Conflict & Justice

Are US-Pakistan relations at an all-time high?


U.S. Senator John Kerry shakes hands with Pakistan's Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani during a meeting in Islamabad on May 16, 2011.


Aamir Qureshi

It's been less than five months since CIA operative Raymond Davis opened fire on the streets of Lahore, killing two men. A third Pakistani man was killed that day when he was struck by a car carrying several other CIA operatives who were speeding to the scene down the wrong side of the street.

This, to no one's surprise, resulted in a great deal of public anger in Pakistan. Large protests were held across the country demanding that the CIA halt its activities in the country. Davis was arrested and charged with murder. The case was eventually settled after Davis paid off the victim's families, a common practice in Pakistan.

Anger among Pakistanis was so high in the aftermath of the attack that the CIA temporarily halted drone attacks in North Waziristan, which, also to no one's surprsise, are deeply unpopular among average Pakistanis, more than a thousand of whom (at least) have been killed by the missile strikes since they began in 2004.

The CIA resumed drone attacks on March 18, two days after Davis was released. Then, two months later, the United States raided a house outside of Islamabad, Pakistan's capital, killing Osama bin Laden.

All of this is believed to have frayed relations between the two countries to the point of no return.

Yet, on Wednesday, Pakistan said it would issue three dozen visas to CIA operatives so they can continue their anti-terror operations in the country.

Well, that was fast!

It begs the question: Are relations between the governments of Pakistan and the United States really all that bad? Some analysts don't think so.

Given the degree of public anger toward the United States in Pakistan — about 11 percent of the population have a favorable view of the United States, about the same approval rating that Pakistanis have for the Taliban and Al Qaeda — analysts in Pakistan believe that the Pakistani government has attempted to play down its working relationship with the United States.

Pakistan has outright denied having any involvement in the raid on bin Laden, despite circumstantial evidence to the contrary, and has repeatedly — and very publicly — condemned the drone strikes in North Waziristan. Yet the drone attacks have only increased in frequency.

(GlobalPost in Pakistan: The long, storied partnership between the US and Pakistan armies)

So perhaps the analysts are right. Perhaps privately the U.S. and Pakistan are actually pretty happy with each other. Or, maybe, they just deserve each other.