From Apple of the Eye to an Apple of Discord

A man used to worship a deity -an idol. He made every possible effort to convince his brother to worship it too but he did not. One night that idol came into that worshiper`s dream. It threatened to punish him if he was unable to convince his brother to worship it. Worshiper begged for mercy. When the idol kept on insisting, the man collected the courage to ask whether it was him or his brother the culprit, who was not worshiping it. If his brother is reluctant to worship it, then why does he have to face any punishment? The idol replied, “Because you worship me, therefore I can threaten you not him.” 

Something similar has been asked by the United States from its allies at different times in history. It demands hardcore loyalty from its partners or allies when it fails to overcome its enemies. For instance, during the 1950s Pakistan preferred the United States over the former Soviet Union; during the 1980s it helped United States to counter the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan; and remained an ally of it throughout the 2000s when it asked a 12 times smaller state, “with us or against us?” 

However, almost every time the United States left Pakistan in the lurch throwing her burdens on Islamabad. This is what this piece tries to explain; the flawed and unjust behavior of Washington toward Islamabad. 

Remember the time when Pakistan was compelled to join America`s war in 2001. What did the United States do in return? It kept on repeating the mantra of ‘do more’ from Islamabad when it was failing to achieve victory in Afghanistan, particularly, during Donald J. Trump`s tenure. The rhetoric remained similar to that of the deity – because Pakistan was its ally, therefore, the United States could ask it to do more, as they themselves were failing time and again to get rid of the Taliban`s presence in Afghanistan.

Pakistan was the apple of the eye of the United States during the 1950s, to a degree in the 1960s, and the 1980s, but every time it turned out to become an apple of discord for X number of reasons. The United States did not help Pakistan against India during the wars of 1965 and 1971. In contrast, when it needed Pakistan`s support in 1979 at the time when former Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan, Pakistan readily countered Soviet Union with the help of the United States. 

However, what the United States did after the Soviet forces left, is not justifiable by any means. As Hillary Clinton, the former US Secretary of State rightly confessed in 2009, “We also have a history of kind of moving in and out of Pakistan. I mean let`s remember here the people [Taliban] we are fighting today we funded twenty years ago… What we sow we will harvest. We then left Pakistan [after the disintegration of the Soviet Union]. We said, okay fine, you deal with the stingers that we have left all over your country, you deal with the minds that are along the border. And by the way, we do not want to have anything to do with you, in fact, we are sanctioning you.” 

This gives a similar impression again that, as the United States could not decide what to do of/with these Mujahideen anymore, so it left them to us to decide what to do with them. In fact, it imposed sanctions on Pakistan, because it was their ally, (because you worship me, therefore I can threaten you not him — the mantra of the deity). 

The United States again needed Islamabad`s support when the incident of 9/11 occurred in 2001, killing nearly 3,000 Americans. Pakistan was left with no other option than to either go against the sole supreme power on Earth or to join its war. It obviously opted for the latter. Pakistan once again became the apple of the eye of the United States. 

The Bush administration lifted the sanctions like selling or sharing dual-use technologies that had both civilian and nuclear military uses and economic sanctions, that were imposed under Pressler and Glenn amendments. It also forgave a billion US Dollars loan to Pakistan as a token of appreciation for its cooperation. Bush officially granted ‘Strategic Partner outside NATO’ status to Pakistan enabling it to purchase strategic and advanced military equipment. The then President of the United States George W. Bush even visited Pakistan in March 2006, which was quite unusual prior to the incident of 9/11. 

Relations started getting strained when Pakistan was accused of using economic aid provided by the United States to strengthen its defense against India. Then in June 2008, a US airstrike killed 11 paramilitary soldiers of the Pakistan Army Frontier Corps in the Mohmand region on the Pak-Afghan border. This act was met with fierce reaction in Pakistan. The controversial non-military aid through the Kerry Luger Bill and the killing of two Pakistani men in Lahore by a CIA agent Raymond Davis further widened the Pak-US gap.

Osama Bin Laden`s killing in Pakistan’s city of Abbottabad, by the US Navy proved to be the nail in the coffin in this regard. Pakistan blamed the United States for hampering its sovereignty while the latter blamed the former for playing double game with her. 

In November 2011, the US Army again violated Pakistan`s sovereignty by killing 24 Pakistani soldiers in an airstrike on a Pakistani check post in Salala. It was a set piece of attack and deliberate and no compensation was offered to Pakistan. Hence, Pak-US relations onward remain strained. 

In February 2012, the US Congress went a step further. Dana Rohrabacher, a US Congressman, tabled a resolution calling upon Pakistan to recognize the Baloch right of self-determination. It also included that the people of Balochistan are divided between Pakistan, Iran, and Afghanistan, and they have the right to have their own sovereign country. 

The United States took sovereignty of three sovereign countries for granted. In response, Pakistan Foreign Office rightly condemned the resolution and termed it ‘highly irresponsible and blatant interference in the domestic issues of the country.’ But the damage had been done and the mutual ties were further strained. 

Fast forward, Donald Trump went over the board in blaming Pakistan for the United States` failures in Afghanistan. He even blamed Pakistan for using the economic aid given by the United States against his country. What he and many other Americans need to realize is that Pakistan has suffered most as a consequence of a war, it had nothing to do with, but was compelled to join. 

According to the Arab News, the United States provided $20 billion in aid to Pakistan for that war in Afghanistan, whereas Pakistan has faced losses of over $150 billion in terms of economy and more than 70,000 precious lives were lost due to a war that had nothing to do with the country and its people. In short, the authorities sitting in the White House had once again done the same thing which the deity did, ‘as we, the United States, cannot get rid of Taliban, therefore, we ask you to do more.’

What is more unfortunate is that today, Pakistan not only lives with the blame of double-crossing Washington, but also faces economic pressure from different sides. As analysts put it, for not behaving as the United States wants Islamabad to behave. Moreover, as per the UNHCR, Pakistan hosts some 1.4 million registered Afghans while the number of unregistered Afghan refugees remains almost the same or even higher. A report by the UNHCR states that more than 300,000 Afghans have fled to Pakistan since the Taliban takeover in August 2021. Pakistan hosts these refugees with almost no help from the international community.

Adding fuel to the fire, Afghanistan after the United States` abandonment has been left at the mercy of God.  Hundreds of thousands of Afghans and Pakistanis will keep suffering because the United States` policies toward Afghanistan were incoherent or flawed or both. 

Furthermore, the United States did not appreciate Imran Khan`s visit to Moscow amid Russia-Ukraine tensions. Bancroft Hinchey, Director Pravda (Newspaper) in Portugal, is of the view that Pakistan`s former premier Imran Khan`s visit to Moscow amid Russia-Ukraine tensions was a bold move to tell the world that Pakistan is bloc-free and ‘it is mastered by nobody.’ 

In this aspect, Nelson Mandela, former President of South Africa, argued rightly in one of TV shows that one of the mistakes that Western analysts make is that they think that their enemies should be considered our enemies. It is something that is still prominent in the West and thank God, Pakistan is finally learning that. 

To conclude, Pakistan was not part of the bombing of Serbia: it did not launch the Shock and Awe campaign on Iraq; it did not invade Libya; and it did not side with Takfiri extremists in Syria. Whom does Washington blame there for creating chaos and fleeing from the grounds? It needs to understand that every state has its own compulsions and national interests. Pakistan has done a great service to the United States as well as a blunder in the form of a compulsion to become part of a war it had nothing to do with; a war that was in its neighborhood; a war that was imposed on it. Unsurprisingly, the United States remains an unthankful state towards Pakistan and many other states who chose their national interests over US centric policies. Once the apple of the eye of the United States, Pakistan has become an apple of discord for the chaos that was mainly created by the US itself in the region.

[Photo by: Depositphotos]

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author.

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