Amidst the tensions roiling US-Pakistan relations, was held an annual summit of the Pakistani-American Congress at Capitol Hill - the seat of the US Congress at Washington DC. This summit attracted the leadership of the Pakistani community from all over the United States, along with a slew of Congressmen, including Jim Moran, Dan Burton, Sheila Jackson Lee, Chris Van Hollen (born in Karachi), Mike Fitzpatrick (a stage III cancer patient cured by a Pakistani oncologist), Keith Ellison (a Muslim), Rush Holt, and Bob Filner (whose in-laws were missionaries in Gujranwala, where the Congressman himself spent considerable time).
The focus was on US-Pakistan ties. I was asked to deliver my remarks during the inaugural session. The very presence of so many high-profile legislators and the robust interaction by itself indicated the importance given to the Pakistani dimension - a fact acknowledged by all the participating Congressmen, despite recognising that the current state of relations are bitter rather than better.
Missed often is the big picture. For example, the terror impact of occupation in Kashmir is overlooked; the dubious Indo-US nuclear deal is absorbed; sabre-rattling on Iran thoughtlessly continues, inflaming an already explosive neighbourhood; stigmatising and labelling of Muslims is being mainstreamed; and the global flashpoint of the Palestinian issue is being skipped over.
Meanwhile, there is a “do more” mantra: too much talk, too much micro-managing, too many visits, too many over-scheming policies, and too many cooks spoiling the soup. The time may have come to do less and ask less.
American visitors to Pakistan do make a common observation and a legitimate one, too, on the culture of public scolding: elders scolding the young; teachers scolding their pupils; bosses scolding their subordinates; and employers scolding their servants.
Now, you get US Defence Secretary Panetta publicly scolding Pakistan in, of all places, India - someone’s brilliant idea. Hillary Clinton has also chimed in - during the just concluded Indo-US Strategic Dialogue in Washington - proposing a trilateral engagement between the US, India, and Afghanistan. It is a recipe for trilateral turbulence, further aggravating mistrust. It led former US Presidential candidate, Senator John McCain, to tell PBS-TV that such policies are “unnecessarily antagonising Pakistan.”
Some of the Congressmen urged the Pakistani community in the US to make a greater outreach to all sectors of US society to shape a positive narrative about Pakistan. But the challenge here is to motivate and inspire, particularly the youth. Talent itself is not good enough, unless partnered with teamwork, and the youth has to make a concerted drive to be more visible and more vigorous in opinion-moulding professions.
Defeatism can breed inaction.
There are signs of disquiet within Washington about the US posture on Pakistan. According to a Washington Post column of June 15, drone strikes “have already succeeded in making the United States more hated in Pakistan than India.……US policies are becoming more incoherent.”
The time is ripe for an overall review. And also for generating fresh ideas and trying new medicine. Washington has yet to absorb that so-called ‘moderates’, with little traction among their own public, cannot deliver, while in Islamabad it shall eventually be learnt the hard way that outside props are no substitute for sound governance and integrity in leadership.
n The writer is an attorney-at-law and policy analyst based in Washington DC. He is the first Pakistani American member admitted to the US Supreme Court Bar.