A wave of anti-American anger has swept Pakistan this past week, triggered both by President Trump’s threat to punish the country for harbouring insurgents and by his invitation to India, Pakistan’s longtime rival, to become more involved in Afghanistan’s future, the Washington Post said in a report on Wednesday.
Tribal and religious leaders have held protests at border crossings, and banners urging “Say no to America!” have appeared across the capital. Officials have cancelled trips to Washington and asked a State Department official to postpone her planned visit here this week. Across the country’s fractious political spectrum, leaders have raised a collective fist at Trump.
Afghan officials welcomed Trump’s message, but Pakistanis accused him of “bullying” their country despite its history of cooperating with the US in foreign conflicts. They said he had betrayed them by reaching out to India, which Pakistan views as a persistent threat to its existence.
“President Trump wants to portray us as a villain despite the huge losses we have suffered in the so-called anti-terrorism war,” said Hafiz Hamdullah, a conservative Muslim cleric and legislator. “Both India and the US want to use Afghanistan against us. These charges of terrorist hideouts are just to destabilise Pakistan,” he added.
Senate Chairman Mian Raza Rabbani denounced Trump in similar terms saying that “no country in the world has done more than Pakistan to counter the menace of terrorism”. Invoking the “legacy of Vietnam,” he said that if Trump “wants Pakistan to become a graveyard for U.S. troops, let him do so.”
In tribal regions along the border, where US drone strikes have killed hundreds of suspected militants and civilians, one crowd of tribesmen chanted “Long Live Pakistan.” At another spot, religious activists held up placards saying, “India, America and Afghanistan are conspiring against Pakistan.”
“Trump’s comments about India were more unsettling for Pakistanis than his threats to Pakistan,” said Michael Kugelman, a Pakistan expert at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington. “The U.S. calling for a deeper Indian footprint in Afghanistan sets off alarm bells across Pakistan and it will cause very real fear,” he added.
Today, the dominant sentiment here is one of betrayal by an old friend that owes a large debt to Pakistan, the newspaper said.
“We have sacrificed for so many years to help the United States, and this Afghan war has destroyed us,” said former interior minister and Senator Rehman Malik. “We don’t want anything but their respect. We are a victim of terrorism, not a cause of it. We want peace in Afghanistan, not war. Now America is befriending India at the expense of Pakistan. And that really hurts,” he added.