan have permanently settled in the US and are contributing to the country’s economy by sending remittances. Financially, US has helped only Israel more than Pakistan in the last 60 years.

American money began flowing into Pakistan in 1954, when a mutual defense agreement was signed.According to the agreement, Washinton agreed to provide a military and economic aid program to Pakistan worth 105 Million Dollars a year. By 1957, the covert U.S military commitment to Pakistan had grown to 500 Million dollars a year(Dennis Kux, The United States and Pakistan, 1947-2000:disenchanted Allies, Woordow Wilson Press, 2001) Under Ronald Reagan, U.S. aid nearly quintupled: about three billion dollars in economic assistance and two billion in military aid. The U.S. provided over $11billion in aid to Pakistan since 2001. In 2010, $4.5 billion-one of the largest amounts ever given to a foreign country-aid was given to Pakistan. United States is redirecting another $50 million to flood aid from earlier projects. (Lawrence Wright,  The NewYorker, 16 May 2011)

Despite all the above mentioned facts, the first thing that a Pakistani thinks in case of a national tragedy is that ‘America is behind that tragedy’. A survey for international broadcaster al Jazeera by Gallup Pakistan found that 59 percent of Pakistanis felt the greatest threat to the country was the United States. A separate survey by the Pew Research Center, an independent pollster based in Washington, recorded that 64 percent of the Pakistani public regards the U.S. “as an enemy” and only 9 percent believe it to be a partner.

Cultural Critic, Nadeem F Paracha writes, “the present-day phenomenon in this context has become an obligatory part of populist rhetoric in which American involvement is blamed for everything — from terrorist attacks, to the energy crises, to perhaps even the break of dengue fever!”.

Tufail Ahmed (Director of South Asia Studies Project at the Middle East Media Research Institute, Washington DC) in his article for viewpointonline, noted that “Anti-Americanism is one of several dominant narratives that have taken hold over mass consciousness in Pakistan. Anti-Americanism has emerged as an ideology, as an overriding system of ideas. Writers, politicians and commentators frequently use the ideology of anti-Americanism, sometimes intentionally and mostly unintentionally, to explain the causes of various problems in terms of America’s international role. As a dominant perspective, anti-Americanism has come to acquire an autonomous reality of its own. It hegemonizes minds and prevents people from seeing facts as they exist.”

A lot of research has been done to understand this tricky relationship between the United States and Pakistan’s people despite the former’s largesse towards the country.
According to a research paper written by Dr Talukder Muniruzaman in 1971 on the politics of young Pakistanis, a majority of Pakistanis viewed America positively and admiringly in the 1950s.

The paper also suggests that right up until Pakistan’s 1965 war with India, most Pakistanis saw America as a friend, especially in the context of the Soviet Union’s close ties with India.

According to another paper published by Chicago University in 1983, on the ideological orientation of Pakistan’s university students by Kiren Aziz and Peter McDonough, anti-Americanism among most Pakistanis remained low even during the celebrated movement (in 1967-68) against the Ayub Khan dictatorship – in spite of the fact that the movement was largely led by leftist students, activists and politicians.

Professor Vali Nasr in his book, ‘Vanguards of the Islamic Revolution’ writes that the religious parties (especially JI)  began attributing the Pakistan Army’s defeat in 1971 to the ‘decadence and debauchery of men like General Yahya Khan’ and due to ‘Pakistanis’ failure to become good Muslims.’ However before that, a large number of Pakistanis began blaming the US because it had ‘failed to help Pakistan in the war.’

Comments are closed.