Welcome to Pakistan Mr. Richard Olson By Waheed Hussain
Welcome to Pakistan Mr. Richard Olson. We hope that whatever diplomatic jargon you have used in your first statement, expressing your mind and heart regarding expanding and improving relations between Pakistan and US would be followed in letter and spirit. The new US Ambassador has promised to built relations on “mutual respect and common interest,” between the two countries. Well – no doubt both the phrases “mutual respect” and “common interest” sound melodious to everybody here in Pakistan, but sir please don’t mind; nobody would take these words seriously, until and unless they come in tandem with some practical steps.
Mr. Ambassador as you may know that you have been assigned one of the toughest jobs on the diplomatic front, as the relations between the two so-called allies were passing through the troubled waters. The former US Ambassador Mr. Cameron Munter being a very competent and professional diplomat did try his best to address serious issues of War on Terror and the regional security being raised by Pakistan, however, the powerful lobby in Washington did not listen to him seriously and finally he opted to leave the job before his tenure. So, sir you wouldn’t have a smooth drive on the bumpy road between Islamabad and Washington.
There are many challenges and difficulties in relations between US and Pakistan which have actually been damaged spirit of mutual respect and common interest. Lack of trust is the mother of all problems between two countries. This element of distrust has developed because of US unilateral policies and decisions regarding war on terror, Afghanistan and its approach towards Pakistan.
The Americans openly accuse Pakistan Army and ISI of supporting the Taliban particularly (Haqqani network) in North Waziristan Agency of Pakistani administered tribal area, which the US claims has been launching terrorist attacks against the NATO troops in Afghanistan. Whenever there was any security lapse or violence in Afghanistan, the Americans and their hand-picked regime of Hamid Karzai pointed fingers towards Islamabad absolving them of any responsibility. Basically the US and allied forces, in the past one decade, have completely failed to bring peace and security to Afghanistan.
The NATO generals, who primarily were dictating Afghan policy, could not succeed in their plan of defeating Taliban and the Afghan Warlords, so consequently they used Pakistan military and ISI as an excuse to save their skin. The US prominent journalists and writers David E. Sanger and Bob Woodward in their books (Confront and Conceal) and (Obama’s War)) have acknowledged this fact that the US failure in Afghanistan was because of the military approach adopted by the US generals. The Pentagon and CIA always dominated the decision making process while the White House and the State Department remained ineffective. When the generals witnessed that they were failing they put all the responsibility on Pakistan. This US attitude hurt Pakistani public and military institutions. So in this environment of blame game how the new Ambassador will restore the trust between the two armies, intelligence agencies and governments, it’s really a big task to be achieved.
The second big issue between the two countries was drone attacks by the US in the FATA areas. The drone attacks were no more an issue between Pakistan and the US. Today many countries of the world including the UN and other international human rights organizations were raising their voice against those brutal killing machines. There was a great resentment among Pakistani public specially the tribal population against the drone attacks. Pakistan’s government has been conveying to the Americans that drone attacks were counterproductive to the efforts of bringing peace and security in the entire region. Because, whenever there was a civilian death by drones terrorists exploited the situation for recruiting young people to fight US. So instead of gaining benefit the drone policy was harming the ultimate goal of achieving permanent peace and security in Afghanistan, region and rest of the world.
But on the contrary to this opposition the US believes that drones were the only effective military strategy through which they could wipe out the terrorists in FATA. So, Mr. Ambassador, how would you be able to convince the CIA to sit with its Pakistani counterparts and find out a permanent solution to the drone policy?
The third major issue was the bilateral cooperation in various fields of economy, defense, and the social sector. Mr. Olson on his arrival in Islamabad said “US would like to increase economic cooperation, expand trade between the two countries, address the energy crises, and improve the quality of education and health care for all.” Thank you sir, if really your country wants this? But the reality is quite opposite, the US administration would kindly show to the Pakistani people which major primary school, college or university in any city of Pakistan has been completely financed or established by it?
Yes through the USAID the American donate money to various local and international NGOs which spend big portion of its finances on their own administrative expenses while a meager amount goes to the actual project. The result is that not a single school or rural health unit gets a proper funding to improve its facilities. Only TV commercials and ads can’t educate millions of illiterate children. And some say, TV and print ads are being used to ‘bribe’ certain media houses in order to get their support and sympatheies.
Same goes to the energy sector, the US has allocated certain amount for the Mangla up-raising project and extending technical help to WAPDA for controlling land-losses and improving the capacity of existing Thermal power generation plants. But dear sir, we need finances for the Basha Dam which will generate 4500 MW electricity; unfortunately the US is not willing to help us. Rather it does not even encourage the international financial institutions like IMF, World Bank, or ADB to assist Pakistan in constructing the big power projects.
Similarly, US have openly opposed the Iran-Pakistan gas Pipeline Project, because it has conflict with Iran on the nuclear issue. The US will never finance any single mega project in Pakistan. It will allocate few million dollars for one sector and another few for another sector just to tell the Pakistanis and the rest of the world that they were interested to assistance Pakistan economy and social sector but in reality things are total different.
Let me share my own discussion with one of the US diplomats on a dinner few years back when Obama administration announced 7.5 billion dollars in five years for Pakistan under the Kerry-Lugar-Berman Bill. It was decided that US will provide 1.5 billion dollars every year to Pakistan for the civilian development projects. A lot of contingent conditionalities were attached for the release of the money. It was also decided that funds will be allocated for the projects being supervised by the USAID. Interestingly few hundred million dollars were released and the rest was history.
What to talk about Kerry-Lugar funds even the Coalition Support fund (CSF) were blocked by the US under various excuses. Anyhow during my discussion with the US official he asked me that although the US provides financial assistance to Pakistan even then its image in Pakistan is not good. I told him that the US image will improve if your country should built a one single mega project in Pakistan.
For example Pakistan needs energy so instead of assisting the country in bits and pieces put all the 7.5 billion dollars of Kerry-Lugar-Berman amount into Basha Dam project. I said don’t give money to government; instead the US should spend the whole amount itself on the project and after completion gift it to the people of Pakistan. In this way the public opinion about US will definitely improve. Pakistani nation will realize that the US is really a friend.
The US diplomat replied that they don’t care about the public image as long as the US enjoys good working relations with the government so they cannot allocate the whole amount on the single mega project, because it’s not American policy. If such was the US approach then how trust and confidence could be restored between the two countries? Shakeel Afridi and North Waziristan Operation would be at the top of his priority list whenever he would find a chance of interacting with our foreign office and other leadership.
We should not be saying this but reality was that Mr. Olson would have very limited mandate to satisfy and convince the Pakistani nation that US is really a friend and well-wisher of Pakistan. However, once again we welcome you Mr. Ambassador and wish you a very good stay in Pakistan.
The views expressed in the article are writer’s own. He is a broadcast journalist and can be approached at
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