Are we a client state?

It seems to be a foregone conclusion that everything that happens in Pakistan is somehow planned in Washington.

Dr Tariq Rahman March 25, 2013
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Ask any Tom, Dick and Harry and even their aunts, and you will get an indignant “yes!” as an answer. Ask the ghairat brigade and they will fume at the mouth, and if their blood pressure does not rocket up too high, will answer in invectives. “All governments of Pakistan are stooges and slaves of the US.” It seems to be a foregone conclusion that everything that happens in Pakistan is somehow planned in Washington and the American ambassador is the viceroy. So, the hypothesis I am about to present will not be acceptable to most readers. All I ask for is a hearing, not for a conversion to my views.

A few days back, Mr Asif Zardari defied the United States to sign an agreement on the gas pipeline with Iran despite US pressure not to do so. But perhaps, people will point out that this is merely eyewash since nobody has the money to make the pipeline anyway. All right, let us count this one out. What about the fact that Pakistan never attacked the Haqqani and Taliban headquarters in North Waziristan even when the US blowed hot and cold. Neither dromedaries laden with gold nor threats nor blandishments could make the army attack them. Indeed, it pocketed the money for fighting the war on terror but fought it in a selective manner. We need not even go into the hiding of the Quetta shura and so on, as this is enough to suggest that Pakistani decision-makers, the real ones please, were never unquestioning slaves of the United States, no matter how much money they took from the Americans.

But let us start from the beginning. Pakistan started looking towards America in the 1950s in order to strengthen the army. After all, even with a small and weak army, the Pakistanis had fought for Kashmir in 1947-48. But then there was real danger from India, or, at least, so it seemed to the high command, thus Ayub Khan coveted American weaponry. And America wanted allies against the Soviet Union, so both countries worked in their own perceived national interests. But Pakistan had little intention to fight the communists, so this weaponry was used to fight the completely useless war of 1965 — a bit like the 1947-48 war to wrest Kashmir from India. Now, unknown to Pakistanis, there was a clause in the agreement that the weapons were not for any war except against the communists. Hence, the Americans, under pressure from their own institutions, had to stop helping the Pakistanis. The Pakistani common man was now told that the Americans had betrayed Pakistan but were never told what Pakistan had done. Now, Pakistan needed other sources of weapons and a staunch friend near home. Who could be better for this role than China, which had no love lost for India and which was an emerging military power, too? So, the Pakistanis made friends with the Chinese. The Americans were furious. But their threats did not work and China did become a friend (the T-59 tanks are only one of the many fruits of this friendship). Then came what can only be called high drama. Henry Kissinger actually flew from Islamabad to Beijing to meet the Chinese leadership and who helped him? Yahya Khan. In the 1971 war, the Americans did not send the navy to fight Pakistan’s war but they did warn Indira Gandhi not to press ahead in West Pakistan.

Then came the crunch. Pakistan was keen on producing nuclear weapons while America wanted this to be stopped. Pakistan kept making the bomb and America kept up its bluster against it. India, too, had not bothered about the West in this matter but everybody thought Pakistan would have to. Nothing doing! Pakistan went ahead and the Americans had to swallow the bitter pill because they had to defeat the Soviet Union in Afghanistan, which was not possible without Pakistani help.

And, after 9/11, General (retd) Pervez Musharraf wanted legitimacy so he supported the American war against Afghanistan. The point is that both the Americans and the Pakistanis have worked in their perceived self-interest so Pakistan is wrongly considered a client state. But is it important to tell our people the truth? If we do not, and anti-Americanism grows, our governments will not have the flexibility to seek American help when necessary. It would be foolish to become hostage to misinformed public opinion. That is why such myths should be questioned.

Published in The Express Tribune, March 26th, 2013.


Rex Minor | 9 years ago | Reply


I did! The client state is a phenomina of 19th &20th century. It is a rarity in 21st century: Israel is the unique client state; others fall victims of hegemonic Imperial powers, whic is also disappearing in 21st century.

Rex Minor

Gp65 | 9 years ago | Reply

@Rex Minor: I think Pakistan is a client state to many masters not just USA. My examples make that clear. But this does not mean it is a banana state. I certainly did not imply that.

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