The ‘Trump shock’ and Pakistan


Need to smell the coffee


Perhaps the time has come to smell the coffee beans and rethink our foreign policy options and priorities


The media pundits got it all wrong. And so did the pollsters.

Few in the US and abroad had predicted Donald Trump to be elected its 45thpresident. AlthoughHillary Clinton, the favourite, bagged 200,000 more popular votes than her rival, she was trounced in the electoral votes tally.

The US presidential result has shocked Americans as well as the world. Demonstrations were held all over the country expressing outrage against Trump‘s election as president.

One of the biggest casualties of the dramatic outcome is the media itself. Most of us claim to have the finger on the pulse of the nation and to influence public opinion through our reports and analyses.

However the media – as has been proved by the shock win of Donald Trump — was way off the mark. Virtually every major US newspaper had endorsed Hillary Clinton‘s candidature as president. And with the exception of right wing Fox News, most cable news networks were also tilted in favour of Ms Clinton.

Unwittingly, the more the media — buttressed by the ubiquitous opinion polls — mocked Trump as the underdog for his ostensibly unorthodox views on virtually every subject ranging from women to minorities, the more tail winds he got.

The myth that the power of the pen and the airwaves decides the fate of nations has been convincingly shattered in the US presidential elections. Perhaps the new media available on smartphones, iPads and tablets has played an increasingly important role.

Most of the younger generation including the so-called millennials gets their information from these sources. Not from the dying breed of newspapers or 24/7 news channels.

Pakistan has also rather belatedly woken up to the Trump phenomenon. Perhaps, like the rest of the world, we also failed to foresee the impending disaster that is Trump.

Prime Minister Sharif has done the right thing by congratulating the president-elect, noting the long-standing relationship between the two countries. However, the foreign office has gone too far in welcoming ‘Trump’s offer to mediate on Kashmir’.

This is reading too much into the off the cuff remarks made by Trump on the campaign trail in an interview with the Hindustan Times. Successive Indian governments have spurned such mediation offers on the spurious ground that Kashmir is an integral part of India.

The PML-N government, too much embroiled in internal squabbles — including those with the military leadership — should get its house in order

Essentially the Republican candidatehas been wooed and wined and dined by the Indian lobby for some time now. The so-called Republican Hindu Council has been very active in fund-raising and urging the Indian diaspora to vote for Trump. At an event in New Jersey, just three weeks before the elections, a ‘Hindus United against Terror’ (read terrorists dispatched by Pakistan) concert under the aegis of the Council was held.

The ostensible purpose was raising money for Hindu victims of terrorism from Bangladesh and Kashmir. Trump, while briefly attending the song and dance event graced by a few Bollywood starlets, remarked quite ominously: I am a big fan of Hindu(s) and I am a big fan of India.

And why not? He has reportedly big investments in Bombay. For that matter the US has huge economic and strategic stakes in India.

Pakistan, on the watch of Barack Obama‘s presidency, has not had an easy run with the US administration and the Congress. Obama visited India twice and also wined and dined Indian prime ministers in Washington during his tenure.

The US, as an instrument of its global agenda, is not too enamoured with Islamabad’s, what it terms, double-dealing. Washington thinks of Pakistanas a quasi-ally that harbours India and Afghanistan specific terrorists and hence views it with suspicion.

It reckons that Islamabad has had no qualms in allowing proscribed jhadists to have a free run and to boot it is the biggest proliferator of nuclear missiles in the world.

Washington is also wary of Islamabad’s strategic and economic coziness with China. India on the other hand is seen as a strategic partner against Beijing’s so called expansionist designs in the region, especially its muscle flexing in the South China Sea.

So what will be the difference under a Trump presidency for Pakistan? Perhaps a lot will depend upon the foreign policy team that he inducts.

His main foreign and defence policy advisors include the hawkish John Bolton, former ambassador to the UN in George W Bush’s administration, and Michael Flynn, Trump’s advisor on military affairs.

Flynn, who almost became a running mate of Trump, the former director of DIA (Defense Intelligence Agency), is the top contender for the secretary of defence slot. He is an Iran hawk.

In a book he recently co-authored, he states: we are in a global war facing an enemy alliance running from Pyongyang to Havana. Along the way, the alliance picks up radical Muslim countries and organisations such as Iran, Taliban, al Qaeda and the Islamic State.

Trump’s controversial statement vowing to ban Muslims from the US had been removed from his website during election-day but has since reappeared. But this does not mean his misogynistic andanti-Muslim policies feeding on pervading Islamophobia in the US will simply fade away.

Undoubtedly a Trump presidency will be tough on Pakistan and will be more of a transactional nature. The pressure on Pakistan to do more will increase manifold, with no more free lunches.

Unlike the Obama presidency, Trump enjoys the support of a Republican majority in the House of Representatives and the Senate. The Indian lobbies’ ingress in the Congress is much stronger than that of Pakistan.

In the past, moves by Congressmen hostile to Pakistan have been thwarted by the administration. Under Donald Trump’s presidency, both the administration and the Congress being on the same page, Islamabad is unlikely to continue to enjoy this luxury.

The US has been pressing upon Islamabad to broker a transition and power sharing dialogue with the Afghan Taliban for some time now. Pakistan unfortunately has been unwilling or unable to deliver on that count.

History could repeatitself under Trump. He could simply cut and run from Afghanistan, just like what the US did post withdrawal of Soviet troops. Or conversely it could put Islamabad on notice to deliver on the AfghanTaliban. In both the cases Pakistan is going to be in a tight spot.

Perhaps the time has come to smell the coffee beans and rethink our foreign policy options and priorities. Our security-ridden foreign policy is in any case obsolete and has failed to deliver on all counts.

Perhaps now it has become unsustainable. India, emboldened by a Trump victory, is bound to ramp up its jingoistic policies towards Pakistan. On the other hand we can no longer afford to let the so-called non-state actors continue to queer the pitch.

The PML-N government, too much embroiled in internal squabbles — including those with the military leadership — should get its house in order, starting from naming the new military chief and a full time foreign minister.

Some kind of dialogue with NewDelhi should be initiated. Of course it takes two to tango but perennial saber rattling is not the answer to our present plight.


  1. If Donald Trump turns out to be the Newly Elected "Extremist" President of US,and with his aggressive and extreme approach towards Pakistan, if he imposes ban on any type of visa issuance to Pakistani nationals or any other such step is taken by his administration, Pakistan should take few of the below mentioned steps too; 1st. IMPOSE BAN ON ALL TYPES OF VISA ISSUANCE TO ALL TYPES AND CATEGORIES OF U.S. CITIZENS. and If U.S. ban on issuing visas to Pakistanis continues the 2nd thing Pakistan should do is BLOCK THE NATO SUPPLY ROUTE CROSSING THROUGH PAKISTAN TO AFGHANISTAN. If the ban on issuing visas to Pakistanis still not lifted,3rd step Pakistan should take is TO SEVER DIPLOMATIC TIES WITH THE U.S. AND EXPEL ALL U.S. DIPLOMATS FROM PAKISTAN AND CALL BACK ITS DIPLOMATS FROM U.S. SOIL. To heck with the U.S. and its fake gestures of friendship! We don't need U.S. support in anything!

    • Remember the words of US secretary Powell to musharraf after 9/11? Are you with us or against us? We will take your nukes away and bomb you to 'stone-age'! Think twice before taking someone on many size bigger than you.

  2. nice article from a Pakistani after a long time. Speaks volume of truth about Pakistan and it's terrorist churning policies.

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