By Abdul Majeed Abid
History tells us that relations between Pakistan and United States started on the right note, as demonstrated by aforementioned speech of Prime Minister Liaqat Ali Khan. It was followed by the decade of co-operation between the two countries in matters of trade and military training. As we can see, the seeds of perceived animosity were laid during the 1965-71 period during which United States stopped the military aid to both Pakistan and India in the wake of the 1965 war. The people responsible for arousing these sentiments were the dexterous politicians of Pakistan and to some extent the religio-political parties and they did that just to mask their own shortcomings.
A similar attitude was shown by Mr. Bhutto when he blamed the alarming political situation upon the machinations of United States that wanted to “stop him from forming a Muslim-bloc”. In his book ‘Political Dynamics of Sindh 1947-1977’ Tanvir Ahmed Tahir suggests that the post-1971 anti-Americanism in Pakistan was more an occupation of progressive and leftist groups. This is confirmed in Hassan Abbas’ book, ‘Pakistan’s drift into extremism: Allah, the Army and America’s War on Terror’.
According to Lubna Rafique’s 1994 paper, ‘Benazir & British Press, ( Rafiue, Lubna. Benazir and British Press. 1986-1994, Gautam Publishers, Lahore, Pakistan, 1994) it was only in the last year of Z.A. Bhutto’s regime (1977), that he started to allude to moving out of the ‘American camp,’ calling the US a ‘white elephant.’ He also went on to accuse the Jimmy Carter administration for financing the religious parties’ agitation against him in 1977.
After the ousting of Mr. Bhutto came the martial law decade(1977-88) orchestrated by General Zia ul Haq. The setup that came to power because of unrest created by parties that were essentially anti-American in outlook ended up becoming a pawn in the hands of the same Americans. Zia-ul-Haq milked the opportunities when neighbor Afghanistan was attacked by USSR and a communist government was installed there. The flow of dollars towards the coffers of Pakistan continued until 1986. In 1985, Section 620E(e) (the Pressler amendment) was added to the Foreign Assistance Act, requiring the President to certify to Congress that Pakistan does not possess a nuclear explosive device during the fiscal year for which aid is to be provided. With the Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan, Pakistan’s nuclear activities again came under intensive U.S. scrutiny and, in 1990, President Bush again suspended aid to Pakistan. Under the provisions of the Pressler amendment, most bilateral economic and all military aid ended and deliveries of major military equipment ceased. In 1992, Congress partially relaxed the scope of the aid cutoff to allow for food assistance and continuing support for nongovernmental organizations (Congressional Research Service Issue Brief for Congress on Pakistan-U.S Relations, Feb 2006).
It was followed by the dwindling relations between the two countries in the 90s culminating in an ebb in the relation during 1998 following the Nuclear tests conducted by Pakistan. Interestingly, when the Pakistan Army was caught with its pants down in Kargil, it was the United States that acted as the peace-ensurer following an ugly fight.
The Musharraf era (1999-2008) witnessed the ascent of Pakistan-U.S relation to an altogether different level of co-operation following 9/11 attacks. Despite the fact that not a single Pakistani was involved in the horrendous attacks on World Trade Center, Pakistanis were targeted by and large by the American media and hate-crimes surfaced against Pakistanis living in the United States. The U.S attack on Afghanistan did not help regarding the negative feelings harbored by Pakistanis towards U.S since the 70s and then the 90s. This anti-U.S sentiment was cashed by the alliance of religio-political parties in NWFP(now Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa), one of Pakistan’s provinces bordering Afghanistan and for the first time in the history of Pakistan, religious parties won a landslide victory in 2002 elections. On the official front, Pakistan was awarded the non-NATO ally status while the leaders of various parties kept blaming America for all the ills in the country. The top command of Al Qaeda and Taliban sought refuge in the treacherous terrain of semi-autonomous tribal agencies that form Pakistan’s border with Afghanistan. This led to unmanned drone strikes by the U.S to eliminate threats to its personnel in Afghanistan and its own security. The drone strikes not only killed the insurgents but also the innocent people present around that area creating strong grievances against the mighty America and its army. This issue was used to create furor by religious parties and right-wing politicians including a certain Imran Khan. Massive sit-ins were held at various places in the country and media fuelled the emotion even further by inflammatory programs. In the last one year, several major developments happened vis-à-vis relations with the United States that have made the relation more unstable than it already was. Raymond Davis, a security contractor, killed 3 people at a busy thoroughfare in Lahore, a U.S SEAL team raided a house in Abbotabad killing Osama Bin Laden and 24 Pakistani soldiers were killed in a gunfight with NATO forces at the Afghan Border.