SOME of the questions put to Ambassador Anne W. Patterson at a meeting with corporate leaders in Karachi could provide her an inkling of why a strong anti-US sentiment continues to persist in Pakistan. Among other things, she was asked to explain why Washington opposed Islamabad's cooperation with Iran in a gas pipeline project which was badly needed to fulfil the country's energy needs, why it discriminated against Pakistan by not agreeing to cooperate with it in civilian nuclear technology as it has already done with India, and insisted on retaining President Musharraf after an unambiguous verdict was delivered against him in the February polls. Ambassador Patterson reminded those gathered at a function that besides military cooperation, the US had provided Islamabad $1bn every year since 9/11 and the economic assistance had "changed the everyday lives of Pakistanis in real and positive ways." The implication was that Pakistanis were being simply ungrateful. As was amply borne out by the October elections, the vast majority of Pakistanis comprises moderates who are opposed to extremism and terrorism and would like to have friendly ties with the US, provided Washington does not try to treat Islamabad as a client. And it is here where the catch lies. The US has all along felt it easier to work with military regimes which, being unrepresentative, can afford to fulfil its demands while closing their eyes to Pakistan's own interests. Consequently in the common man's view the US is widely associated with military dictators like Ayub, Zia and now President Musharraf. Once they are on the way out, even their erstwhile supporters start demanding under public pressure, as was indicated by speeches in the Senate on Thursday, a change in the pro-US policies. There is a perception that the US is still putting pressure on the present government to retain President Musharraf, stop the rehabilitation of the deposed judges, abandon the IPI project, pursue military action in the tribal areas even at the cost of destabilising Pakistan. The recent rejection or postponement by Pentagon of millions of dollars in military aid for Pakistan has been widely viewed as a pressure tactic to abandon the policy of political settlement of the issue of militancy in the tribal areas. The latest example of the US caring little for Pakistanis' sensitivities was the posting of the notorious commanding general of Guantanamo Bay Prison, Maj Gen Jay W. Hood, as the US Defence representative in the US embassy in Islamabad. The best way to win the hearts and minds of Pakistanis is not to dictate to their governments or pressurise their political parties, but to act as partners and friends. As long as Washington acts as the lord and master of all it surveys, its attitude would continue to breed distrust and antipathy.