The myth of “foreign pressure” often cited in Pakistani politics

It is a widely held myth in Pakistan that Henry Kissinger threatened Zulfikar Ali Bhutto with making a “horrible example” of him and his country. Interestingly, the creator of this myth was Benazir Bhutto, not Zulfikar Ali Bhutto. Benazir Bhutto claimed in an interview with an American television channel that she was an eyewitness to the heated exchange between her father and Kissinger.

Despite my best efforts, I was unable to obtain the original transcript of this interview. However, I was able to find an Indian magazine, India today, which in a cover story in 1994 reproduced excerpts from Benazir Bhutto’s statement to the television station. According to the magazine, “In an interview with BNC News… Benazir Bhutto said she vividly remembers the heated exchange between her father and Kissinger: “I was in the hall when Henry Kissinger came in and said, ‘We’re going to make a horrible example out of you. “.

On June 10, 1977, while addressing the National Assembly debate on US pressure to rescind a (reprocessing plant) agreement, ZA Bhutto revealed that in September 1976, Secretary of State American, Henry Kissinger, had warned Pakistan’s ambassador to Washington that a Democratic administration would be making a ‘horrific example’ of Pakistan if it did not cancel the deal – and regardless of which party won the US election , there would be “problems galore” for Pakistan.

So apparently there are two differences between the statements of Benazir Bhutto and ZA Bhutto – a) Benazir Bhutto said Kissinger directly threatened his father, while the elder Bhutto said the threat was passed on through the intermediary of the Pakistani ambassador in Washington, b) Benazir allegedly said that Kissinger used the word “We” when he threatened Bhutto, while ZA Bhutto said that Kissinger indicated that it was the Democrats in the White House who would make a “horrible example” of Pakistan.

Regardless, we now commonly believe that Kissinger directly threatened ZA Bhutto, implying that ZA Bhutto’s hanging was related to Kissinger’s threat to him.

Khan, however, did not explain which aspect of his government’s foreign policy offended foreign powers. Perhaps its “Absolutely not” at the American demand for air bases after the end of the war in Afghanistan.

The fact is that then US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger visited Pakistan in August 1976 and met with then Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto in Lahore. Thirty years later, the memo about the meeting released by the George Washington University National Security Archive in May 2006 does not contain the words “Horrible Example.” Instead, the memo says Kissinger told Bhutto that U.S. intelligence felt offended when Bhutto insisted that Pakistan needed the reprocessing plant for its energy needs, and when Bhutto demanded that the United States not insist that Pakistan abandon the reprocessing plant. Kissinger clarified, “What concerns us is how the reprocessing facilities were used at some point.”

After the meeting, Bhutto told reporters he was happy with the talks.

Apparently Prime Minister Imran Khan is using this myth to present his case. He alleges that a foreign power has threatened him and his government with dire consequences, implying that, like ZA Bhutto, he wants to pursue an independent foreign policy but the powerful are resisting him.

Previously, Pakistan’s political elite equated an independent foreign policy with the freedom to pursue a chauvinistic foreign policy vis-a-vis India, the right to go nuclear (this was before Pakistan’s nuclear status), helping the causes of Muslim freedom around the world, especially in Kashmir and Palestine. In the popular imagination, chauvinism and ultra-nationalism are akin to an independent foreign policy.

According to this account, Prime Minister Khan pursues an independent foreign policy, therefore, world powers protect opposition parties against him. Khan, however, did not explain which aspect of his government’s foreign policy offended foreign powers. Perhaps its “Absolutely not” at the American demand for air bases after the end of the war in Afghanistan.

Pakistan was born as the Cold War escalated. Pakistani leaders at the time formulated a foreign policy that put all the eggs in the American basket. They wanted the United States to neutralize the military threat from India. But when the United States imposed military sanctions on Pakistan after the 1965 wars, Pakistan turned to another extra-regional power, China. This was seen as an unsatisfactory move as China was a poor Third World power at the time. Pakistan then turned to the Arabs.

The hard truth is that Pakistan’s weak political elite has failed to create a self-sustaining economic base in the country to pursue an independent foreign policy.

Comments are closed.