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February 12, 2020

Is Trump good for Pakistan?


February 12, 2020

Last week the US Senate acquitted Donald Trump of charges of Abuse of Office and Obstruction of Congress. A few weeks earlier the House of Representatives had impeached Trump by a majority vote, an act that will remain on the books for all times.

Trump has led an abusive and corrupt administration. He allegedly sought and received help from Russians in the 2016 election and is seen to be seeking to do the same in 2020, this time from Ukraine.

As the 2020 US presidential campaign moves forward, many countries and interest groups across the world are thinking what outcome would be in their best interest. The US is the largest economy in the world and the dominant military power. And, the Trump administration has thrown around its weight to make sure all countries remain compliant.

Some in recent days have applauded Trump’s acquittal. Some have said that “this US administration is working well with the current government in Pakistan”, and therefore Trump remaining in office is in Pakistan’s best interest. Such a reading of the Trump administration totally ignores its anti-Muslim actions over the past three years. It started by instituting the ‘Muslim travel ban’ which barred visitors from six predominantly Muslim countries. Recently more countries with large Muslim populations have been added to this list. One can only wonder how long before Pakistan is also added.

President Trump, in his very first televised address to the nation back in August 2017, laid out a challenge to Pakistan, calling on it to “demonstrate its commitment to civilization”. He said Pakistan is a “safe haven for terrorists”. Just because in the very short term the US is leaning on Pakistan to help with its exit from Afghanistan, doesn’t mean this administration’s policies are in Pakistan’s best interest.

While issuing threats to Pakistan, Trump has closely aligned himself with the Modi administration, even showing up at the ‘Howdy Modi’ rally in Houston. He has forged close relationships with the increasingly powerful Indian lobby here. His promise to PM Imran Khan to mediate on Kashmir has turned out to be nothing but empty words.

Pakistanis should understand that any US administration looks after its own national interests, as it should. The list of ‘betrayals’ by the US as seen through Pakistani eyes is long. To argue that US presidents from one particular party are better for Pakistan shows an ignorance of history. Some have said that presidents from Republican administrations have been better for Pakistan, forgetting it was the Republican Bush Senior administration that abruptly pulled its resources from Afghanistan and Pakistan in 1990-91, leaving Pakistan with three million Afghan refugees to deal with.

We can also look at the fate of Kurdish fighters after Trump recently abruptly pulled his support from them in Syria, leaving them exposed to onslaught by Erdogan’s forces. A Kurdish commander was quoted as saying, “After we fought alongside the US against Isis, losing 11,000 of our soldiers, we hoped the US would at least give us a week’s notice” before pulling the rug from under our feet. Instead, they had 24 hours to get out.

It is also bewildering to hear some argue that the Republican Party’s values are closer to Muslim values. Republicans under Trump have become explicitly anti-Muslim, anti-immigrant and even racist. Their values are hardly aligned with Muslims. They are doing everything possible to make it difficult for immigrants and minorities to vote. Just because some on Wall Street are making more money under Trump doesn’t make this administration better for Muslims – nor for Pakistan.

History is a good teacher, but only for those who learn from it.

The writer is a freelance contributor based in Washington DC.

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