The recent wave of anti-Americanism in Pakistan has once again validated the presence of US-centric public antipathy in Pakistani society and its unprecedented growth across the country. It has augmented the existing anti-American sentiments in public and damaged the societal collaboration in Pakistan-US relations. The decline of local government in the domestic politics of Pakistan and the rise of public opposition to American broader role in the world generally, and Pakistan specifically are two different variables that have developed an exceptional connection in Pakistan last year.
In April 2022, a change in Pakistani domestic politics hampered public sentiments across the country and caused a widespread wave of anti-American feelings in Pakistan.
It is pertinent to mention here that the fall of local government was mainly due to the overwhelming nature of the economic crisis in the country, which could not be treated separately from the international rise of severe economic conditions worldwide after the global health crisis. In the post-corona world, several countries from different regions have started witnessing severe economic conditions, and Pakistan is not an exception. The multiplying tendencies of economic difficulties in Pakistani society caused a change of government which later led local people to deepen their anti-American thoughts by raising various hatred slogans and negative public opinions about the US. Due to the change in the domestic political system, the increasing societal acceptance of the newly emerging wave of anti-Americanism in Pakistan has developed a countrywide anti-American narrative in Pakistan. The advancement of this narrative in society is mainly due to certain estranged historical developments in Pak-US relations.
The recent prevalence of strong-standing anti-American feelings in Pakistan can be traced back to the post-9/11 environment in which Washington’s pressures of war against terrorism on Pakistan and American decision for declaring India as a close strategic partnership left worse impacts on Pakistan and created widespread social and political anti-American sentiments in the society. The unavoidable pressures of the war on terror critically examined the ideological foundations of Pakistani society and internationally caused an anti-Pakistani or anti-Islamic narrative. These critical developments further generated an international debate about Islamophobia and forced the government of Pakistan to raise its voice against the spread of Islamophobic incidents across the world. Moreover, the Indian-inclined South Asian policy of the US has raised further apprehensions in Pakistani society on the US role in India-Pakistan relations. Thus, the combination of American economic and strategic support to New Delhi leaves worse impacts on Pakistani society which have been formally conveyed to American state officials many times by Pakistani state authorities.
The American support to India in the regional security affairs of nuclearized subcontinent and New Delhi’s offensive standing on the Kashmir issue is the additional factor enhancing the multifaceted patterns of anti-American sentiments in Pakistan.
The independent surveys of various research organizations have verified the multileveled developments in the public antipathy in Pakistani society towards US policies. These research surveys have confirmed the unprecedented growth of hatred sentiments in Pakistani people against the American Indian-inclined South Asian policy. Apart from these research surveys, it is evident from the troubled history of Pak-US relations that the phenomenon of anti-Americanism has a significant impact on the Islamabad-Washington bilateral cooperative interaction. The deep-rooted phenomenon of anti-American in Pakistani society has gained momentous public recognition and has become a political tool for the country’s leading political parties. The political parties are less reluctant to use anti-American slogans to cultivate widespread public support for their standings in local politics without estimating its degrading impacts on the existing framework of cooperative bilateralism between Pakistan and the United States. This alarming scenario poses serious questions to the leading policymaking circles from Islamabad and Washington. The greater responsibility, in this regard, lies on the American authorities due to the ongoing critical patterns of American South Asian policy for Pakistan. It has fractured the social and cultural dimensions of Pakistan-US relations and undermined the scope of peaceful relations between the two nations at the societal level. An analytical survey of the bilateral history of both states reveals that the US state officials always remained active in providing multidimensional humanitarian aid to Pakistan during the hard times, which raised various skeptical positions of Pakistani society on the US supplies of humanitarian assistance. Thus, despite providing massive humanitarian aid in the social sector, the constantly swelling anti-American sentiments in Pakistani society have become an undeniable reality and an irrefutable truth for the US.
Based on the abovementioned scenario, there is no harm in saying that the anti-American sentiments in Pakistani society need the serious attention of the leaders from Islamabad and Washington because the persistently evolving public antipathy towards the US has reached the zenith. The constantly rising anti-American societal trends in Pakistan could be countered through effective public diplomacy in which the US state officials are required to consider the US-centric societal trends of Pakistan seriously.
The combination of cultural and political anti-American feelings in Pakistan can be countered through effective policy responses of the US with a pragmatic approach.
This approach should focus on the points causing diplomatic estrangements between Pakistan and US while calculating society’s reaction to the American-South Asian engagement. In this way, an enhanced understanding of the contributing factors to increasing public opposition and hatred expressions against US policies could be an appropriate way forward.
The author is an Assistant Professor, at the Department of International Relations, National University of Modern Languages (NUML), Islamabad.