Pakistan US relations (Newsline)

By Babar Ayaz

Without historical context and conceptual clarity about what is in the interest of people of Pakistan, discussion over the present Pakistan-US relations would be superfluous. The present emotional narrative does not pass the fundamental litmus test which every policy should be put through. The test is that whatever domestic or foreign policy decisions are taken by the government and the establishment, they should contribute in improving the lives of the common man of Pakistan.

Let’s briefly run through Pakistan-US relations history which has seen some ups and down. Even before Pakistan’s inception on May 1, 1947 Pakistan movement Quaid-e-Azam “received two American visitors at his Bombay residence. They were Raymond A. Hare, Head of the Division of South Asian Affairs, Department of State and Thomas E. Weil, Second Secretary of the US Embassy in India… He (Jinnah) sought to impress on his visitors that the emergence of an independent, sovereign Pakistan would be in consonance with American interests. Pakistan would be Muslim country. Muslim countries would stand together against Russian aggression.” (The American Role in Pakistan 1947-1958 by M.S. Venkataramani).

The leaders of the newly created Pakistan lived under fear of Indian aggression and to strengthen its rag-tag army they needed American support, and as trade off they offered their services to counter the socialist threat to the region. Jinnah’s vision was actively followed by his Prime Minister Liaquat Ali Khan and Finance Minister Ghulam Mohammed. The begged the Americans and assured their support against Russia. In return the American’s offered the first tranche secretly in May 1950 as a gesture when Liaquat Ali Khan was on visit to the US. But the secret was exposed when the shipment exploded in an accident at a small New Jersey port. However, the Americans warned that the arms given to Pakistan would not be used for aggression against any other country, implicitly meaning India.

But the beginning was made and Pakistan driven by the perceived Indian threat and pandering to its military leadership kept on getting in deeper relations with the US. First they signed a Mutual Defence Pact which had a clause to combat any communist insurgency. To please the Americans the Communist party of Pakistan and other left leaning organisations like Democratic Students Federation and Progressive Writers Associations were also banned.

Pakistan then joined in Baghdad Pact/CENTO and SEATO. Khawja Nazimuddin who resisted joining an alliance was booted out by Ghulam Mohammed, as Mosadegh’s government was toppled in Iran in coup engineered by CIA.

US military assistance kept on pouring in and training to senior officials continued till 1965 when it was stopped because Pakistan had launched the covert ‘Operation Gibraltar’ across the LOC. The Indian converted this into a full-fledged war declaring that if they have to fight ‘the will choose their own battle grounds.’ As military assistance given to Pakistan was with the caveat that it would not be used for offensive purpose, US stopped military equipment supplies to both the countries. In Pakistan that was the first time the government propaganda machine built feelings against US. People were told by the controlled media that India had started the war without any instigation and ‘Operation Gibraltar’ was covered up. The common refrain was that the ‘US was not a reliable friend.’ Military and civilian assistance was revived in 1975, but only to be discontinued under Symington Amendment in 1979 showing concern over Pakistan’s Nuclear Programme.

But all principles against nuclear proliferation were soon forgotten by the US once the Soviet Union forces entered on the invitation by Afghanistan left government to curb Pakistan sponsored insurgency. The US assistance was then restored and Pakistan was offered over three million dollars. General Ziaul Haq the architect of insurgency turned down this US assistance describing it as “peanuts.” The US Administration was lured by Zia. Thanks to Congressman Charlie Wilson US was convinced that they can avenge Vietnam defeat in Afghanistan by supporting the Islamic Jihad against the left leaning Afghan government and its supporter Soviet Union.

It must be highlighted here that it was General Zia and the US Administration which created number of Islamic Jihadi groups of Afghans and Pakistanis from 1979-89. The country is reaping the bloody harvest of this dangerous policy. As most Mujahideen were selling almost 50 to 70% arms and ammunition in Pakistan, the country has seen proliferation of at least $1.5 to 2 billion weapons. True the Americans left us high and dry to deal with these Islamic warriors and the ‘Islamic techno-guerillas’ once the Soviet forces were withdrawn, but the fact remains we were the one created these dragons. And now they are blowing up Pakistan.

Once again after the Soviet forces withdrawal in 1989, the US was reminded of Pakistan’s nuclear programme and all military and economic assistance was stopped under the Pressler Amendment. Senator John Glen in his testimony maintained that US had given US$4 billion assistance to Pakistan during 1982-1990. This was on assurances that Pakistan is not following the nuclear bomb programme, but the evidence was that on the contrary. Thus flow of military and financial assistance by US to Pakistan dried up between 1991 and 2001. After the 1998 nuclear explosion by Pakistan and the military coups against the elected Nawaz Sharif government in 1999 the sanctions on Pakistan became harsher.

But once the World Trade Towers were blown by Al Qaeda, the US gave no option to Pakistan but to join the war against terrorism. While all earlier engagements with the US were relations between consenting adults and solicited by Pakistan, post 9/11 marriage was forced. The American president made it clear ‘are you with us or against us.’ Pakistan decided to join the war against Al Qaeda, which was a threat to the rulers of all Muslim countries. But it was not ready to go against the Taliban government which was installed in Kabul after significant investment by Pakistani intelligence agencies. Hence it decided to play the deception game by giving Taliban safe haven and support while supporting US against Al Qaeda. A major reason of distrustful relations with US in the last 10 years is that starting from Mr. Jinnah to General Zia Pakistan fulfilled its contract to work against Soviet Union and socialist forces. But after the 9/11 shock the Americans has been demanding Pakistan to fight the militant Islamic forces, which have been nurtured by the establishment. US and Pakistani people book these Jihadi forces as liability, but for Pakistan establishment the Afghan Taliban and outfits like Lashkar-e-Taiba as assets. That is the reason the Pakistan security accounts will never be balanced.

But the US opened the financial and military assistance once again and from 2002 to 2012 it pumped in around US$23.6 billion into Pakistan. Out of this $15.82 billion was military assistance and $7.77 billion economic assistance. Pakistani economic ministry sources say that $8.8 billion was not assistance as it came under Coalition Support Fund (CSF) so that should be deducted from $23.6 billion grand total. This leaves the real assistance to $14.8 billion. At the same time not all the money has been disbursed according to the US Congress Report.

It was only under the Kerry-Lugar Bill that the US announced equal of $1.5 billion each for military and economic assistance per annum for five years. The Pakistan army detested the clause in the bill which said that the US Secretary of State will have to testify that civilian government has supremacy over its military establishment. Pakistan constitution also guarantees that. Interestingly, if the Judicial Commission on the alleged ‘Memo’ would declare that Husain Haqqani had written it on behest of President Zardari, it would implicitly prove that elected government does not have control over its military. This can result in stopping of US military assistance.

Now even if the US Congress figures are accepted Pakistan has received over $30 billion from the US since 1948 out of which over $23 billion was allocated in the last 10 years when the US foolishly unleashed a war in Afghanistan.

“U.S. assistance to Pakistan has fluctuated considerably over the past 60 years. In the wake of 9/11, however, aid to Pakistan has increased steadily as the Bush and Obama Administrations both characterized Pakistan as a crucial U.S. partner in efforts to combat terrorism and to promote stability in both Afghanistan and South Asia…Many observers question the gains accrued to date, viewing a lack of accountability and reform by the Pakistani government as major obstacles. Moreover, any goodwill generated by U.S. aid is offset by widespread anti-American sentiment among the Pakistani people.” (US Congress report: Pakistan: U.S. Financial Assistance, Congressional Research Service April 2012)


According to a US report 81% people have ‘unfavourable’ views about their country. Most Pakistanis are confused as to whose war we are fighting? There is strong propaganda that Pakistan should not have embroiled itself in the ‘war against terror.’ At the same time these people ask for higher price to fight this war. Now if it is not a just war and it was not going to affect Pakistan why do we blame the Americans for not paying the right price?

These confused ultra-nationalists tend to forget that sooner or later Pakistan had to wind up the Jihadi organisation. And it couldn’t have continued supporting Taliban who when the crunch came supported Osama and refused Pakistan’s request to exile him from Afghanistan because he was involved in international terrorism. Al Qaeda-inspired Jihadi groups want to establish Taliban-style Caliphate in Pakistan. Here right policy cannot be decided unless we are conceptually clear that fighting with Jihadi extremist groups is in the self-interest of the people of Pakistan. Or else we should be prepared to be thrown back in medieval tribal cultural and political system as against a democratic and progressive Pakistan. (

  1. #1 by Rashid Orakzai on July 11, 2012 - 3:00 pm

    Cant we shoot a few of our own created vampires without Uncle Sam peanuts which brings with it more ills than cures. It is indeed sorry to see even Leftest advocating the US stance.

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