Diving into the history of US-Pakistan relations may seem to be a good platform to initiate the discussion on this precious love affair. However, I personally feel that consistently reminding ourselves of the roller coaster relationship we have had with the United States is not in our interests at this point in time. Focusing on the future with our national interest as our foremost priority should be the stance the Pakistan government needs to uphold. Meanwhile, the United States is also required to re-evaluate its strategy towards Pakistan in order to successfully gain the respect of Pakistani citizens.
The United States has always seemed to be Pakistan’s best friend when it only serves their own purpose. This is the common perception that Pakistani’s have of the US and has only been reaffirmed with the quick withdrawal of US assistance after the Soviets left Afghanistan, the placement of sanctions after testing the nuclear bomb and the billions of dollars of aid that Pakistan received after 9/11.
Many journalists in the US media argued against Pakistan’s acceptance of the Taliban and how this country of a 170 million people was sympathetic towards their radical cause. This constant reminder has made Americans grow wary of Pakistan and her citizens. However, this should not be the case. Pakistan has taken the war to the militants, and has gone to great lengths in order to root out those very terrorists who threaten Pakistan’s peace and security. The United States needs to acknowledge the work of the Pakistan Army and citizens. And in order to reduce the trust deficit, the US media community needs to stop portraying Pakistan in a dark image, especially in terms of leakage of nuclear weapons to terrorists and the government falling to the Taliban.
First and foremost, the United States needs to not only successfully complete its mission in Afghanistan, but also more importantly, be a vital player in the rebuilding of this war torn nation. The United States is required to invest heavily in the Afghan infrastructure that has been bombarded while also focusing on basic human needs such as food, shelter, clothing, health and education for the Afghan people. The US needs to show serious commitment and firmness once the military offensive has completed, which must reciprocate into action as this would greatly benefit both Pakistan and Afghanistan.
Secondly, the United States needs to show its commitment towards Pakistan through long-term goals and put to rest the perception of only short-term gains. No doubt, the United States has helped Pakistan greatly over the years. Since Pakistan’s inception, billions of dollars have been given in aid for both, military and non-military assistance. What we as a nation have to show for this aid may be difficult but surely the effects are not absent. Many private industries within Pakistan have US investors, whereas various sectors such as electrical energy, agriculture and development have also been given US assistance and logistics.
Although the United States has clearly helped Pakistan over the course of the past 62 years, more is required. But it is also Pakistan’s responsibility to not ‘expect’ aid merely for providing assistance. We need to work on our internal political concerns in order to create a safe and secure democratic Pakistan. It is difficult to stabilize our democratic institutions primarily due to the years of military dictatorship that we as a nation have endured. Many assume it is the easier route to blame military dictators for the political and economic problems we face today but we as citizens are required to look at ourselves first before pointing the finger of blame upon others. It is here where I repeat Quaid’s words “united we stand, divided we fall”.
We must as a nation start giving credit where it is due. We need to accept that the United States has been our ally and has provided assistance to us over the years. We Pakistanis have this tendency of often picking on the criticism and pointing out the flaws of a relationship. This style of criticism is not healthy nor is it constructive and with the roller coaster relationship we have had with the United States, it has provided much fodder for the hard line critics.
By correcting its foreign policy and making it more Pakistan friendly, the US may be doing itself more of a favor, while it would be protecting the national interest of both countries. It is difficult for any government to conduct business if it has dissatisfied its citizens. If the United States enjoys labeling itself as the beacon of democracy, it must represent itself through actions as well. Championing for democracy requires that one promotes accountability, liberty and justice, freedom of speech and religion for all. President Obama today, is arguing the cause for health care reform but most importantly he is not acting unilaterally and is exhaustively attempting to bring republicans and democrats on board. This approach of acting in the interests of all parties involved should also be extending when determining foreign policy. The US and Pakistani governments need all the political capital they can gain when clearing our world of the menace of terrorism. This is a multilateral fight that requires trust, cooperation and understanding from both countries. And if carried out correctly and successfully, our future generations will be able to live in a country that was born to represent the white, green, star and crescent.