Jalees Hazir Did the US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton really think that she could win the hearts and minds of the Pakistani people with her glib talk and fake honesty? Anyone half as intelligent as her should have known that it would take more than that to douse the fire of anti-US sentiment spreading in the streets of the country shed come to charm. After all, how could the US hope to turn the page on its relations with Pakistan without reformulating its flawed policy and affecting changes on the ground on issues that have earned it hostility in the first place? Apparently Ms Clinton had thought it would suffice to give audience to different sections of the society and repeat the hypocritical and hollow pronouncements of friendship and her administrations good intentions. She insisted that the negative perceptions about her governments policies were based on a lack of communication and with her televised frank exchanges she had started the process of bridging that gap. Hopefully, she went back with a clear understanding that the US needs to focus on improving the substance of what is to be communicated. She had nothing substantial to say on issues that needed to be addressed most urgently. When asked about the drone attacks, she refused to comment on any particular tactic or technology used by the US in the ongoing war. Thats a safe way of saying that her administration will continue to bomb hundreds of innocent children, women and men in Pakistan using suburban warriors who manoeuvre these remote-controlled death-gadgets comfortably holed up in distant Virginia. She advised the Pakistanis not to feel angry about it as there is a war going on. Her responses to other questions agitating the minds of Pakistanis were equally unconvincing. She feigned ignorance about the nefarious activities of private security companies working with the US embassy here and of US citizens going around Islamabad with unlicensed arms. When asked by businessmen for access to the US market, something that would help the Pakistani economy much more than the dubious aid she bandied about as a sign of her administrations long-term commitment to Pakistan, she advised them to trade with India. And when she found herself cornered on the Kerry-Lugar-Berman Act by senior media-persons, she arrogantly told them not to accept it if it was so unpalatable. Her arrogance is not entirely misplaced, as so far her administration has had to deal with only servile representatives of the puppet government managed for it by President Zardari. Yet it is surprising that she did not have sense enough to realise the difference between the government representatives, who seem to have sold out, not only their hearts and minds, but also their souls to her administration, and the politically alive media and civil society that shed come to win over. With her experience she should have known that already weakened by a brief that lacked substance, her arrogance was unlikely to win her any converts. Obviously, her trip was a PR disaster. To be fair to her, any other person in her shoes would have fared as badly. After all, it is impossible to sell an unchanged US agenda in the region to Pakistani citizens, even with the most delicious sugar-coating. The US might have a pliant government based in the presidency to help it in its imperial designs, but everything else in contemporary Pakistan is going against it. The strength of Pakistans civil society and important institutions offer hope for an independent polity geared towards guarding the interests of Pakistani citizens. Rather than fighting the change, it is advisable for the US to listen to its rumblings and embrace it. It is important to understand the essentially democratic nature of this change and the fact that it has come about despite the US policies and not due to any conditionalities it imposed upon the Musharraf government. If anything, the US strengthened the hands of Musharraf as he cracked down on pillars of democracy because he was considered to be their man. Inspired by the stand taken by the chief justice, the citizens of Pakistan waged a long struggle to achieve the goal of having an independent judiciary. Similarly, the media has fought courageously and persistently to win its right to project the public interest. Even the much-maligned military has redefined its role in the post-Musharraf era. Under General Kayani, it has sought a redefinition of its relationship with the US. It has moved away from its designated task of implementing strategies conceived in Washington and demanded a role in the formulation of those strategies as an ally. Domestically, it has moved away from political engineering and matters of governance. The professional bodies, students and civil society organisations are alive to the issues facing them and their country. Even the political parties are finally waking up to their role of representing their constituents. These are signs of a nation heading towards a truly democratic system. Unfortunately, the political government, which should be leading from the front amidst this democratic upheaval, bringing all these positive developments together and giving them direction, is the weakest democratic link in the emerging polity. It has refused to adjust to the change happening around it and insists on continuing in the outdated political legacy of opportunism, patronage and subservience to foreign masters who provide aid to abet its inefficiencies, luxuries and corruption. But given the pressure from other institutions, there is hope that even governance will improve over time and take on a more democratic character. So far, Ms Clinton and her administration have refused to read the signs and continue to tread the path of their predecessors. Even their response to the reaction against the Kerry-Lugar-Berman Act betrays a propensity to continue with their policies while hoping to manage the public opinion in Pakistan through meaningless actions, like the explanatory note added to the Act and Ms Clintons high-profile PR exercise. Given Ms Clintons vast experience as a democrat, one hopes that her experience here would result in appropriate inputs in the reformulation of policy currently underway in the White House, so that the next time she comes around to win the hearts and minds of Pakistans politically aware citizens she has more than gloss to offer them. The writer is a freelance columnist.