Former Islamabad correspondent talks of growing anti-American sentiment in Pakistan

Murlidhar Reddy is Associate Editor of India’s national newspaper, The Hindu. Earlier from 2000 to 2006, he was the Islamabad Correspondent for the same newspaper. In an interview earlier this week (8 May 2017) with Lalit Shastri, Editor-in-Chief of Newsroom24x7.com, Reddy did some straight talk and spoke with conviction backed by experience gained while reporting from the ground in Pakistan and especially from the Pakistan side of Kashmir. He talks of factors responsible for a lot of bitterness towards the US among not only the radicalised Muslims but also seasoned academicians, thinkers and poets in Pakistan, who believe that the US has used Pakistan, -its people, soil and the military – for its own ends but dumped their country when they needed help.

In this photo US President Jimmy Carter stands by smiling as Pakistani dictator General Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq (Centre) shakes hands with the US national security adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski

Spelling out the reasons for the growing anti-American sentiments in Pakistan, Reddy said, it is not just the Islamists who have hatred for America but even seasoned academicians, thinkers and poets. They all have this grouse that the US has on too many occasions used them whenever it suited the Washington interest but never came to their rescue when they needed it. The ordinary civilians also have a grouse that America – for instance in 1979 had no qualms whosoever in embracing a dictator like Zia-ul-Haq because they wanted his favour because  they wanted to take on Soviet Union which had gone into Afghanistan. They have very bitter memory about America. It cuts across various sections in Pakistan. They are also very bitter about the fact that after using Pakistan, Pakistan soil, the Pakistani people , Pakistani forces, Pakistani military, Pakistani  intelligence to take on Soviet Union from 1979 till the soviet collapse that happened in 1989.

The Pakistanis, according to Reddy, also have the grouse that in 1971, when Bangladesh happened, they expected America to threaten India or tell India to back off but nothing of that sort happened. They feel that repeatedly Washington has only used them for strategic purpose for their own economic interest and left the (Pak) society and the State in tatters.

Reddy drew attention to another serious problem. Ssmall weapons in Pakistan are in massive numbers. Nobody knows how many small weapons have been left behind – thanks to the proxy war that that continued, that the US waged against the Soviet Union in Afghanistan. So the “Kalashnikov culture” came, the drug culture came. Pakistanis even today are hosting about 6 million Afghan refugees. They have taken citizenship in Pakistan and don’t want to go back to Afghanistan. That’s become a serious issue.

Reddy pointed to bitter memories and said that there are many reasons for the growing anti-American sentiment in Pakistan.

Pakistani military

Reddy is also convinced that it is the Pakistani Military and the Pakistani security arrangement which rules Pakistan.

Underscoring this, the veteran journalist said: “The popular saying goes that every country has a military but Pakistan’s military has a country meaning thereby that  Pakistan’s military owns Pakistan.’   Regarding the political establishment, Reddy said There is a political establishment in Pakistan. There is Nawaj Sharif, he is the Prime Minister but he has serious limitations. He has no option but to listen to the military which is very powerful and an organised force and as far as foreign policy and defence is concerned, they don’t take orders. It’s entirely the domain of the Pakistan Military and Pakistani Intelligence establishment.

On Kashmir

Talking of Kashmir , Reddy recounted meeting  at the Punjab club, where he was staying during a visit to Pakistan earlier this year, a waiter, who happened to be a Kashmiri from the other side.  He told him in 3 sentences – “We don’t want Hindustan. We also don’t want Pakistan. We want Azadi (Freedom)”.

That’s the sentiment of a Pakistani Kashmiri, Reddy said adding this largely holds good. Sharing the basis for taking the Pakistani waiter’s remark so seriously, he said that he was one of the few Indian journalists, who had visited their (Pakistani) side of Kashmir, not once but four times. So whatever conversations he had with people, and the waiter’s observation this year in March this reflect the general sentiment. It was the sentiment earlier, it’s still the case now, he emphasised.

Click here for the full text of Murlidhar Reddy’s interview

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