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“Yes, Prime Minister” – From us to the US

Published May 08, 2013 03:18pm

Pakistan is hopefully about to experience a peaceful transfer of power from one democratic government to another. International and local forces have historically been alleged to have interfered in Pakistan’s politics and other affairs which should ideally be the sole dominion of Pakistanis. These influences were negligible, if at all present, at the start of our journey as a nation and increased with the passage of time. Amongst the foreign factors that affect Pakistan’s policies, (foreign, economic, power, trade, etc.) the United States is perceived as perhaps the most influential, especially in recent times.

Liaquat Ali Khan was the first Prime Minister of Pakistan. He was also the first Pakistani Premier to visit the US. His visit has been the subject of much debate. Questions have been raised if it was the start of Pakistan’s alignment with US interests. Later, Pakistan became the “most allied ally” and at the same time faced the repetitive mantra of “Do More, or else,” followed by “Good boy, now do more…” The criticism over the visit has been satisfactorily responded to, by veteran foreign office personnel and does not merit a detailed discussion here.

I have no qualms over aligning policies with international players in order to achieve common goals of peace and development. Such alignment must be based upon principles and should not compromise national interests. In order to determine if previous engagements have stood the litmus test of principles, national interests and mutual respect, a study of official visits of our leaders might be useful. Liaquat Ali Khan and Yousuf Raza Gilani were the first and, till date, the last Pakistani Premiers, to visit the “land of opportunities”. I present to you, some material from their visits to arrive at your own conclusions as to how they projected the national viewpoint and if the Pakistani leaders’ view of “opportunities” has changed over time.

Liaquat Ali Khan delivered many speeches during his hectic visit. These make excellent reading for understanding the principles and foundations upon which the Pakistan-US relationship was initiated and the direction it was intended to move forward in.

Snippets from Liaquat Ali Khan’s speeches:

“... The quick revival of our import and export trade gave a strong fillip to the internal economy and foreign exchange position of the country. An outstanding feature of the financial position of Pakistan is that for each of the first three years of the country’s existence the national budget has been balanced. The state bank of Pakistan was established within less than a year with a share capital of approximately ten million dollars…

- May 9, 1950 - Joint meeting of the Far East-America Council of Commerce and Industry, and the National Foreign Trade Council.

This particular speech discusses a wide range of economic issues and their solutions. It remains an eye-opening resource for any party looking to improve their manifesto! During the same speech, he stated that Pakistan faced an energy deficiency and enumerated the measures that had been taken since independence and those that were in the pipeline to boost electricity production exponentially. A day earlier, in New York, the Prime Minister had also stated that Pakistan was one of the few countries of the world that had a favorable balance of trade with the dollar area.

On May 26, 1950, at MIT, he asked for cooperation and trade but at the same time clarified:

“…With monotonous reiteration during my days in America I have appealed for international cooperation. Some may have thought I am asking charity. I do not ask for charity. I only ask for help of more experienced countries of the world to put our own men to work and to make our own resources yield their wealth.

President Harry S. Truman welcoming Prime Minister Ali Khan. (Source: – National Archives and Records Administration)
President Harry S. Truman welcoming Prime Minister Ali Khan.
(Source: – National Archives and Records Administration)

Throughout, the PM emphasised that the visit was partially a “study-tour” on the nation’s behalf by one of its loyal servants. Multimedia record of the visit is unfortunately missing, however, an excellent collection of the speeches, “Pakistan – the Heart of Asia” was published by the Harvard University Press in 1950 and re-published by Paramount Books in 2011.

When Yousuf Raza Gillani visited the US during 2008, much water had flowed under the bridge and the relationship between the two states had become more complex. Though the court has declared him ineligible to contest the upcoming elections, the jury is still out on his government – figuratively speaking, as the people of Pakistan are to cast their vote. Hence, I shall refrain from commenting.

His speech addressing the Council of Foreign Relations on July 29, 2008, focused due attention on terrorism and then diversified to explain how democracy is important to curb terrorism and how American dollars can help. Some excerpts are as follows:

“…my government is working to restore law and order into our cities under assault from terrorist attacks.”

“…This is not Charlie Wilson's war. This is Benazir Bhutto's war.”

In 1996, after the PPP's government was overthrown, the Taliban immediately seized Kabul.”

“…Pakistan cannot afford to fail. The world cannot afford for us to fail. The United States, the oldest democracy in the world, the greatest democracy in the world, must be a beacon of liberty to all people on our planet.”

“Dancing with the dictators has always come back to haunt the world.”

“And of course, all of Pakistan was heartened by the unanimous passage earlier today by the United States Senate Foreign Relations Committee of the Biden-Lugar bipartisan plan for a 10-year, $15 billion nonmilitary commitment by the United States to the people of Pakistan. This legislation also had the support of President Bush, who is eager for democracy to succeed in Pakistan.”

The speech and Q&A session is available for the viewers’ pleasure (or displeasure) at the following link. It is a lengthy video that will not bore you.

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A transcript of the speech is available at the CFR website.

In the end, it is the people of Pakistan who are to decide whether our relationship with the most influential international player has changed for the better or worse, and how much of it is our own doing and based on principles?



The writer works for a bank and is interested in the outdoors, wildlife and science. Currently he is seeking transfer to a branch either in the Australian outback or the Himalayas! He can be reached at


The views expressed by this blogger and in the following reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of the Dawn Media Group.