To be blunt, one may ask: Have the Americans lost their marbles? Having followed very closely the anti-war movement in Britain during the Iraq war from 2002-03, one learns to look critically at state policies and predominant right wing hegemony. I looked at the tidal wave of the anti-American sentiment in Pakistan in that context. Everywhere in the democratic parts of the world, progressive intellectuals and conscience citizens are critical of the policies of their establishments. We cannot praise Noam Chomsky enough for thread baring American imperialist agendas, Robert Fisk for hyperventilating against Britain, the West and Israel, or Arundhati Roy for challenging the Indian state on issues ranging from the Maoist insurgency to the repression of Kashmiris’ rights. However, if one is critical of Pakistan’s government, its establishment or its army, the coveted label of being ‘unpatriotic’ hangs on our head. Being critical of America and the West promotes enlightening discourse, particularly if one is sitting in those states and societies. However, excessive anti-Americanism is a right wing agenda in Pakistan, unlike in the West where it is a left wing agenda. Our TV anchors, rooted in the vernacular press backgrounds in Pakistan, contribute to the hatred of the ‘others’ and a conspiracy-theories-laden world view amongst the Pakistani public.
However, coming back to the question posed in the beginning of this article, Americans are really asking for criticism. To publicly promote gay-lesbian rights in a conservative society and to issue statements on internal security issues of Karachi’s violence is asking for trouble. Commenting on the security situation in another country is against diplomatic norms. Is this a paradigm shift in the US handing of Pakistan? It seems as if the US has decided to be controversial and provocative. US-Pakistan relations are at their lowest ebb. However, both countries need to wait it out with patience and forbearance. Both countries need each other and depend on each other in a lot of critical areas. Only a stable and well-functioning Pakistan is in the larger interest of the world, including America and India.
It is high time for critical and behaviour-changing introspection for both the US and Pakistan. Had the US not plunged itself and Pakistan into the first Afghan war with Ziaul Haq, the world particularly Pakistan, would have been a much safer place today. The US turned Pakistan into a proxy state and waged a war that defeated the Soviet Union but it made the whole world a much more dangerous place to live in. It particularly tore apart the fabric of Pakistani state and society. To add salt to the injuries, the US packed up and left the Afghans high and dry in the late 1980s when the Soviets pulled out, and is now paying a heavy price for deserting them. The US needs to have a long-tunnelled horizon of its policies and not continue with the policy of fighting proxy wars in developing countries.
Pakistan needs to socially re-engineer its establishment and its population. The Pakistani establishment fed by foreign funding has bloated manifolds and has become a state within the state. The majority of Pakistan’s population is fed lies and conspiracy theories, which have little relationship with reality. A largely right wing electronic media is making Pakistanis more paranoid and xenophobic than enlightened. If Pakistan has to change, the change can neither come through arms nor money. It can only come through changing the hearts and minds of people. Peace, tolerance and mutual coexistence has to be relearnt through Pakistan’s own cultural and historic roots. Both Pakistan and America need to change drastically. America needs to stop interfering in Pakistan’s internal affairs and review its recent postures of high-handedness. Pakistan needs to socially re-engineer hearts and minds through a high dosage of critical thinking and the spread of progressive ideas.
This article was originally published at: The Express Tribune
The opinions expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect the viewpoint or stance of SDPI.