Anti-American Sentiment Grows in Pakistan

ABC's Habibullah Khan reports:

Anything that has a US imprint in Pakistan is surely in for trouble these days, or at least has been for some time.

Be it the Kerry-Lugar bill or the movement of vehicles belonging to US embassy/consulates, everything is greeted with suspicion.

Anti-US feeling is peaking in Pakistan, and since the first American boot in Afghanistan left its foot print in Oct of 2001 anger here has only grown.

Apart from other things, the past few months has seen an increasing number of incidents involving US embassy vehicles being stopped, searched and detained, across Pakistan.

There have been at least 10 incidents where US embassy vehicles have been intercepted by the police, 3 vehicles are still being detained. The police say that the vehicles had either no proper registration documents or possessed unlicensed arms, a claim that the US embassy denies.

“All our cars have proper documents and carry diplomatic plates inside for security reasons like all other embassy vehicles,” the Spokesman for the US embassy Richard Snelsire told ABC new.

When asked why US embassy vehicles appear to have been singled out, the spokesman said “I have heard a lot of theories but I don’t know.”

To the locals these theories make a lot of sense but to foreign diplomats familiar with Pakistani politics, these theories are straight out of a Graham Greene novel.

Pakistan and the US have long been allies: both helped the Afghan nation defeat the USSR, then turned the tables on the Taliban government in Afghanistan. But throughout the years the people of Pakistan have had a love hate relationship with US policies towards their country. They loved them for their policy towards the Mujahideen, but now hate them for signing the civil nuclear deal with India. These may seem two very alien and unrelated issues but everything in South Asia is about the neighbors.

Coming back to the vehicle issue, today diplomats of both Pakistan and the US had a different take on the issue. In a press statement today the US embassy maintained that , “The U.S. Embassy emphasizes that all U.S. vehicles in Pakistan are appropriately registered with the Pakistani authorities and carry at all times full documentation attesting to their legal status.”

Foreign Office spokesman Abdul Basit did not mince his words in response to the US embassy statement, saying, “Security check of cars with fake number plates shows how diligent and efficient our law-enforcement personnel are. We expect cooperation and understanding from all foreign missions in their own security.”

Whatever may be the case, for ordinary citizens of both countries, in such testing times there are bigger issues to resolve and take care of between the two countries.

But still there is some hope of even this problem being resolved. As the US embassy spokesman put it, “We are hopeful and working out with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Pakistan and other agencies.”

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