In the midst of crucial changes taking place in the government of Pakistan, amongst all other challenges, the first phone call by the US official, Mike Pompeo has inevitably been the target of much negativity. A dispute has erupted as a result of the conflicting statements generated by the foreign official US Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo and Pakistan’s foreign office spokesperson, Muhammad Faisal’s statements.
Earlier on Thursday, Aug 23, Mike Pompeo, the US Secretary of State made a phone call the newly elected Prime Minister, and congratulated him on becoming the P.M. of Pakistan. Things turned dubious, however, when the US foreign office generated a statement about the telephonic exchange - that occurred between Pompeo and Imran Khan - included concerns regarding the issue of terrorism that were clearly rejected by Pakistan’s foreign office spokesperson Muhammad Faisal. He openly announced that ‘Pakistan takes exception to the factually incorrect statement issued by the US State Department on today’s phone call between Prime Minister Khan and Secretary Pompeo”. Not surprisingly, the US foreign office stated that they stand by their stance.
Regardless of its questionable content, the statement made by the US Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, is completely inappropriate since Pakistan has been part of this war-on-terror for more than 10 years now and has faced up to 80,000 casualties in the process. More than 19,000 armed personnel have been brutally injured and 6000 martyred while reclaiming parts of its tribal agencies penetrated by the Taliban. Moreover, The State Bank of Pakistan in a report has claimed that the war on terror has cost a staggering $118 billion so far, hindered foreign investment and slowed down trade in the country. Therefore, it is very unfortunate to see Pakistan being blamed for a war which was never its own and hence it is important for Pakistani citizens to make corrections such as this one because perception sometimes blurs reality. It is also not very difficult to understand why Pakistan has responded strongly over this issue because even after incurring all damages, Pakistan is still being wrongfully accused for harbouring terrorists and providing safe havens to them. Pakistan has played an important role in America’s war against terror in Afghanistan killing upto 31,000 Taliban terrorists to date, and recapturing a vast majority of the tribal areas in the west that had been infiltrated by the terrorist Talibans from across the border. Instead of being rightfully praised for its sacrifices, Pakistan is being negatively depicted and its role against war has been overlooked. It is the only country in the world to have fought a neighbour’s war and restored law and order so effectively. Hence in my opinion it is very unfortunate for Pakistan to not be encouraged for the positive role it has been playing post 9/11.
While it is disappointing to hear such sweeping statements by the US officials, it is clear that the new government is being water tested by the Americans to see if this government is any different from the previous ones. Pakistan has witnessed a change of government after the general elections that were held on 25th July which is now led by Prime Minister Imran Khan. The new government has promised the nation that the country’s image will be restored by implementing crucial decisions - beneficial for its citizens.
Working in the US academia for over a decade, I believe that the phone call content - though raises questions regarding negative and shady intent of the involved parties in general - has actually generated a strong and pragmatic impact of Pakistan’s government in the eyes of the west. In my view, the US would appreciate this act of clearly communicating its stance early by the new Pakistani government. This change in foreign policy is very effective and would immediately achieve three things. First, USA would better engage in foreign relations with Pakistan. Second, it would improve in-house morale of security agencies and the Pakistani nation when they would see their voices being heard and finally; portray a positive image of Pakistan by being the only country around the globe to have worked tirelessly to reverse the effects of terrorism commendably. Therefore, I deem this congratulatory phone call from the Secretary of State as part of a bigger game to which the Pakistani government has responded tactfully and tackled admirably – setting a clear foundation for the future dialogue between the two nations.
The author is an academician and holds a PhD in Leadership and Management.