Pak-US relations: The lies of the allies
Pak-US relations will not improve till the US govt is more transparent about its actions.
US Ambassador to Pakistan, Cameron Munter recently gave a major policy speech - or so we expected before it happened.
Coinciding with DG ISI Lt Gen Ahmed Shuja Pasha’s visit to Washington, the talk given at the Institute of Strategic Studies Islamabad covered a lot of ground. From renewal of relations to perception building, from drone attacks to economic aid, a host of issues was addressed in the speech and question/answer session that followed.
But as someone present on the spot, I failed to find anything new in Munter’s words.
Granted that after the Raymond Davis episode, the ambassador needs a fresh start in his efforts to win Pakistani hearts and minds. But it doesn’t mean that anything substantial has changed in the relationship which essentially remains transactional in nature.
And there are issues which could not be addressed in his talk.
The question answer session was relatively short and many of us present could not share our concerns.
My personal query was inextricably linked to the matter of perceptions and reality, but as my interest was primarily in inviting the ambassador to my talk show, I failed to ask the question even when given a chance at a personal interaction.
And yet, in the interest of objectivity, I think it is incumbent upon us to raise the unasked question for it is critical in building a better perception about the United States in the Islamic Republic. The question, nay the demand, is that of transparency in our relations.
Earlier, the ambassador rationalised the criticism of Pakistan within powerful American circles as being ‘in the name of open society’. Well, don’t open societies then also try to be honest to the citizens of their most allied nations?
There is a lot which passes between the two countries without any visible attempt at transparency.
For instance, what are the terms of reference in the War on Terror? Who was Raymond Davis and what was he doing here? Who was Aafia Siddiqui? Who permitted the drone attacks in Pakistan? In an age where WikiLeaks can dent the American aura of secrecy, is it not wise to keep as few secrets as possible?
This is perhaps the only way to shift the emphasis from closed transactions between the soldiers and spooks of the two countries, to a people-to-people trust building.
I see great scope in the relationship between us and them. And in all honesty, I believe the environment of secrecy is a bad influence on the nascent democracy in Pakistan.
If somehow it is established that one of the most institutionalised democracies and open societies can be forced by its security establishment to keep secrets, the poor citizens of my country can hardly ever hope to get access to the much desired information.
If the US government decides to be frank and honest with the people of Pakistan, it will find that more people will be convinced of the need to work together and build a more durable relationship.
Otherwise, despite the potential, even a well wisher of the US like myself doesn’t have much hope for Pak-US relations.