The United States was one of the first nations to establish relations with Pakistan after they achieved independence from the British Raj in 1947. Since then, the relationship has had its ups and downs, but the September 11 attacks sparked significant changes. Pakistan, which neighbors Afghanistan and provided conveniently placed US military locations, became a key American ally as President Bush initiated the war on terror. Essentially, Pakistan was a necessary ally for the US’s terrorism concerns. Pakistan also benefited in ways such as US financial and military assistance as well as the US lifting sanctions on their nuclear weapons program. The relationship is largely driven because the United States is able to use its economic power to incentivise Pakistani aid. Perhaps more importantly, President Bush indirectly threatened to treat Pakistan like the terrorists if they didn’t cooperate. This is encapsulated in his famous quote, “either you are with us, or you are with the terrorists” (Collins, p. 2-6).
While Pakistan provided logistical resources and captured terrorists, the alliance created after the September 11 attacks has not been without conflict. A few years after the September 11 attacks, both countries grew frustrated with each other. The US suspected Pakistan of hiding terrorists while some Pakistanis did not feel as if the US was sufficiently protecting them from Afghanistan. In 2011, the successful assassination of Osama Bin Laden occurred in Pakistan, which made the US governemnt and public skeptical of Pakistani intentions (Goldberg and Ambinder, 2018). On the other hand, Pakistanis were upset that America made this attack without notifying them.
The Reluctant Fundamentalist was published in 2007, and polls from that year show that Pakistan was one of the most anti-American countries in the world. This was at least in part due to public opinion in Pakistan that America was manipulating them and directing their destiny (Hathaway, p. 11, 21). Further, at this time period, data suggests that although Pakistanis largely rejected terrorism, they feared the US and generally did not support the war on terror (Wike, 2007). From the perspective of Pakistan’s citizens, aiding the war on terror came at the cost of lives and some aspects of their domestic security. Also in 2007, polls in the US showed that 64% of Americans had an unfavorable opinion of Pakistan (Newport, 2007). This likely influenced treatment of Pakistani Americans in the US.
Collins, Liam. “United States diplomacy with Pakistan following 9/11.” A case study in coercive diplomacy. WWS 547 (2008).
Goldberg, Jeffrey, and Marc Ambinder. “The Ally From Hell.” The Atlantic, Atlantic Media Company, 2 Jan. 2018, www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2011/12/the-ally-from-hell/308730/.
Hathaway, Robert M. “Leverage and largesse: Pakistan’s post-9/11 partnership with America.” Contemporary South Asia 16.1 (2008): 11-24.
Newport, Frank. “Americans’ Attitudes Toward Pakistan Largely Negative.” Gallup.com, Gallup, 5 Mar. 2020, news.gallup.com/poll/102640/americans-attitudes-toward-pakistan-largely-negative.aspx.
Wike, Richard. “Musharraf’s Support Shrinks, Even As More Pakistanis Reject Terrorism… and the U.S.” Pew Research Center’s Global Attitudes Project, Pew Research Center, 30 Dec. 2019, www.pewresearch.org/global/2007/08/08/pakistanis-increasingly-reject-terrorism-and-the-us/.