By Dr. Muzaffar Iqbal
The standard narrative of Pak-US relationship always goes back to Liaqat Ali Khan’s so-called historic visit to the United States in May 1950, but there are gaps in that narrative which have never been filled. While it is true that Liaqat Ali Khan received a very warm welcome, it is seldom mentioned that this was due to the foresight of President Harry S. Truman, who saw opportunities in Pakistan against the Soviet Union with which the United States was locked in a cold war. Truman eagerly cultivated his relationship with the emerging country. Liaqat Ali Khan was invited to address the House of Representatives, he was taken to Lockheed Martin’s factory, he inspected aircraft, he was given high honors and his wife, Begum Liaqat Ali, was likewise treated as a royal guest. All of this was reflected in Liaqat Khan’s speech to the nation upon his return.
This warm beginning at the political level was, however, short-lived. Despite his warmth for the Americans, Premier Liaquat Ali did not sell Pakistan to the United States; he remained focused on pursuing a semi-non-alignment foreign policy in a world where the two super powers were forcing nations to side with them. When North Korea attacked pro-American South Korea, Pakistan condemned the attack, but refused to send Pakistani combat troops to join the UN force on the Korean Peninsula. The next major test for Liaqat Ali Khan came when the United States demanded that he use his influence over Iran for the US efforts to secure the transfer of Iranian oil fields; Liaqat declined the request. The United States then threatened to withdraw its support for Pakistan’s Kashmir cause. Liaqat Ali Khan responded by asking the United States to evacuate Pakistani air bases; this was a bombshell in Washington.
Liaqat Ali Khan was mysteriously assassinated on 16 October 1951, while addressing a public meeting at Company Bagh, Rawalpindi. The police immediately shot the assassin, who was later identified as Saad Akbar Babrak, and who was well-known to the police as a professional assassin. This assassination was a turning point in Pak-US relations, because after Liaqat, the rest of the politicians were merely fake coins in Jinnah’s pocket, as he himself describe them. The focus of America’s Pakistan policy now shifted to Pakistan’s military and since that first coup in 1958, there has never been a break in this military dominated relationship. There has never been a political leader who could wrest Pakistan free of US influence. Z.A. Bhutto is said to have tried and paid the price for his attempt to regain political control over Pak-Us relationship.
Since 1958, it has always been Pakistani military who has decided main contours of the Pak-US relationship. Pakistan’s weak politicians have been a junior partner in selling Pakistan to the United States. The US, on its part, has invested billions of dollars to buy Pakistan through various programs which take Pakistan’s future military leaders to America for “training”. What these people receive in America is not only a very low level of military training, but also a very strong dose of American values and way of life and they often return in a state of awe and shock, brainwashed and in a state of submission. They become convinced that Pakistan’s interests can only be protected by remaining a satellite of the great super power. What they learn by way of military training is obvious from the three terrible defeats Pakistan’s army has suffered in its wars and in its inability to protect innocent citizens of this country who pay to keep them in their uniforms.
An alarming but insightful view of how Americans have remained focused in their effort to buy Pakistan through their relationship with the military is provided by the recently leaked Wiki cables. Cable number 153436, written by Anne Patterson, then US Ambassador to Pakistan, is an eye opener for anyone who has eyes: She wrote this after her address to the National Defence University (NDU). She had received “astonishingly naive and biased questions about America,” she said, and lamented that America has lost “a generation of military officers who did not receive training in the United States during the sanction years when the International Military Education and Training programmes was discontinued. We need, in particular, to target the ‘lost generation’ of Pakistan military who missed IMET opportunities during the sanctions years,” Ms Patterson stressed. The “sanctions years” in this case are apparently the years during which Pressler sanctions were effective. “The elite of this crop of colonels and brigadiers are receiving biased NDU training with no chance to hear alternative views of the US. Given the bias of the instructors, we also believe it would be beneficial to initiate an exchange program for instructors,” Ms Patterson noted.
In the current climate, one is not even allowed to wonder aloud about American ambassadors who seem more like American spies, but at least one can say out loud what is already known through cable no. 153436: An American Colonel by the name of Michael Schleicher was actually allowed to attend a course at NDU, he then had a meeting at the embassy where he provided his insights: “The senior level instructors had misperceptions about US policies and culture and infused their lectures with these suspicions, while the students share these misconceptions with their superiors despite having children who attended universities in the US or London.” Col Schleicher told the embassy’s political officer. “Students in the junior course, too, shared many of the biases prevalent in the Muslim world, including a belief the US invaded Iraq for its oil and that 9/11 was a staged ‘Jewish conspiracy,’” according to Col Schleicher. In contrast to criticism of the US, students and instructors were adamant in their approval of all things Chinese, the cable adds.
Let us conclude by stating another obvious fact: Pakistan is now an American colony. Americans are deciding who rules Pakistan’s various state institutions, they have their eyes set on the emerging army officers, they influence decisions about where Pakistan’s military should next fight their war of terror, and they have the entire political leadership in their pocket as the Wiki cables have clearly established. Yet, Col Schleicher is still worried that “of the 135 senior course students, only two openly drank alcohol.” But he has something else for us mortals: “The Pakistani military students appeared to come from wealthy families or from military families and were proud they received amenities, including private-quality schools and good health care, as an incentive to stay in the military. Officers at the brigadier rank touted their privileges, including a house, car, and a driver. The NDU students also obtained financial perks, such as a free trip for a pilgrimage that could be taken at the end of the class’ official travels.”
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