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The Washington Diary

Published Dec 25, 2011 06:38pm


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A recent CBS News poll shows that a majority of Americans believe Pakistan is either unfriendly (39 per cent) or an enemy (24 per cent). Twenty-one per cent say the nation is friendly but not an ally. And two per cent call it an ally. -AFP Photo

For Pakistan in the United States, the year 2011 was like 2001, a game changer. But while the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks brought Pakistan back into the game, events happening in 2011 are pushing it out.

Pakistan is once again becoming an untouchable commodity in the United States. In 2001, Pakistan was a former Cold War ally, which played a key role in defeating the Soviets in Afghanistan, but useful no more.

In 2011, Pakistan is once again seen as a military-ruled state which cannot be trusted, particularly not with nuclear weapons. There are already moves in the US Congress to once again make Pakistan America’s most sanctioned ally, as it was after the Afghan war.

And like in 2001, when one event, the 9/11 attack, brought Pakistan back into America’s hug, another is pushing it away, the May 2 raid on Osama bin Laden’s compound in Abbottabad.

What seems to have agitated most Americans is the thought that their worst-ever enemy was found deep inside the territory of one of their closest allies.

A recent CBS News poll shows that a majority of Americans believe Pakistan is either unfriendly (39 per cent) or an enemy (24 per cent). Twenty-one per cent say the nation is friendly but not an ally. And two per cent call it an ally.

Sixty-five per cent support US military actions, drone strikes, in Pakistan.

The larger impact of this change is felt in Islamabad which now has to deal with a hostile superpower. But it is also having an impact on those Pakistanis who live in the US.

“Depressing,” is how most Pakistani-Americans describe this change. Torn between loyalty to their adopted homeland and ties to the old, many are reluctant to identify themselves as Pakistanis. Some hide behind their South Asian identity, thus allowing ordinary Americans to see them as Indians. India is America’s new friend in South Asia. It also has more influence in the United States than the Pakistanis have ever had.

Most Pakistanis appear paranoid. Some even discuss the possibility of being herded together in camps, like Japanese-Americans during the World War II, and getting deported.

Such fears, some grounded in facts, some unfounded, are forcing many to live a subterranean life.

“I was scared and was hiding my face, I was scared and felt helpless,  I was scared, although I had no share in the calamity that befell the city,” this was a Pakistani poet reciting a poem on the 10th anniversary of 9/11 in New York.

“Except that those mass murderers --- Belonged to the same God -- That I worship and so do you,” he recited.

“So if you have not seen --- How people hide their fears -- Deep inside their hearts -- Come and see me -- Living under layers and layers -- Of lies that neither hide -- Nor expose me.”

“I am a worm; worthless worm -- Living in a narrow hole -- Scared to come out -- Lest the sun burns him.”

“I am a plant, buried in the snow -- But I survived the burial -- Although not to sprout again.”

The poem reminded me of a story I heard from a friend who was reading an Urdu newspaper on a New York metro train days after 9/11. “A man with blue eyes and a big scar on his face” confronted him and asked what language it was.

"I am a non-believer, have no religion,” he said to the man.

"Terrorist," the man said to him and moved to another seat.

On the 10th anniversary, I also confronted a man outside Ground Zero in New York. “You smell,” he said to me, although I had showered before coming to the place and smelled of aftershave. I walked away.

“But you did not see me that day -- When soldiers in armored personnel carriers were deployed in Washington -- As if it was a Third World town -- Where people from the other camp -- Are never forgiven,” the poet recited.

“Had you seen me then -- You would understand -- How people hide their fears -- Deep inside their hearts -- Where even the sun does not reach -- Where even the sun does not reach.”


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Anwar Iqbal is a correspondent for Dawn, based in Washington, DC.

Comments (11) Closed

MK Dec 26, 2011 12:37am
I have a balanced view on this article. I can understand why Americans feel like this and most of their majority feel that Pakistan is not a friend but did any body tell them the sacrifices Pakistan bear due to their war. I think media plays an important role in this 21st century world and should highlight Pakistan's positive efforts as well. Pakistan is a nation of 180 million people and most of them are friendly and peaceful people. We do not want any confrontation but what we're looking for an equal, positive & friendly relations with US. I think US people should think positively about Pakistan and towards people of Pakistan who live in United States. They are part of their society, paying taxes and complying with laws and regulations. They do not deserve this kind of 3rd class citizen treatment. I have feelings for both nations........Media you should play a positive role
Anwar Iqbal Dec 26, 2011 06:32pm
Comments from my facebook: Haseeb Ahmed, Virginia: I think pakistanis here in america should get together and do sth abt this nightmarish scenario...if, heaven forbid, a further deterioration in pak-us relations happens, lives of those pakistanis living here will become very difficult...even if they r second generation pakistani americans...let's pray that both the US and pakistan resolve their issues and peace prevails in pakistan at long last.
A Patel Dec 26, 2011 06:51pm
US considers Pakistani people as friends, and hence so much monetary aid since years. US considers Pakistani Army Ally,..An Ally is a friend by treaty,..its not heart to heart friendship,..and US is very clear since beginning of Pakistani History.
Sarah Dec 26, 2011 09:36pm
why wouldn't Americans abhor Pakistanis . It's the picture we give them that truly depicts us and that's what makes them hate us . We might not be culpabale for all the terror that's spread but we need to change the way we are .
Raj Patel Dec 26, 2011 10:31pm
I totally agree with you that Americans should treat Pakistanis as they treat with others. The pity is that you conveniently forget the treatment Pakistanis are giving to the minorities in their own land. Here in USA law and order are still impartial unlike in Pakistan. So please organise your own mess in your country and then seek sympathy.
Wellwisher Dec 26, 2011 10:39pm
Too much advice to others. A person or society can only change themselves. Telling others to change is waste of time and effort.
IndianDude Dec 26, 2011 11:19pm
Same thing happened after failed NY Times Square bombing attack by a pakistani, shahzad. Pakistanis were calling themselves indian, even on job application they put down their ethnicity as Asian-Indian. What happened to ur Ghairat? Or pakistani's are central asian etc.
krishnan Dec 27, 2011 05:53am
The Americans would always look towards their own interest.So it is better to take a long term view and take a positive strategic view - not one where you dream of influence in Afghanistan etc.To what end - India will never have a great say there, inspite of whatever aid it gives.The possibility of more refugees in Peshawar always looms in the background.The encouragement of fundoos by the establishment has to stop.A more secular thinking has to prevail.All this has been emphasized in various articles in the Dawn by enlightened Pakistanis.No need to blame others .Look inwards.
Shyam Dec 27, 2011 07:50am
I am from India and I had a similar treatment in the lonely mountains on the south west border of France. Was asked if I was from Pakistan and what my intention was. Felt strange. Had nothing to do with 9/11 and was on vacation. Is Pakistan alone to blame? I don't think so. The ineffective leaderships on both sides of the border, struggling economies, ever increasing military expenditure and prices, poverty just a few kms outside big cities throughout the country have plagued both nations. But the leadership and military seem to be numb to all these and pursue policies which has the common man struggle for existence today. Acts of a few brands the entire community on both sides as terrorists even to the extent of a country's top scientist and former president being searched in an international airport on suspicion based on name. How grave has the situation become after 9/11 I wonder.
Nasah (USA) Dec 27, 2011 09:35am
The Pakistanis seem to thrive on making quick enemies out of long term friends.
Anwar Iqbal Dec 27, 2011 08:50pm
More comments from my facebook: Salmaan Peerzada: A Developing Scary Prospect Asad Ali Toor: A bitter reality.. Haseeb Butt: anwar iqbal's story in yesterday's Dawn is alarming for pakistanis living in america...heaven forbid, if things wosen between the two countries, millions of pakistanis living in the west esp. america may have to face all kinds of severe cosequences...i appeal to both governments to soften their positions and work hard to thrash out a peace deal for afghanistan...moreover, i urge all of my pakistani friends here in DC to get together and discuss how can we make a joint effort to plead our sad plight. Naveed Aslam Khawja: In Pakistan, there are 'men in uniform' and the plight of Pakistanis living in Pakistan is that it was DC who made these boots so strong ... Hum to sair karne India nahein ja sakte sirf 30 miles dor aur aap Pakistani Amreekanoon ki baatein kar rahe hein ??? Qurban aap ki masoomiat pe ! Haidr Rizvi: Right on.