Ups and Downs in Pak-US Relationships

By Saeed Mushtaq Awan.

Pak-US relationship has always been an interesting subject to discuss. Has anyone seen the sole super power getting so much frustrated by a single country? That is Pakistan. So many ups and downs come between these two countries but they settled it with negotiations. As in International politics, there are neither permanent friends nor permanent foes of a state, it’s the national interests of state that matter and make them enemies or friends to each other. National interest of states are not constant it changes time to time.

Pak-US diplomatic relations established on October 1947. These relations developed against the backdrop of cold war since then this relationship has been based on economic and military assistance, both countries engage themselves for their national interest. US used Pakistan as a base for military observations flights over Soviet territory and Pakistan took benefit by signing a mutual defence agreement and became member of SEATO and CENTO.

Following are the phases of Pak-US relationships.

Cold war Era

War against the USSR in Afghanistan was the first test case for Pakistan during the cold war as a frontline ally of US and Pakistan played well at that time because US as a capitalist counter the communist everywhere. It was a war of super power, both countries want to become supreme and counter each other at every stage and in this case on that period of war Pakistan fought indirectly for US and played an important role. US with the help of Pakistan created Taliban to fight with communist. US provide Pakistan economic aid, technology for this traditional fight. Actually it was truman’s doctrine. In this war America was not directly involved. They provide economic and military aid to their allies for this conventional war and they beat USSR in Afghanistan. After ten years communist left Afghanistan and that Taliban factor become huge threat for Pakistan both countries create them and after war US left them with nothing. So many Former US government officials like Hillary Clinton said in an interview that yes, we create Taliban for communist and we left them with nothing. She also said that “The people we are fighting today, we funded twenty years ago.  At that time Pakistan’s intelligence also involved in this because they think that these communist came for our hot water and for that Pakistan involved themselves in this war.

Bhutto’s Era

After 1971 war Bhutto realized that US can’t support Pakistan against India. So then bhutto decided strove to lessen Pakistan’s dependence on the US. After that Pakistan withdrew from SEATO and CENTO that was the time when hurdles occurred among these two countries. But this remain not so long As it’s said, “there is no permanent enemy in international politics”. Bhutto re-evaluated the nature of pak-US relationship. Indo-Soviet treaty and Pakistan military’s need for the US equipment forced him to call for a continued alliance with US. But in 1976 Pakistan ran in trouble with US over the issue of acquisition of nuclear power plant. Due to this the military aid from US was again suspended.

Zia’s Era

Zia came in to power through 1977 coup. US opposed his dictatorship and stopped all economic and military aid of Pakistan. Another reason was Pakistan’s secret construction of a uranium enrichment facility that force US to stop all aid.

However Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979 Pakistan became a frontline ally of US. Due to its location of borders with Afghanistan. US support Pakistan economically and giving them weapons. Pakistan experienced a great progress at that time. Because US providing billions of dollars and arms to Pakistan on 5 and 6 years package deal. But at the ending of Soviet-Afghan war, Pakistan realized that US aid was finite. Then Zia began a series of highly secretive meetings to explore trading its nuclear technology to other countries.

Musharraf’s Era and post 9/11

9/11 was a brutal day in the history of US when thousands of people were killed, when two planes hit the world trade center. That was the day that changed the world. That attack was a straight war declared against USA from Al Qaeda and after that attack USA in his full wrath declared war against Al Qaeda both rivals were in a full flow. So once again USA contact Pakistan for help. Because Pakistan share its border with Afghanistan and all those terrorists were hide there under the shelter of Taliban. These terrorists hit the world’s most powerful country on its own soil, with its own aircraft used as missiles. That was second incident which hurt USA after the pearl harbor. So USA Secretary of state, General Colin Powell call Musharraf and straight away asked “you are either with us or against us” that question put Musharraf in trial and Musharraf decided to go with US against Taliban. Musharraf condemned the 9/11 attack and address the nation that we decided to go with US against Taliban. Because we had no choice if we didn’t support US our arch rival India was ready to step in by offering its bases to the United states and definitely US accept India’s offer.

What would happen?

India would gain a golden opportunity with regard to Kashmir. Another reason was that we can’t confront USA. Because we had military weakness as compared the strength of US , economic weakness because we can’t sustain our economy in the face of attack by US , third and worst of all was our social weakness. So Musharraf decided to go with US because for him Pakistan came first and the national interest of state. But if we chose the terrorists, then we should be prepared to be bombed back to the stone age that was the another reason to fight against Taliban. So Musharraf did which was best for the Pakistan’s national interest and we decided to fight with Taliban. which were created by Pakistan and US to fight against USSR and now both countries going to fight against them.

US demanded the bases of Pakistan’s and fight hard against the Taliban. Pakistan helping them by providing intelligence information and caught hundreds of Al-Qaeda members and handover to US and in exchange US helped us by providing economic and military aid. At the end of his career Musharraf double cross US it’s said by US officials because they think that Musharraf helping Taliban to shelter the Osama bin laden and many militants from Al Qaeda found save heaven in Pakistan’s tribal areas FATA where army control is no more at that time so they can easily go across the border and Obama administration think that Pakistan deceive the America and west. Even in Musharraf’s Era Pakistan suffered alot from terrorism in shape of suicide attacks in which thousands of people were killed and still US think that Pakistan double cross the USA.

Current phase of rebuilding relationship

After Musharraf’s Era Zardari came in to power and give US free hand so in that case US did surgical strike in Pakistan and claim the death of Osama bin Laden in Abbottabad which is highly sensitive military area and US did surgical strike there. Another case was Raymond davis case who killed two persons walking on road by his car and US got success to set him free it was said that Raymond was CIA agent working in Pakistan under cover and Davis himself accepted that in his book “The contractor” that was against the sovereignty of Pakistan and also this shows the major failures of Pakistani government at that time. But Zardari did nothing because they were getting economic aid but this take not so long. In November 2011 When US strike in pak-Afghan border and in result 24 pakistani soldiers died whole country become wrath and protest everywhere in Pakistan and demanded for revenge. The situation was worse and government had to take immediate action and then Pakistani government cut off their route of supply. which brings US on their knee and then US realise it’s mistake and apologize from Pakistan and things were settled after talk. On January 2017 pak-US bilateral relations reach on all time low, when in the crazy early morning hours, Trump in a policy tweet accused Islamabad and said that Pakistan did nothing just little help and cut off the aid of Pakistan and in reply Pakistan strongly condemned his tweet and our defence minister remind him the sacrifices of Pakistan in the war on terrorism that tweet again turmoil the relations among these two countries after that tweet from trump Pakistan government officials and military officials strongly condemned him. Because Pakistan fighting their war and lost so many innocent lives and still US denying the contribution of Pakistan in war on terrorism. It’s Pakistan who suffer more than USA. Still both government officials trying to settle the issue by negotiations and I hope both countries will do their best because in international political system we could only solve our problems by cooperating with other countries. It has famously been said that “short term gain for long term pain” that’s what happened with the allies in the jihad against the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan US, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia. We create the mujahideen, fired them, sent them to jihad, in Afghanistan against Soviets . We didn’t stop to think how we would divert them to productive life after the jihad was won. This mistake cost  Pakistan more deadly than any other country because of its location. Neither did the US realize its mistake. US didn’t even consider the rebuilding and development of Afghanistan after Soviet departed. America simply abandoned Afghanistan to its own fate and now Pakistan and Afghanistan paying the price of that mistake.

Now both countries need to settle their issues through negotiations because it’s Pakistan who is still suffering from US mistakes. Both countries need to make friendly policies which is best for their national interests. Because in foreign policy, a great deal has to do with historical circumstances, a great deal has to do with the sense and perception of people.

About Author:

Saeed Mushtaq Awan is a student of international relations in International Islamic university Islamabad. Blogs writing is his hobby.

He can be reached at

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