Fractured Engagement

How the U.S.-Pakistan relationship continues is yet to be seen. However, there are multiple areas in which the two countries can work together.

By Meriam Sabih | April 2023

Pakistan has long wanted its relationship with the United States to be defined by more than just by the remnants of the Afghanistan war. After the United States’ hurried and ill planned exit from Afghanistan, Pakistan was oftentimes accused of supporting the Taliban and even playing a double game.

Former prime minister Imran Khan, who was in office at the time, certainly did not help that perception when he proudly referred to the Taliban’s victory against Afghan forces backed by the United States as the Taliban “breaking the shackles of slavery.” However, he should be asked what he feels about that statement as women and girls are again being denied an education whereas he certainly benefited from his own education and life in the West.

Much was made of the fact that he did not then go on to receive a phone call or a thank you from the U.S. President Joe Biden. Since then Imran Khan has continued an anti-US narrative that he readily uses to rouse his supporters in large rallies by blaming the no-confidence vote which led to his constitutional ouster, to be a conspiracy by the United States which he later said was devised by Pakistan’s own army. As his U-turns on the matter left heads spinning, he later went on to say he is not “anti” any country whether that was the United States or India, as only “the foolish can be anti an entire country.”

Recently he told NPR news that it is “exciting times” as his supporters fight with police that were called by the courts of the country to arrest him on corruption charges and as the country is facing instability and a long list of woes. He said something horribly similar when he landed in Russia on the eve of the Ukraine war exclaiming with a smile, “what an exciting time” it was for him to be there as if wars and instability serve to excite him.

He steers through anti-West rhetoric to rouse his supporters into thinking he is a saviour also “breaking shackles” from various masters (sometimes the West, sometimes the Opposition, sometimes the army chiefs, sometimes the liberal media…) when it suits his narrative of a “Naya Pakistan.” But the same Khan is seen wearing his Ralph Lauren polo shirts only to quickly don the traditional kurta pajama for public consumption.

In November 2022 the Taliban ordered the continuation of attacks on Pakistan as talks fell apart. The continuation of attacks points to a dire fact that terrorism is not only a problem of the United States and the West, but one that equally threatens the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, which is a nuclear state. Pakistani officials repeatedly assure the international community that its nuclear weapons are a deterrent against India and not a threat to the international community. Still President Biden gave a puzzling remark at a democratic fundraising dinner in Los Angeles in October. “Did anybody think we’d be in a situation where China is trying to figure out its role relative to Russia and relative to India and relative to Pakistan?” the US president was quoted in the official transcript of the speech released by the White House.

Read More