The ongoing anti-American rhetoric maintained by the former Prime Minister Imran Khan has won him 15 out of 20 seats in the recent Punjab by-elections. The win was a crushing blow to the PML-N. Khan’s success lays bare the fact that anti-Americanism sells easily in Pakistan.
Not many Americans would know Donald Lou — a mid-level official in the US state department — but he is a household name in Pakistan, thanks to Imran Khan repeatedly mentioning him in public rallies.
The anti-American sentiment has been with us for far too long. It is said that Pakistanis were not receptive to the idea of anti-Americanism till the India-Pakistan war of 1965, when the Soviet Union backed India. But when Richard Nixon’s administration failed to assist Pakistan in its war against India in 1971, the relations turned sour. Further, the close US-Israel alliance raised eyebrows in the Arab world, and gradually this feeling made inroads into Pakistan.
According to Lubna Rafique’s 1994 paper, Benazir and British Press, it was in the last year of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto’s administration that he gave a signal to move out of the US camp, and he also accused Jimmy Carter’s administration for fomenting the religious parties’ agitation against him in 1977. This was an official break from the US camp. But soon General Ziaul Haq came into office and appeased the US by hanging Bhutto and helping the US against the Soviet Union in Afghanistan. Until then anti-Americanism was peaceful. However, this trend took a turn in 1979, when the US consulate in Islamabad was attacked by a mob provoked by a broadcast from Iran.
When the war in Afghanistan ended and the Soviet Union collapsed, the US desserted Pakistan. This angered the military and the religious groups, who were profiting from the US-Soviet conflict in Afghanistan.
One cannot deny that the impetus to anti-American sentiment has been provided by the US itself. The invasion of Afghanistan and the drone strikes in the ex-Fata region made the US an evil in the eyes of Pakistani citizens.
Not many Americans would know Donald Lou — a mid-level official in the US state department — but he is a household name in Pakistan, thanks to Imran Khan repeatedly mentioning him in public rallies
We also know that the military and religious groups in Pakistan zealously supported the US in Afghanistan against the Soviet Union because the US showered them with dollars. Once the war ended and the US left with its dollars, the loyalties of the military and religious groups changed as well.
The increase in anti-Americanism after the ouster of Imran Khan as prime minister is of extraordinary proportions. Unproven as it is and false as it seems, Imran Khan is confident that his anti-American rhetoric will sell, and that his popularity will break bounds by constantly badmouthing the US. A poll by Gallup has revealed that only one-third (36 percent) of Pakistanis believed the conspiracy claim. Also, it has been shown by the same poll that more than two-thirds (72 percent) of Pakistanis considered the US an enemy rather than a friend of Pakistan. This trend has remained unchanged for the past two decades.
Our politician’s duplicitous nature is lethal for the state of Pakistan. Politicians attain their ends by giving vent to anti-American sentiments in the public rallies, but as a result the relations with the US touch the lowest ground. Because of such irresponsible rhetorical practice, Pakistan is kept at a distance by the US allies also, and we cry hoarse about us being isolated.
The diplomatic islolation from the US and European nations has pushed Pakistan towards a default. Our economy is near-crashing — dollar’s rise against rupee ever continuous — and the Pakistani attitude has kept off international donors because of the unproven allegations by the former Premier Imran Khan of American conspiracy in toppling his government. Imran Khan would not let go off the anti-American rhetoric — even if the country’s economy crashed — until and unless he is back in the office.
The need of the hour is to educate the masses not to be bought over by the fiery speeches, accusations and false promises of their leaders, but rather be informed and responsible citizens of Pakistan — so that further damage is avoided and the country is led on the pathway of greater development and progress.