If there was ever a beginning to the new year that one would dread, Pakistan saw it while ushering in 2018.
If there was ever a beginning to the new year that one would dread, Pakistan saw it while ushering in 2018. The country, which has in the past faced severe flak both for its inability to control terror groups operating from its soil as well as the alleged complicity of its own government in acting against militants, suffered a body blow in the first two days of the new year. On one hand, the US decision to cut withhold the $255 million in military aid to Islamabad is sure to pinch the Islamic nation. On the other, the decision — that followed up on US President Donald Trump’s Twitter rant, comes as nothing short of a diplomatic embarrassment for Pakistan. In both scenarios, it is the Pakistani establishment that has ink on its face. But they always had it coming, not just for its complicity in state-sponsored terror but also in taking for granted what the US, particularly under Trump had repeatedly warned of.
A cursory look at President Trump’s remarks over the years explains much of the situation that Pakistan finds itself in.
* In 2011, long before Trump had announced running for US President, the US raided al-Qaida head Osama Bin Laden at his Abbottabad campus in Pakistan. The capture and eventual killing of the US’ most wanted terrorist on Pakistani soil evoked a stinging response from Trump: “Get it straight: Pakistan is not our friend.” The remark was accompanied by a stinging diatribe against Pakistan and its government.
* In the same year, Trump raked up the issue of Osama’s presence in Pakistan and slammed former President Barack Obama’s policy considering Pakistan as an ally. “When will Pakistan apologize to us for providing safe sanctuary to Osama Bin Laden for 6 years?! Some “ally.”
The United States has foolishly given Pakistan more than 33 billion dollars in aid over the last 15 years, and they have given us nothing but lies & deceit, thinking of our leaders as fools. They give safe haven to the terrorists we hunt in Afghanistan, with little help. No more!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 1, 2018
* In 2012, Trump reasserted his ‘Pakistan not our friend’ stance. “We’ve given them billions and billions of dollars, and what did we get? Betrayal and disrespect—and much worse.” #TimeToGetTough,” he wrote on Twitter.
* In 2014, before Trump had announced his presidential candidacy, he had red-flagged the nuclear threat that Pakistan was. Asking then Secretary of State John Kerry if he was aware that Pakistan already had nuclear weapons, suggesting that it was a threat that was being potentially overlooked. “Do you think John Kerry is aware of the fact that they are building nuclear weapons in Iran and North Korea and Pakistan already has them!!,” he said on Twitter.
Trump’s stance unclear?
These remarks by the Trump before he became President are evidence of his stance on Pakistan and one would believe that the developments that transpired between US and Pakistan in the first two days of 2018 were just a matter of time. However, a look at another set of remarks by the US President shows that his stance hasn’t been rock solid when it comes to Pakistan.
In 2017, just months after being elected the US President, Trump told the New York Times that Pakistan was a “valued partner” but castigated it for harbouring criminals and terrorists. Later last year, Trump was appreciative of Pakistan after a US-Canadian couple and their children were rescued by the Pakistan security forces. “Starting to develop a much better relationship with Pakistan and its leaders. I want to thank them for their cooperation on many fronts.”
Pakistan’s own doing
However, despite Trump’s reversals of sorts, the embarrassment that Pakistan faces has been its own doing. The country has failed to show any demonstrable evidence against terror emanating from its soil. The alleged perpetrators of the 26/11 Mumbai attack have been given a free run in the country and India’s allegations of the state’s complicity in cross-border terror have been met with the usual denial.
We will respond to President Trump’s tweet shortly inshallah…Will let the world know the truth..difference between facts & fiction..
— Khawaja M. Asif (@KhawajaMAsif) January 1, 2018
In fact, it was the release of Jammat Ud Dawah founder Hafiz Saeed from house arrest in November this year that viciously turned the tide against Pakistan. Worse, his release set off speculations of Saeed possibly playing an active role in Pakistan’s national politics. Saeed is a wanted criminal in the US and carries a $10 million bounty on his head and his walking free in Pakistan touched a raw nerve with the US administration. What took matters downhill for the otherwise cooperative relationship between the two countries was Pakistan’s reported denial of access to US authorities for access to a captured militant from the Taliban-linked Haqqani network.
Pakistan’s response, nevertheless, is on expected lines. It has created a facade of acting against trusts run by Hafiz Saeed, and has resorted to the tried and tested technique of denial. The Pakistan Defence Minister has slammed Trump for his statements and also “vowed” to separate “fact from fiction”. Back from the embarrassment that it caused itself for the shabby handling of Kulbhushan Jadhav’s meeting with his family, earning itself enough disrepute along the way, the current happenings and Pakistan’s response to it indicate things aren’t getting any better anytime soon.