ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — Pakistanis find American influence in their country so widespread that in a recent survey, a whopping 43 percent said they should be able to vote in the US presidential election.
“America is ruling us directly or indirectly and interfering in most of our issues so lets make it clear now that we are part of the US. There is no need of embarrassment. We must accept that we are an undeclared slave of the US,” said Iftikhar Khan, a 24-year-old student of political science, as he bought fruit in Rawalpindi’s bustling market.
Khan was mostly referring to the CIA’s campaign of drone strikes. Officially, the drone attacks, which US President Barack Obama significantly ramped up during his presidency, are aimed at Al Qaeda-styled militants based in Pakistan’s North Waziristan. But the strikes have also killed many innocent civilians, angering Pakistanis.
The drones, however, are just one area Pakistan feels the US violates its sovereignty. In January 2011, an American CIA contractor shot and killed two Pakistanis in Lahore. The situation was made worse when a US embassy car, speeding to the scene, accidentally struck and killed a third person.
Four months later, US Navy SEALS secretly entered the country and killed Osama bin Laden.
And last November, in a night time, cross-border exchange of fire, American NATO soldiers killed 24 Pakistani soldiers at a military outpost near the border with Afghanistan. The attack provoked Pakistan’s strongest ever response to such US incursions. The government promptly closed NATO supply routes, used to move a third of all war supplies to Afghanistan.
It's no surprise that in a Pew Research Center poll, only 7 percent of Pakistani said they had a favorable view of Barack Obama. That’s a worse approval rating than former President George W. Bush.
“We thought that his policies would be different, because he has a Muslim background. But they weren’t,” said Izzat Khan, road work supervisor for the city government offices in Islamabad. Obama’s stepfather, an Indonesian who died in 1987, was Muslim.
That said, a separate Gallup Pakistan poll found that if Pakistanis could vote, Obama would still win against Republican challenger Mitt Romney.
Pakistan’s perception of the US in general is as bad as it gets. According to the same poll, almost three out of four Pakistanis now see the US as their enemy, up from 64 percent three years ago.
Despite the public’s dislike of the United States government, however, the two countries continue to work together on a number of fronts.
“[Pakistanis] believe that Pakistan needs American economic and military assistance. And the Americans know that they can prosecute the war in Afghanistan only when the Pakistanis are involved,” said Rustam Shah Mohmad, a Pakistani analyst and former ambassador to Kabul. The US spends billions of dollars in military and economic aid on Pakistan annually.
“The relation is so extensive, multi-dimensional and multi-faceted that difficulties are bound to arise.”
The complex relations — on military, political and intelligence levels — are increasingly ruled by mistrust, according to Mehmood Ali Durrani, a retired major general and former ambassador to the United States.
And there is bitterness, he said. While many Pakistanis apparently believe they should have the right to vote, another poll conducted by Gallup revealed that many think it wouldn’t make any difference.
Wali Khan, a 57-year-old farmer, shares that view.
“The CIA dominates US affairs. The president doesn’t have much to say, so whatever you vote won’t change US policies,” he said.
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