Donald Trump’s tweet highlights a sense of frustration and manifests a deep-rooted conviction against Pakistan – one that was already embedded in the thinking process of the American president. A fast track response by the Pakistani government, supported by all political parties, displayed real time sovereignty that is usually missing in official government reactions. The harsh statement of Nikki Haley, Permanent Representative of the US in the UN, further added fuel to the fire for the government. Pakistan had co-sponsored the UN resolution against Washington’s decision to shift the US Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. Ambassador Haley’s threat to deal with countries supporting the resolution turned to reality when she aimed her arsenal against Islamabad. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Secretary of Defence Jim Mattis had explicitly given the narrative that things were going against Pakistan. The writing was on the wall, but the manner in which President Trump came up with his decision was not palatable.
Despite the ugly turn of the situation, real politics should come into play. Calmer heads in the US accepts Pakistan’s importance and its role in the war on terror. Hence, the US and Pakistan will soon reach the floor to declining bilateral relations. The wild card, of course, is President Trump. The suspension of aid does not include economic and some other categories. There has been no word on the impact of all this on US interest in trade with and investment in Pakistan. Hopefully these measures will not affect business activity. The OICCI and the American Business Council have kept their cards close to their chests. This is a prudent decision. Meantime, the government should seriously consider other options such as tilting towards Russia as well as forging a strong welding of relations with China. It is also time to mend fences with Iran and Afghanistan. These will all provide the critical mass for Pakistan to be a prominent player in the region.
Karim Ashraf Jangda