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Pakistan split over US poll

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Pakistan split over US poll

By Paul Anderson

BBC correspondent in Islamabad

The US election has left Pakistan torn between extremes - just like it has been over the country's contribution to the war on terror.

It is a thinly concealed secret that the government and the military establishment behind it support George Bush, just as in the past they supported the Republicans under Ronald Reagan.

Then, hundreds of millions of US dollars flowed into Pakistan to train and arm the resistance against the Red Army in Afghanistan.

"When there is military rule in Pakistan, something happens to bring the Americans closer to Pakistan," says political commentator Ghazi Salahuddin.

"The first martial law of Ayub Khan happened during the Cold War and he tried to build a defence against communism.

"Later, Zia ul Haq's regime and the jihad in Afghanistan brought America and Pakistan together.

"And so after President Musharraf made his u-turn [against the Taleban] that landed into the Americans' lap."

Clash of civilisations

But ask ordinary Pakistanis what they think of George W Bush and the picture is very different.

Hundreds of thousands of people took to the streets before and during the first weeks of the war in Iraq.

Their anger has not abated.

It has coalesced into a feeling that Muslims are being targeted worldwide as the principle source of global terrorism.

"After 9/11, there was a lot of propaganda created deliberately by elements in the west, portraying Muslims as terrorists and fundamentalists," says Amna Kaleem, a student at Karachi University's Department of International Relations.

"We see a lot of hate crimes happening in the US... it should be worrying to the Muslim world."

Her colleague, Sultan Abbas, says: "It seems America is interested in engaging in a clash of civilisations, specifically targeting Muslims."

He is angry but pragmatic. He supports George Bush, but only because of the substantial aid Pakistan receives and the necessity of the hour.

Opposition is geo-political suicide, he believes.

'Double think'

Mohammad Faisal, another student in the same department, has a rather convoluted, and perhaps fanciful argument, based on the belief that the re-election of George Bush is the path to enlightenment for Mr Bush and his neo-conservative backers.

America is our beloved infidel. It's so far away, but we feel its shadow here

Ghazi Salahuddin

"If he's elected, public opinion and world opinion would tell George Bush to retreat from his imperialist policies abroad.

"His re-election would serve to warn other leaders in the US and around the world not to go for imperialist policies," Mohammad says.

But many commentators believe there's a schizophrenic streak to public opinion in Pakistan.

Ghazi Salahuddin says: "At the popular level there is an obsession with the United States as the enemy. Bush is the person they most dislike."

"But the government and people with patriotic feelings towards Pakistan feel Bush would be beneficial in terms of the support and aid Pakistan gets."

"America is our beloved infidel. It's so far away, but we feel its shadow here." "So there is this double-think all the time. They want American support, but they don't want Bush to win."

Clinton snub

Make that treble-think. Because among ordinary people there are big problems with the Democrats as well.

And those problems revolve around an issue even bigger than the war on terror and perceptions of American global hegemony: India.

"Somehow, there is a perception in this country that the Democrats are more pro-India, and are not friendly towards Pakistan," says Ghazi Salahuddin.

Witness the way Pakistan was abandoned in the 1990s - when the Democrats were in the White House - after the war in Afghanistan was won.

Witness the snub Bill Clinton delivered to Pakistan after the military coup in 1999.

He had been in India for five days and stopped in Pakistan for just five hours - and that only to deliver a lecture to President Musharraf on the virtues of democracy.

No one has pictures of the two shaking hands because Bill Clinton would not allow them to be taken.

The impression has stuck in the public mind.

Lesser of two evils

But for Democrats, like Republicans, security is still the key issue and the relationship with Pakistan is likely to be little different if they get into power.

The problem, Pakistanis say, is the Democrats have other agendas, first among them nuclear proliferation.

The fear in Pakistan is that they would pursue that policy with more vigour than George Bush has.

All the more so after the revelations earlier this year that the father of Pakistan's bomb, Dr AQ Khan, sold secrets and equipment to other countries.

Nonetheless, the sizeable Pakistani expat community in the United States is believed to be ready to switch its vote to Democrats, reflecting disillusion with George Bush and anger at the daily humiliations they suffer because of the new immigration and homeland security arrangements.

Clearly, if the expats do vote for the Democrats it will not be a positive choice, but a choice between the lesser of two evils.

Story from BBC NEWS:

http://news.bbc.co.uk/go/pr/fr/-/2/hi/americas/3950119.stm

Published: 2004/10/25 07:14:27 GMT

© BBC MMIV

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What a wierd article. I'm trying to sift through it to get the gist of the message...

Pakistan is about 50% Bush, 50% Kerry

**** Govt and Military support Reps./Bush

Then something I read as whenever **** gets in trouble, America is there to help. Did I read that wrong?

Then they say the general public hates Bush because they think he's targeting all Muslims? But they support him anyway because he gives them aid??

And then...

"If he's elected, public opinion and world opinion would tell George Bush to retreat from his imperialist policies abroad.

"His re-election would serve to warn other leaders in the US and around the world not to go for imperialist policies," Mohammad says.

But from what I hear from the 'world' is that the US is very much imperialistic, heck, even our left wings here say that. How would re-electing him give the message against it?

"At the popular level there is an obsession with the United States as the enemy. Bush is the person they most dislike."

"But the government and people with patriotic feelings towards Pakistan feel Bush would be beneficial in terms of the support and aid Pakistan gets."

You can't buy love. You can give and give and give and give and give and give and give but you can't buy love.

And then at the bottom of the article they mention they don't like Clinton or the Dems either because of India and the nuclear thing.

Just confusing to me. They hate us, but love our money? That kinda makes sense... would that make them a friend? Am I reading this wrong?

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its simple

they hate the US, but take as much from it as they can.

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I have muslim co-workers and friends of family. I didn't see them as "terrorists".

Ignorance is the only cause of the hostility and fear of Muslims as being Terrorists.

Such a cynical view. You may be right though... But hey, there are other people in Allied countries who hate the US but'll "take as much from it as they can". So those Pakistanians who hate the US (right word?) are not much different to anyone else, who also ahtes the US.

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of course not, but i think it erodes any kind moral highground they might try to take

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