Quickie: Pakistanis See a Vast U.S. Conspiracy Against Them

Footbridge on the Indus River, PakistanImage via Wikipedia

This one from from Time’s Tim McGirk/Islamabad Tuesday, Feb. 16, 2010:

From the Pakistani army barracks to the roadside chai stands along the Indus River where truckers gulp down cups of muddy tea, anti-Americanism is roiling across the country. It is whipped up by the often sensationalist, ratings-hungry Pakistani TV news talk shows — think of Fox News cranked up to full volume, in Urdu. It resounds from the mosques, in virulent anti-U.S. sermons during Friday prayers. But most ominously, according to Islamabad observers, this deep suspicion of America’s intentions in the region seem to be shared by elements within Pakistan’s powerful military and intelligence services.
Even as the wild speculations circulate, U.S. diplomats are harassed in real life by Pakistani authorities. Their vehicles are seized and their visas tangled in bureaucratic red tape for months, crippling aid projects and counterinsurgency efforts. Sometimes photos of their residences are published in newspapers and labeled as CIA dens. American journalists, too, are singled out.
Pakistan has long been characterized as a country whose rulers may be pro-American but whose people are decidedly not. In 1979, for example, Pakistani radio falsely reported that U.S. aircraft bombed Islam’s holiest site in Mecca, prompting a mob to storm the U.S. embassy in Islamabad, killing five American and Pakistani staffers.
The conditions for a perfect storm of anti-U.S. feeling have risen, according to Samina Ahmed, director for the International Crisis Group in Islamabad. “What we’re seeing is a nexus between an irresponsible media, the mullahs and the military, which is using anti-Americanism to beat a weak civilian government on the head,” she says.
Meanwhile, U.S. diplomats in Islamabad, instead of ignoring the outlandish whoppers on local TV news channels, are moving more swiftly to deny them before they spread and gain credence. Military analyst Masood suggests that the U.S. State and Defense officials who are constantly shuttling to Islamabad should offer the military assurance that Washington has no intention of meddling with their nuclear arsenal or with their defenses against rival neighbor India. “The Americans have to take measures that lower the paranoia. They have to persuade the army that the U.S. is not after Pakistan’s nukes,” he says. Given the fever pitch of suspicion that Pakistanis feel toward the U.S. these days, that may take a lot of persuasion.
Read the whole thing here.