Pakistan was forced into an alliance with the United States when the latter invaded neighboring Afghanistan in 2002. Threats and “diplomatic coercion” were reportedly used by US officials in their bid to enlist Pakistan’s support in the war on terror.
Despite providing air bases, firepower and critical intel to the US and its allies in their pursuit of terrorists in Afghanistan, Pakistan was subjected to criticism by successive US administrations for not doing enough. It has been estimated that Pakistan lost at least 100,000 lives and incurred USD 80 billion worth of damages to its economy due to its association with the US war effort.
In addition, the United States regularly violated Pakistan’s sovereignty by lodging drone attacks against potential terrorists in the country’s tribal areas which resulted in the deaths of thousands of innocent civilians. In 2011, US forces went as far as killing 28 Pakistan military personnel in an attack on a Pakistan military check-post on the frontier in what became known as the “Salala incident”
The US has also interfered in Pakistan’s domestic affairs, most famously in 2007 when the state department became actively involved in brokering a deal between the then President, Gen Pervez Musharraf and former prime minister Benazir Bhutto which led Pakistan’s govt. to issue the National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO) which allowed politicians with criminal records to return to parliament.
Being involved in the region sporadically for the past forty years (since the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979), the United States has a checkered history of alliances, proxy wars and unfulfilled promises which has led many of its former allies to call out US double standards. Field Marshall Ayub Khan, Pakistan’s second president and first martial law administrator regretted pivoting his country’s foreign policy towards the US which in his view prevented Pakistan from claiming victory in the 1965 war with India. Former Afghan president and American protégé Hamid Karzai also blamed the US for not fulfilling promises made to his people and for escalating violence in Afghanistan during his second presidential term by refusing to negotiate with the Taliban.
Pakistan’s civilian leadership (with the exception of Imran Khan) however, has increasingly demonstrated their partiality to the United States and has sought support from the latter in their struggles with their country’s powerful military on several occasions.
Former prime minister Nawaz Sharif solicited American support against his country’s military high command during the Kargil conflict. He reportedly claimed that the military had occupied “enemy territory” without his orders despite photographic evidence to the contrary. Sharif also sponsored negative western press against the armed forces and had it termed a “rogue army.”
Former president Asif Ali Zardari petitioned the US govt. for support in curtailing the powers of the Pakistan Army in the aftermath of the Abbottabad operation in 2011 which many analysts have described as an attempted “counter-coup” by Zardari’s govt.
It is no wonder then that Sharif and Zardari – both of whom have spent years opposing each other, have lodged cases against each other and have even sent each other to prison – have suddenly come together to form a “national government.” They have in fact been brought together by a foreign hand, the same way they were brought together to serve US interests earlier.
It is no secret that the national polity which emerged in 2008 and which empowered Zardari at the center and the Sharifs in Punjab was the result of foreign maneuvering which had begun with General Musharraf’s negotiations with the late Benazir Bhutto. The US had coerced the former dictator to dig his own grave by allowing his opponents safe passage back to Pakistan. There is no other logic which explains Musharraf’s willingness to negotiate with Bhutto.
This time, however, foreign maneuvering has a singular objective: To keep Imran Khan away from Islamabad at all costs. The logic is simple; Imran Khan threatens to destroy the United States’ position to influence the region which has already received a jolting blow with the withdrawal of American troops from Afghanistan.
The US does not want China to become a regional hegemon and knows that despite its so-called strategic relationship with India, the latter will not compromise on its national interest in favor of better relations with the US. Therefore, the US has installed “reliable partners in Islamabad” to do its bidding. Partners like the Sharifs and the Zardaris who have demonstrated their loyalty to the US in the past and will most certainly allow American interests to override their country’s needs this time also.