Politics

Donald Trump’s Tweet on Pakistan sparks an unprecedented war of words

President Trump’s tweet on Pakistan has stirred mass outrage and was met with an angry response on the streets of Islamabad, resulting in an official summoning of the U.S. ambassador to Pakistan to demand an explanation of the President’s “scandalous” claims.

Trump's Tweet On Pakistan
Image: YouTube Screenshot

Entering the second year of his presidency with a blast, Trump accused Pakistan of propagating “lies and deceit,” saying that the country had played U.S. leader for “fools” by not doing enough to solve the problem of Islamic militants in the region.

“The United States has foolishly given Pakistan more than 33 billion dollars in aid over the last 15 years, and they have given us nothing but lies & deceit, thinking of our leaders as fools. They give safe haven to the terrorists we hunt in Afghanistan, with little help. No more!,” he tweeted on New Year’s Day.

As President Trump’s tweet on Pakistan was pretty sudden and unexpected, it was not immediately clear whether or not it was an indicator of a broader shift in U.S. policy regarding the troubled Asian nation. His harsh criticism of Islamabad is a sharp contrast to a statement he made in October, where he had voiced optimism over Pakistan’s relations with the U.S. According to CBS News, the president’s comment was a reference to Pakistan’s compliance with the rescue operation made public earlier that week, where an American woman, her Canadian husband, and their children were released after years of being held captive by a group with ties to the Taliban.

Shortly after praising Pakistan for “showing respect” to the U.S., Trump said one of his administration’s priorities was changing the U.S. approach to Pakistan because he said it provides safe haven to terrorists. As no major plans were introduced to implement the “changes” in U.S. policy until now, Trump’s tweet on Pakistan might be what sparks new developments in the region.

Trump’s Monday tweet has not gone unnoticed by the Pakistani government. According to the New York Times, David Hale, the American ambassador to Pakistan, was summoned late Monday to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in the nation’s capital, Islamabad, and a diplomatic protest was lodged. A spokesperson for the U.S. embassy in Islamabad confirmed to Reuters that the meeting had taken place, but failed to provide any further details of the discussion.

While government officials met behind closed doors to discuss the consequences and the importance of Trump’s tweet on Pakistan, scores of protesters hit the streets of Karachi and Islamabad to voice their anger over President Trump’s views on the country. The mass demonstrations saw protesters burning images of President Trump and chanting anti-American slogans, CBS News reported earlier on Tuesday.

President Trump’s tweet on Pakistan received intensive coverage on Pakistani media and has dominated all social media channels in the country. Geo News, a private Pakistani TV news channel, reported on how Pakistanis reacted to Trump’s tweet, showing an overwhelmingly negative response his words have received in the country.

“Donald Trump’s statement is an act of cowardliness and mere statements cannot change the reality,” a user tweeted, joining the trending #PakistanRejectsTrump hashtag. Many Pakistani Twitter users have also accused him of flinging accusations at Pakistan to make up for the U.S. inability to tackle Islamist militants in Afghanistan.

Responding to Trump’s tweet on Pakistan, Foreign Minister Khawaja Asif said Pakistan will let the world know the truth and will be responding to his tweet soon. He also added that there is a significant difference between facts and fiction, possibly referring to Trump stating that Pakistan has received more than 33 billion dollars in aid.

Trump’s tweet on Pakistan sparks an unprecedented war of words

Minister Asif responded to President Trump’s accusations Tuesday afternoon, denying the 33 billion dollar figure.

“Pres Trump quoted figure of $33billion given to PAK over last 15yrs,he can hire a US based Audit firm on our expense to verify this figure & let the world know who is lying & deceiving,” Asif tweeted.

us-pakistan relations at turning point who has more to lose after trump afghan strategy
By Gage Skidmore from Peoria, AZ, United States of America (Donald Trump & Mike Pence) [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons
The tweet came right before Mr. Asif was to chair a cabinet meeting focused on Mr. Trump’s accusations. According to Pakistan’s local news, The Corps Commanders Conference, held at the General Headquarters in Islamabad, discussed input for the National Security Committee meeting scheduled to take place on Wednesday. The Corps Commanders also saw the geo-strategic environment and internal security situation reviewed.

Defense Minister Khurram Dastagir, in response to Trump’s tweet on Pakistan, said that Pakistan is fully capable of defending its motherland, stating that the soldier of the Pakistani Armed Forces have “given great sacrifices in the war against terrorism”.

Commenting further on Trump’s tweet, Dastagir said Pakistan had extended unprecedented cooperation to the United States for eliminating Al-Qaeda from its soil and Afghanistan and denied the accusations of the country being a safe haven for terrorists.

Imran Khan, chairman of Pakistani Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), accused President Trump of working on the agenda of Pakistan’s enemies. He also stressed that the U.S. President was not aware of the sacrifices rendered by Pakistan and its people while fighting in Afghanistan.

“Trump has no understanding of the war on terror and the destruction caused in Pakistan,” Khan said, adding “everyone knows the damages this has caused to our economy. 70,000 people have been killed in the war which had nothing to do with Pakistan.”

“Fast-deteriorating” ties between the two countries might get worse

According to a recent report by Reuters, the country’s officials from across the military and civilian government were to meet on Wednesday, where what officials have described as “fast-deteriorating” relations between Pakistan and the U.S. will be discussed.

Often accusing Islamabad of allowing Islamic militants to operate freely in Pakistan’s border regions with Afghanistan, the U.S. has recently elevated its accusations to what could easily be described as threats. Saying that it would hold up $255 million in military assistance for Pakistan until it cracks down on extremists threatening Afghanistan, the U.S. government abandoned the diplomatic route and drastically increased its pressure on Pakistan.

According to the Express Tribune, a National Security Council spokesperson confirmed that “the United States does not plan to spend the $255 million in FY 2016 foreign military financing for Pakistan at this time.”

Despite the overwhelmingly negative response Trump’s tweet on Pakistan has received, with news reports and television shows on Pakistani media lampooning Trump’s threats, there was a significant number of critics that highlighted the fact that greater introspection needed to be made in Pakistan.

According to the New York Times, Muhammad Nawaz Chaudhry, a former Pakistani ambassador, said in an interview that there is a need to fill the gaps in Pakistan’s policy.

“We cannot take the bilateral relationship to a dead end. We are living in denial,” he added. “The world, especially the United States, is not accepting our narrative. Rather than becoming belligerent, we need to be realistic and go with the world opinion.”