June 10, 2011 Special Dispatch No. 3906

Pakistani Writers Examine the Raison D'être of Anti–Americanism in Pakistan and the Widening Gap Between the Muslim World and the U.S.

June 10, 2011
Pakistan | Special Dispatch No. 3906

Recently, renowned Pakistani writers have examined the strengthening of anti–Americanism in Pakistan and the growing gulf between the Muslim world and the United States, especially following the June 4, 2009, speech delivered by U.S. President Barack Obama at Cairo's Al–Azhar University.

Former Pakistani foreign minister Shahid Javed Burki argued, in an article titled "The Widening Gap Between the Muslim World and America," argued that the U.S. is fast losing influence in Turkey, Afghanistan and Pakistan. He argued that Obama's Cairo speech had worked as a catalyst of anti–Americanism in the Arab nations, where, unlike in previous years, future governments cannot ignore the street sentiment in making foreign policies.

In an article titled "The Raison D'être of Anti-Americanism in Pakistan," noted Pakistani academic Dr. Raja Muhammad Khan accused the U.S. of betraying Pakistan throughout its history. He argued that the reason for anti–Americanism in Pakistan is the people's long–standing opposition to the pro–U.S. policies of the Pakistani ruling elite, and Pakistan's alliance with the U.S. during the Cold War that led to Pakistan's international isolation.

Following are excerpts from Shahid Javed Burki's article, [1] and from Raja Muhammad Khan's article:[2]

Shahid Javed Burki: "The Widening Gap Between the Muslim World and America"

"Among the Non–Arab Parts of the Muslim World, the Countries Where Americans Are Fast Losing Influence Are Turkey, Afghanistan and Pakistan"

"Barack Obama seems to be the only person of any significance in Washington who seems to understand that the game has changed for his country in the Muslim world – not just in Arab countries but also in those of Islamic faith but of different ethnic origin.

"Among the non–Arab parts of the Muslim world, the countries where Americans are fast losing influence are Turkey, Afghanistan and Pakistan. It was lost decades ago in Iran. These four countries have a total population of 350 million, considerably more than the total for the Arab world. Why has this happened? There are several reasons for this, of these three are particularly important.

"The first is the approach adopted by President Obama soon after assuming the American presidency. In a much anticipated speech delivered at Al–Azhar University in Cairo on June 4, 2009, the American president said that his country's approach to the Muslim world would be different while he was in charge of foreign policy in Washington. 'We meet at a time of great tension between the United States and the Muslim world – tension rooted in historical forces that go beyond any current policy debate,' he told his Cairo audience.

"[Obama also said:] 'The relationship between Islam and the West includes centuries of coexistence and cooperation, but also conflict and religious wars. More recently, tension has been fed by colonialism that denied rights and opportunities to many Muslims, and a cold war in which Muslim–majority countries were too often treated as proxies without regard to their aspirations. Moreover, the sweeping change brought about by modernity and globalization led many Muslims to view the West as hostile to the traditions of Islam.'

"President Obama promised to change these attitudes. 'I've come here to Cairo to seek a new beginning between the United States and Muslims around the world, one based upon the truth that America and Islam are not exclusive and need not be in competition. Instead, they overlap, and share common principles — principles of justice and progress; tolerance and dignity of all human beings."'

"[After the Arab Spring] The Policy Towards the West… Will Not Be Made by Authoritarian Regimes That Could Ignore the Sentiment of the Street [in Favor of America]"

"The second reason for the widening of the gap between the West and the Muslim world is the Arab Spring – the string of explosions that have rocked the Arab street in several countries. This has resulted in the demise of two long–serving regimes, and threatens several others. While the West – including the United States – was slow to appreciate the significance of this development, one consequence of this change has become clear. When the history of this extraordinary movement gets to be written, it will be recognized that the address by Obama in Cairo played a big role in emboldening the Arab street.

"The policy towards the West in these countries will not be made by authoritarian regimes that could ignore the sentiment of the street. Strong rulers, often supported by their militaries, were able to ignore the aspirations of their people and opt for favoring the strategic positions that suited the West, in particular the United States. Egypt and Pakistan were at the forefront of these moves. Egyptian President Anwar Sadat signed a peace treaty with the state of Israel without asking for the settlement of the Palestine dispute.

"Pakistan, under three different military regimes, aligned itself closely with Washington, even when some of what it promised to do in return for support by America was not in its strategic interests. With the Muslim street having shown that it can mobilize quickly when the regimes in power adopt unpopular policies, it is highly unlikely that the rulers of this part of the world will have the same room for maneuver compared to when they operated in simpler times. The policy space in which they work has been considerably narrowed."

"There Is Also An Increase in Confidence Among the Leaders of Several Countries in the Muslim World; Leading the Way is Turkey; Even Afghanistan… Has Become Assertive"

"There is also an increase in confidence among the leaders of several countries in the Muslim world. Leading the way is Turkey, a country that had for decades attempted to become a part of the western world but is now governed by a party and an individual who are determined to follow an independent line.

"According to Anthony Shadid, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist writing for The New York Times, 'there is a longstanding debate over whether Turkey has tilted east after decades of embracing the West as a NATO member and almost reflexively allied with the United States. It still nominally embraces the goal of joining the European Union, carrying out reforms mandated by the entry process that have made Turkey a far more moderate place. But sensing a decline of American power in the region, Turkish officials have become sharply more assertive in the Middle East, priding themselves on keeping open channels to virtually every party.'

"Even Afghanistan, beholden to the United States for keeping an unpopular regime in power and pouring billions of dollars into the country for what is called nation-building, has become assertive. Hamid Karzai, the country's president, has warned NATO that he will not tolerate any more air attacks on civilian targets, even if they are suspected of harboring the enemy."

"Pakistan is Passing Through a Similar Reassessment of Its Relations with Washington; There is a Seeming Consensus… That the War Against Terrorism Will Have to Be Fought on Pakistan's Terms"

"Pakistan is passing through a similar reassessment of its relations with Washington, especially after the May 2 attack on Abbottabad that killed Osama bin Laden. There are many in Pakistan – perhaps a large majority – who believe that the rise of Islamic extremism has to be checked and that the people operating outside the purview of the law have to be brought under control.

"Terrorism cannot be tolerated as a way of forcing onto the rest the worldview of a small segment of the population who wish to follow a different way of life and have a different approach to the world outside. That said, there is a seeming consensus emerging in the country that the war against terrorism will have to be fought on Pakistan's terms and not on terms dictated from the outside.

"The narrowing of the space within which policymakers can operate in the Muslim world will have enormous consequences for the countries in the region. One result will be the widening of the gap between them and the West, unless the latter makes some fundamental adjustments of its own."

Raja Muhammad Khan: "The Raison D'être of Anti-Americanism in Pakistan"

"On the Financial Terms, Pakistan Loses More Than It Gains, While Being a U.S. Partner in This So–called Global War on Terror or Otherwise"

"During her five-hour visit to Pakistan, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said that the Pak-U.S. relationship was at a critical point. In a statement, she emphatically said that, 'we have reached a turning point.' While describing such a situation, she expressed that U.S. would like that Pakistan should take concrete measures against terrorism in the coming days to the satisfaction of U.S. More than anything, Mrs Clinton was worried about the ever growing anti–Americanism in Pakistani society.

"This fact indeed, frustrated her more than anything else. She advised Pakistani people that 'anti–Americanism and conspiracy theories will not make their problems disappear.' She considers the recipe of the Pakistani problems in toeing the American line, rather anti-Americanism. However, she gave a clear message that 'America cannot and should not solve Pakistan's problems,' rather Pakistani should solve their problems themselves..."

"Whereas, the U.S. must understand that its financial assistance has never reached over to the common man of Pakistan, and today, he is much poorer than ever before. A common Pakistani lacked the basic civic facilities, educational and health facilities. The promised $1.5 billion per year financial assistance under KLL by U.S. has yet not reached to the masses. Above all, on the financial terms, Pakistan loses more than it gains, while being a U.S. partner in this so-called global war on terror or otherwise."

"Throughout Our Bilateral Relationship, the U.S. Has Been Betraying Pakistan; It Stopped Pakistani Assistance (Mainly Military) at Crucial Moments of Our History – Such As the 1965 and 1971 Indo-Pak Wars"

"The raison d'être of this marriage of connivance is that there is an inexplicable relationship between the Pakistani elite group and the U.S., ever since the 1950s, but the people of Pakistan never supported that. The sole reason for this opposition was that this relationship benefited the U.S., rather than serving the Pakistani interests.

"Besides, this relationship made Pakistan biased, a country under the Capitalist bloc headed by the U.S. This Westernized relationship isolated Pakistan from rest of the world, especially the former Soviet Union, which visualized Pakistan as an enemy and opposed Pakistan globally and regionally.

"While throughout in our bilateral relationship, the U.S. has been betraying Pakistan on one or the other pretext, it stopped Pakistani assistance (mainly military) at crucial moments of our history, such as the 1965 and 1971 Indo-Pak wars.

"These acts of this sole super power could not convince Pakistani people to love the U.S. However, the peak of this hatred came when the U.S. drone attacks became routine on Pakistani soil, especially in FATA [the Federally Administered Tribal Areas along the Afghan border].

"Earlier, the U.S. was once again able to force Pakistan to support her in its invasion in Afghanistan [after 9/11]. This wholehearted Pakistani assistance to U.S. in Afghan war prompted the former jihadists, along with many others, to attack Pakistani installations, its armed forces, and many others having no connection with this war."

"The U.S. Kept Asking to Do More – So Much So That It Violated Pakistani Sovereignty... and [Has] Killed Thousands [of] Innocents Through Its Uncalled-For Drone Attacks"

"This is not the end, as the U.S. kept asking to do more; indeed, a never-ending demand. So much so that it has violated the Pakistani sovereignty many a time, and killed thousands [of] innocents through its uncalled-for drone attacks.

"The situation reached the point where its Navy SEALs unilaterally raided Abbottabad to kill OBL [Osama bin Laden on May 2, 2011]. This was height of the U.S. violation of Pakistani sovereignty. But the U.S. president and other officials threatened more unilateral acts, which irked the Pakistani masses.

"This U.S. act was indeed a great humiliation to Pakistan's armed forces and intelligence apparatus, who over the years have known the U.S.'s real objective inside Pakistan, and thus started putting up resistance to them.

"With these acts, U.S. Secretary of State [Clinton] should not expect love for America in the hearts of Pakistani masses. Rather, anti-American sentiments are a natural phenomenon. However, if the U.S. is really serious about being loved by Pakistani masses, then it should start respecting Pakistan's sovereignty.

"It should rebuild the infrastructures lost during the militancy of the past decade. It should help people in the provision of employment through ROZ [Reconstruction Opportunity Zones], as earlier promised. Over and above all, it should stop supporting anti-Pakistan forces locally as well as globally. It should re-establish a relationship with Pakistan based on mutual trust and respect, and on a long-term basis, rather than a seasonal one."


[1] The News (Pakistan), June 6, 2011. The text of the articles in this dispatch has been lightly edited for clarity.

[2] The Express Tribune (Pakistan), June 6, 2011.

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