By Zainab Abbasi
(The writer is an M.Phil scholar and a Visiting lecturer at Quaid-i-Azam University and COMSATS. Her area of speciality is South Asia, Politics of Terrorism, China-Pakistan Relations and Indo-China Relations)
Pakistan sharing bilateral ties with super power i.e. US are full of twists and turns in their relationship since the emergence of Pakistan on the world map in 1947. General Elections of 2013 and 2018 marked the era of renewed relationship between two states. In 2013, when Ex. President Nawaz Sharif paid his first official State visit to U.S opened up the channel for strategic dialogue. This renewed bilateral ties were meant to enhance their partnership and cooperation on different fields at international level which is obviously in interest of both US and Pakistan. Pakistan was demanding this kind of partnership with US since India in 2005, started its strategic partnership with America. After several years, to some extent similar deal was also signed with Pakistan in 2013. US was denying that deal to Pakistan because US didn’t want to hurt its nascent strategic partner as both India and Pakistan are staunch rivals of South Asia and US had his greater interest in India in terms of economy and also as counter force against China.
One ought to look at the relations of the two states in context of countering terrorism. In post 9/11 era US developed closer ties with Pakistan for the sake of security and stability in the region of South Asia. Pakistan became the front-line ally of U.S in this region and cooperating with America to combat terrorism.Since then, Pakistan is also fighting an internal war against terrorists which has so many folds and sheds. The rise in terrorism has drawn wider attention of the international community in recent years. Rise of the terrorists’ movement in Pakistan basically driven due to strong ideological and religious factors.Combination of external and internal factors gave birth to worst kind of terrorism in the country which now has become threat not only for Pakistan itself but also a major threat to the existence of global peace. External factors like Afghan Jihad and support to US’s War on terrorism contributed a lot in internal contradictions in Pakistan and made it not only an exporter state of terrorists for the world but also the hub of worst kind of sectarian conflicts. With the help of Pakistan, in last 17 years US able to capture prominent figures involved in terrorism around the world. Pakistan has sacrificed a lot in its effort to combat terrorism but still world especially the US is not ready to acknowledge her efforts and demanding “Do More”.US used Pakistan as a front line state and parted ways soon after the completion of their goals under the highlighted weight of altered international conditions and irretrievable strategic divergences. So what good has brought Pakistan today again being party with Americans?
In Recent events, one can clearly notice the bias of the US towards its front line ally in South Asian region. Biggest hurdle both states are facing in their bilateral relationships is F-16s deal which US congress is not ready to crack with Pakistan.Relations between two states remained under stress for three months in 2016 because of the conditions attached to the funding of F-16 sale by US Senate. US attached the condition to act against Haqaani network only after that it will fund the sale of eight F-16s to Pakistan. On the other hand, Pakistan made it clear that they want those planes to fight against terrorists in northern areas, which earlier also help them to take out targets easily. Another issue between strategic partners is of cutting military aid to Pakistan under 2016-2017 fiscal budget unless or until Pakistan show its willingness to crackdown the activities of terrorist groups working against US forces in Afghanistan. US claimed that those terrorists have safe haven in northern areas of Pakistan and Islamabad is avoiding taking action against them which is not in favour of both countries relations.
Baring Pakistani military officials from training and educational reforms, also cutting down the security funding to Pakistan has bought a major blow back to the bilateral ties between US and Pakistan in recent times. All the trust building measures between two states were gone in vain under the Trump administration when Pakistan was also removed from all the programs at US Naval College relating to cyber security. US is focusing more on strengthening ties with India to gain most out of this new romantic relationship. The gap between US and Pakistan further widen by US move to place Pakistan on the grey list of Financial Action Task Force in Paris in June 2018. In recent statement US also dictated International Monetary Fund (IMF) and warn them that Trump administration will not let Pakistan use dollars to repay its debts to China. This statement came in the backdrop when Pakistan was trying to crack the deal for bailout of its fragile economy with IMF.
Relationship between Pakistan and US is facing imbalance due to these issues, sabotaging the progress of bilateral ties. US is a friend who cannot be trusted anymore and is being criticised for expanding relations with India and ignoring Pakistan deliberately. Double standards of US towards Pakistan flamed the emotion of anger among Pakistani nationals because they feel that US did not care about all those sacrifices we made since the initiation of War on Terror. On the other hand, US is claiming that ties with Pakistan are complicated but cannot be ignored as it is not in the favour of US national interest.
US need to look beyond its conditions for cooperation on Pakistan security needs and how it can support the democratic nation to fight its enemies internal or external both. US policy makers need to realize that Pakistan itself is facing terrorism problem at home and it is not sole responsibility of Pakistani forces to fight terrorism alone, Pakistan do need assistance from other states to deal with this horrifying and complex problem of terrorism. If US want to Pakistan to do more, then it is must for US to acknowledge Pakistan’s efforts towards combating terrorism and to provide its due assistance and funds. Blocking of military aid is not in favor of these two frontline allies as both shares some interest towards each other which cannot be over shadowed. On the part of Pakistan, it needs to assure its counterpart that they will be working to live up to their expectations because in any relationship both sides are equally responsible to do best to keep things going smoothly.