ISLAMABAD: In 1971, when Pakistan had done the United States (US) a huge favour, US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger had called a meeting to discuss what Pakistan could ask for in return for it and had prepared a list of possible Pakistani demands – economic aid, weapons etc.
After two months had passed without the US receiving a request from Pakistan, Kissinger called Agha Hilaly, Pakistan’s former ambassador to the US, and asked him “what happened? I haven’t received a request from you”.
Hilaly replied that he would get back to him after checking with President Yahya Khan. “Are we so mean that we would ask a friend for money in exchange for a favour”, veteran politician Mushahid Hussain Syed quoted President Yahya Khan as saying to Hilaly at that time.
Appearing on the Express News programme, ‘The Review’, the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) senator replied when asked if Pakistan still had friendly relations with the US: “It’s in the DNA of our ruling elite that, regardless of their political affiliation, they expect something from Washington”.
When he was Pakistan’s information minister, he recalled, the then US president Bill Clinton had hosted a banquet for former prime minister Nawaz Sharif at the White House and offered him US$5 billion in return for Pakistan not going ahead with its 1998 nuclear tests.
He also said former US President George W. Bush had recently said of former military ruler General (retd) Pervez Musharraf that “he [Musharraf] likes protocol”.
Americans understand the Pakistani system, he said, adding that, in the 21st century, Pakistan needed to remember not to compromise on the core issues.
Mushahid Hussain Syed also went down memory lane to narrate several examples of the way the US exerted pressure on Pakistan and played with its psyche.
“We have been bad at bargaining with America”, Syed replied when asked what Pakistan would get for helping the US in Afghanistan.
Speaking on Pak-US relations, he said posturing, atmosphere and body language was great at the moment and it was a good sign that Trump was talking about friendship instead of asking Pakistan to “do more”.
However, he said, “Concretely, substantively, there is no breakthrough from the US side that would indicate a change in US behaviour”.
He agreed that the personal chemistry between Prime Minister Khan and President Trump was fine but said both were unpredictable.
“If I were the prime minister of Pakistan, I would do three or four things: I would tell them that we would deliver Afghanistan, and work for peace. In return, you [US] should not interfere in the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) and the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) and pressure India to lift the Kashmir curfew”, he remarked.
Then, he said, low-hanging fruits like the Coalition Support Fund (CSF) and anthe travel advisory should be obtained. In the 1990s, he said, the US had withheld funds for the F-16s and they had now withheld money under the CSF.
Besides expressing his views on Pak-China and Pak-US relations, he also spoke on the show on Kashmir, CPEC and the friendship between Prime Minister Imran Khan and US President Donald Trump.
“Pakistanis do not understand the American system. There is no free lunch in their system. It’s always give something and take something”.
On Kashmir, Syed took a critical view of the government’s policies. “Unless there is a secret plan that we don’t know about”, he said, “there doesn’t seem to be an official plan on the Kashmir issue. The only thing we’ve done well is to open the Kartarpur Corridor”, Syed said.
He called Kashmir the single most important current issue but also said Pakistan was getting nothing from the US on Kashmir except goodwill gestures.
When asked if the US could give Pakistan anything tangible like CPEC, Syed immediately replied: “Not at all. Had they wanted to give us something, they would have already given it or promised something to that effect by now”. He added that the US had until now only announced one tangible benefit which was that 84 Pakistani Armed Forces officers would receive training under the US International Military Training Education Program in the current year.