Saleem Akhtar Malik l
May 1, 1960: While I was still enjoying those heady childhood days ,the Soviet Union had scored a propaganda hit over its archrival,the United States,by shooting down Gary Powers’ U-2 spy plane.
I am in Lahore to spend the school vacations. Sitting on the verandah stairs at my maternal grandmother’s house in the sleepy Model Town suburb,I cast a fleeting glance at the Time magazine held by my aunt sitting nearby. Sprawled over the magazine cover is a man’s sketch with Gary Powers written underneath. My aunt tells me about the U-2 pilot who had taken off from the Badaber airbase near Peshawar and was shot down over the Soviet Union. “Khruschev says he has drawn a red circle around Peshawar”. My aunt sounds concerned. I did not know that the world was at the height of the Cold War.
In The Contractor, Raymond Davis’ apparently sponsored and ghost written book that has suddenly popped out of nowhere, the ex contractor reveals that the former president Zardari, Nawaz Sharif (then in opposition), and Lieutenant General Pasha, the then ISI chief, helped in his release. It appears nothing has changed.
Fast Forward: Raymond Allen Davis is a former United States Army soldier, private security firm employee, and contractor with the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). On January 27, 2011, Davis kills two reportedly armed men in Lahore, Punjab’s capital. A car coming to aid Davis kills a third Pakistani man, Ibadur Rahman, in a “hit and run” while speeding on the wrong side of the road. Although the U.S. government contends that he was protected by diplomatic immunity because of his employment with the U.S. Consulate in Lahore, Davis is jailed and criminally charged by Pakistani authorities with double murder and the illegal possession of a firearm. On March 16, 2011, Davis is released after the families of the two killed men are paid $2.4 million in diyya(a form of monetary compensation or blood money). Judges then acquit him of all charges and Davis immediately departs Pakistan. In The Contractor, Raymond Davis’ apparently sponsored and ghost written book that has suddenly popped out of nowhere, the ex contractor reveals that the former president Zardari, Nawaz Sharif (then in opposition), and Lieutenant General Pasha, the then ISI chief, helped in his release. It appears nothing has changed.
Read more:Raymond Davis pricks the bubble in his memoirs!
Sovereignty went for a six
The US-Pakistan relationship has always generated controversy. Pakistan, right from day one was torn by multiple problems. The biggest problem it had to grapple with, at the time of independence, was how to rehabilitate millions of refugees pouring in from India when the state exchequer was empty.But Jinnah, the founder of this poor and shattered country, was a proud and self -reliant person.At the time of independence, Pakistan sought American assistance as a tactical measure to address its problems. However, successive leaders, both civilian and military, showed a great inclination towards foreign aid as a strategic instrument.Today’s Pakistan, despite slogging through the minefield of history for seven decades, is in a much better shape than it was at the dawn of its independence. However, the propensity of its leaders to lean on foreign powers does not show any sign of slackening.
Read more:Yet another US drone strike in Pakistan
Why did they do it? It appears that Pakistani decision makers contrived an intricate cobweb of clichés, self-serving theories, and dicey relationships in order to remain in power. The inclination of the Pakistani rulers towards the inclusion of foreign powers for addressing Pakistan’s domestic issues and regional conflicts can be attributed to their lack of confidence and, more importantly, as a ploy to drag their feet in the resolution of these very issues. This is because they want to keep the pot boiling as it facilitates self-perpetuation. Towards this end, they allow external forces to play an exaggerated role in Pakistan’s domestic politics. Even a superpower cannot meddle in the internal affairs of a small state unless it is invited to do so. Egypt, under Nasser, was heavily under the Soviet influence, but despite the Soviet pressure Nasser refused to remove restrictions on the Egyptian communist party. This was different in the case of Pakistan, where the American diplomats were gradually allowed to play the role of king makers. According to Hussain (1993), in an assessment prepared by the United States embassy in Karachi in March 1955, four years before Pakistan formally granted bases to the US,
“ the US felt that after more than two years of crises , political power in Pakistan has been openly assumed by a small group of British –trained administrators and military leaders centering around Governor General Ghulam Muhammad and his two principal associates, General Iskander Mirza and Ayub Khan…. …. The regime favors a strong central government, economic development through austerity measures and foreign aid, and close alignment with the U.S…… We believe that the present leadership would be favorably inclined towards US peacetime development of airbases for U.S use.” (Paras. 9–14, 21).
It is interesting to note that both India, a Non -Aligned country taunted by Dulles for “sitting on the fence”, and Pakistan, “the most allied ally of the United States”, continued to get American military and economic assistance throughout the Cold War period.
Iskander Mirza was actually an ICS officer who, like Saddam Hussain, had awarded himself the honorary rank of Major General. He liked when people addressed him as “General Sahib”.Once they were allowed to meddle in Pakistan’s internal affairs, the Americans grew arrogant and assumed an imperial, rather insulting, tone towards their Pakistani tenants. The biggest indicator of poor and weak leadership is when a leader starts talking against his subordinates in front of others. It becomes even more reprehensible when he does so in front of strangers. According to a September 1956 dispatch by the American ambassador Hildreth, Iskander Mirza showed Hildreth and his British counterpart a copy of a four-page letter regarding foreign policy that he had drafted but had not yet sent to Suharwardy. In other words, the president of Pakistan showed a confidential official communication addressed to his prime minister to the foreign ambassadors even before it was seen by the prime minister (Hussain, 1993).
Read more:Is Pakistan still indispensable for the US in the region?
The subsequent Pakistani rulers have proven themselves even better boot lickers to the Americans than their predecessors.The people of Pakistan deserved better than what was delivered to them by their leaders, political as well as praetorian. It is interesting to note that both India, a Non -Aligned country taunted by Dulles for “sitting on the fence”, and Pakistan, “the most allied ally of the United States”, continued to get American military and economic assistance throughout the Cold War period.
Both the US and Pakistan were clear about their respective national objectives. However, both winked when they tried to interpret the mutual relationship. Was it unwise and immoral for Pakistan to enter into a strategic relationship with the United States?
There was a marked variance, though, in the objectives and perspectives of Pakistan and the United States due to which military assistance was provided to Pakistan for one set of reasons and received for another. Pakistan needed foreign military assistance to offset Indian military superiority whereas the United States armed Pakistan on condition that it entered into military alliances in recognition of the communist danger and would be prepared to be a part of the worldwide encirclement of the Soviet Union and China, with the common and collective purpose of containing communism, if necessary, with the use of force.
Read more:Can Pak-US ties be reconfigured amid hardened positions?
Both the US and Pakistan were clear about their respective national objectives. However, both winked when they tried to interpret the mutual relationship. Was it unwise and immoral for Pakistan to enter into a strategic relationship with the United States? With a backward industrial base and, according to Chester Bowles, ‘split into two halves and divided by 1,000 miles of Indian territory’ entering into US sponsored military alliances was a good stop gap measure, a breathing space till the country became self- reliant. Even India, six times larger than Pakistan, while remaining non- aligned, did not mind receiving significant military and economic assistance from the United States during the same period. So far this makes sense. However, expecting the United States to take Pakistan’s side in Indo-Pakistan territorial disputes was living in a Cuckoo World. America would never support Pakistan at the risk of alienating India.
Saleem Akhtar Malik was a Lt Colonel in the Pakistan Army. He holds an honors degree in War Studies, an MBA and an M.Phil in Management Sciences. He is the author of the book Borrowed Power. The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Global Village Space’s editorial policy.