Some questions were asked within a US congressional panel that give an inkling of how great is the task ahead when it comes to reframing how some parts of the American political establishment view Pakistan. Some American lawmakers were frank in their position — Pakistan in their view is a state sponsor of terrorism and ought to be the subject of sanctions, and not to receive a dollar of American aid. Pakistan was portrayed as manipulative and self-serving, and America was ‘chump’ enough to be taken in by smiling receptions and fine language — that was rarely followed up by action on the ground. A reporter speaking after the congressional hearing titled “Pakistan: Friend or Foe?” said — “I have never heard such harsh comments being used against a US ally.”
The proceedings were broadcast live on the internet as is most US committee business, and it must be acknowledged that those so critical of Pakistan had been doing so for years and are not representative of the entire spectrum of US congressional opinion in that matter. That said, there are few occasions when words of praise for Pakistan are uttered in the US corridors of power, and there is a pervasive susurrus of mistrust beneath all dealings with the US administration.
That mistrust is assiduously nurtured by Indian lobbyists in Washington, and Pakistan has only just reawakened to the need for lobbyists to promote and advance our own causes and positions. It is all too easy for the critics to throw rocks through our windows when the government does indeed appear to be havering over a range of things related to the activities of extremist individuals and groups — the issue of the leading cleric at Lal Masjid in Islamabad being a case in point. The failure to move against extremist madrassahs in south Punjab being another. If we make the bullets our detractors are more than happy to fire them back at us. Mud like this tends to stick no matter our expenditure of blood and treasure in the fight against terrorism, and countervailing measures need to be better developed than is currently the case.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 15th, 2016.
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