Former Prime Minister Imran Khan's Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) recently criticized the meeting between former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and US Ambassador Donald Blome, labeling it as an intrusion into Pakistan's internal matters. However, the party's response to a letter from eleven US Congress members calling for a review of security assistance due to alleged human rights abuses within Pakistan was noticeably absent.
Whereas, in reality, diplomatic meetings between ambassadors and political figures are routine, and the expressed concerns of a few Congress members do not dictate US foreign policy. It's crucial to differentiate between individual opinions and actual policy decisions, which require majority approval in the Senate and House of Representatives.
While the PTI points fingers at the US for perceived interference, it has itself engaged lobbying and public relations firms in the United States. Last year's revelation of a $25,000 monthly contract with Fenton-Arlook and the recent disclosure of a contract with Praia Consultants highlight the PTI's active efforts to shape its image in the US.
The lobbying landscape often exploits Congress members' needs for support, be it financial or electoral, to align with their clients' interests. The recent letter to Secretary of State Antony Blinken from Congress members may reflect a response to lobbying efforts, especially if they have Pakistani-American constituents or financial backers.
However, the PTI's lobbying expenditure, estimated between two to three hundred thousand dollars annually, is relatively small in the broader context of US lobbying, making significant policy shifts unlikely. Instead, it appears aimed at boosting morale among disillusioned party supporters, fostering the belief that the US may intervene to influence domestic developments.
It's essential to clarify that there is no evidence supporting the notion that the US played a role in Pakistan's political events. Ambassador Blome's meeting and the Congress members' letter gain significance largely due to a persistent conspiracy theory suggesting American control over major decisions in Pakistan.
This conspiracy theory, embraced at times by various Pakistani political parties, contributes to a tendency among Pakistanis to seek American signals to interpret their complex political landscape. Politicians may publicly denounce the US while privately assuring Americans of their friendly disposition, exemplified in declassified records of past interactions.
Pakistan's leaders, instead of clarifying the complexities of international affairs, often find it expedient to indulge an emotionally charged populace prone to conspiracy theories. Anti-American rhetoric becomes a convenient distraction from introspection and accountability for policy failures.
In reality, post-American withdrawal from Afghanistan, Pakistan's status as a major recipient of US aid has diminished. Trust issues stemming from disagreements over Afghanistan and counterterrorism, coupled with the Bin Laden discovery in Abbottabad, have strained US-Pakistan relations. The US now approaches Pakistan based on trade volumes and agreed security parameters, without the strategic emphasis seen in past decades.
It is time for Pakistan's leaders to address these realities with the public, moving beyond conspiracy narratives. The international landscape has shifted, and Pakistan's relationship with the US has transformed. Embracing pragmatism over sensationalism is crucial for fostering a mature understanding of Pakistan's position in the evolving global order.