While they say that the very ink with which history is written is merely fluid prejudice, the relationship between Pakistan and America is too complex to be understood without delving deep into the dredges of the past. The paper briefly analyzes the repercussions on Pakistan for siding with American interests in South Asia since the time of Ayub Khan.
Ayub Khan is in power, and it is the first era of American military and economic aid flowing into Pakistan. America is anti-communism, and so it forges an alliance with Pakistan to further its agenda of curbing any communism in Asia. Pakistan, a fledgling nation only more than a decade into existence, accepts the aid and joins organizations such as The Central Treaty Organization (CENTO) and The Southeast Asia Treaty Organization (SEATO) on America’s ‘informal’ behest.
When Pakistan moved into Kashmir in 1965, America backed off and Ayub Khan realized, albeit late, that the “relationship he had forged with the United States was not based on mutual interest but on the interest of Washington alone”.
The statement begs attention since America has been steadfast in its policy towards Pakistan – starting from the 1950s to date. History is witness that whenever America needed Pakistan to further their agenda, they would rekindle the old “friendship” and buy their way in. Pakistan is not without blame, however. Due to the country’s constant need for economic assistance, unwillingness to stand steadfast in the global arena, and corrupt leadership – Pakistan has been unable, or unwilling, to say no.
Keeping America’s policy (and sincerity) in mind, the price that Pakistan has been paying for the “friendship” with the Americans is further detailed below.
It is the era of Zia-ul Haq. Economic and military aid is at an all-time high. Why? Due to American interests becoming contingent on Pakistan once again. The Cold War is at its zenith, and the Soviets have just invaded Afghanistan (1979). The scenario is less than ideal for America but they would not engage in an open, all-out war by attacking the Soviets directly. The simple solution? Buy Pakistan’s help to get their dirty work done. The Pakistani military and intelligence train the mujahedeen (mostly Afghans) and supply them with weapons that America has poured into Pakistan.
While during the period, GDP was up to 6.4% and the income per head increased to 3.3%, the aftermath was devastating. Fast forward, the Soviets have fallen and America has once again, realized its agenda. The result? The funding to Pakistan ends and the Americans ignore the armed mujahideen in Afghanistan and let them have at it. The mujahideen fragment into factions and warlordism proliferates causing a civil war. Eventually, out of the civil war chaos, the Taliban are born in 1994.
Again, history highlights how America is not a friend, rather an opportunist who will work towards their own purpose and their own purpose alone. On the world stage, Pakistan continued to tow America’s line, and America kept granting boons whenever they saw fit. The biggest reason perhaps for Pakistan’s “comradery” with America was the hope that they would ultimately support the country with the Kashmir issue. While trilateral talks did take place, nothing was ever achieved – primarily due to the lack of sincerity on America’s part.
Coming back to the Taliban – they became the new rulers of Afghanistan with the help of Pakistan. Their government in Afghanistan were harboring Al Qaeda (who took responsibility for 9/11). In the immediate aftermath of 9/11, the Bush administration almost forcibly acquired Pakistan’s assistance. The offer was simple: help America or face the consequences.
The War on Terror came into being. America, as entitled as ever, threatened Pakistan to help them eradicate the terrorist forces (or else). Pakistan complied and although it was rewarded handsomely, the consequences were inconceivable. There was severe blowback of withdrawing Pakistani support to the Taliban and aiding the Americans – local fundamentalist groups displayed their vehemence by turning militant against the Pakistani state and began an insurgency.
Years fighting the insurgency, Pakistan has endured over thirty thousand civilian and military casualties solely due to the fact that the country agreed to America’s terms and conditions and served as their allies against the Taliban. The Pakistan Army had to fight a seemingly perpetual war near the Afghan-Pak border against insurgents like the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP). Eventually, the Armed Forces of Pakistan prevailed, due to Operation Zarb-e-Azb, and dismantled the TTP effectively ending the backbone of the insurgency in 2017. Due to this major campaign against the TTP, terrorist attacks have dropped in the country as the terrorist infrastructure was neutralized.
While the terrorist attacks may have subsided considerably as compared to the past decade, Pakistan, in the process, has lost over twenty thousand civilians and over eight thousand military/law enforcement officials, tolerated the constant jabs on its sovereignty, and endured times of great fear and uncertainty.
The United States, whenever they required a partner in South Asia, turned to Pakistan. Conclusively, Pakistan has ultimately, throughout history, been the biggest loser in the “friendship” with America. Where the nation should have remained steadfast in its ideals and sense of nationalism, it opted for easy money and a compromise on sovereignty. As rightly said, “Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it”. It remains to be seen whether Pakistan will learn from its past mistakes – or will continue repeating them.
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