While Ayesha Siddiqa is no doctor, she has diagnosed the U.S-Pakistan relationship with schizophrenia — which she says has tarnished the international image of Pakistan.
Siddiqa, a security analyst for the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars and an expert on Pakistan, was invited by the Pakistani Students’ Association to lecture last night on U.S. relations with Pakistan at the School of Social Work.
PSA Events Chair Azmat Khan said Siddiqa’s visit was a part of a lecture series that aims to dispel stereotypes about Pakistan and provide the public with an in-depth examination of issues that the country is currently grappling with.
Siddiqa began her lecture by examining current perceptions of the U.S.-Pakistani relationship. Despite joint efforts between the two countries to rout Al-Qaida, Siddiqa said Pakistan is still seen by the world as a hotbed of terrorism and nuclear proliferation.
Because of Pakistan’s dichotomous image, Siddiqa said, “It’s a very schizophrenic relationship Pakistan has with the United States.”
Contributing to this negative image are the conflicting policies Pakistan and the United States have toward each other, she said.
Siddiqa said Pakistan has often jockeyed between progressive and militaristic policies, creating inconsistency in government policy that has left the nation in economic stagnation for decades.
Although the geopolitical status quo plays a role in fueling the negative image of Pakistan, Siddiqa said the origins of Pakistan’s tarnished image lie in the underdeveloped identity of its own people.
“Fifty-seven years has gone down the drain due to this extremely problematic image,” she said.
When Pakistan became a nation after the 1947 partition of India and Pakistan, Siddiqa said the founders of the new nation were ill equipped to meet the needs of the overwhelming number of ethnic groups that live in the country.
As the creation of Pakistan did not lead to a developed identity for its people, Pakistan has been run by governments that have been unsuccessful at wrestling with the diversity of interests of its people. Moreover, without a strong sense of identity, Pakistanis have no understanding of their political role in the advancement of the country.
Siddiqa said Pakistanis are often left asking, “What’s my sense of belonging and ownership? I’m being constantly told that if you pursue this line of argument you are acceptable, otherwise you are not.”
“And that is what creates problems at multiple levels,” she said.
To improve the country, Siddiqa said there needs to be greater political dialogue among Pakistanis, which would led to the formation of a more unified Pakistani identity. As of now there is a complete lack of political discourse that is instead weighed down by military regimes that act in their own interests, Siddiqa said.
“We need to listen to each other’s divergent views,” she added.
With this stronger identity, the government should then use this new identity to guide its policies since they would be acting in the interest of the people, she said.
At the same time, the political leadership of Pakistan also needs to envisage a new future for the country as the current direction of the country has amounted to little progress, Siddiqa said.
“Today there are a few questions we need to ask ourselves. Today, we need to revise our mission,” she said.
LSA junior Taha Qazi agreed with Siddiqa’s views, saying the Pakistani government needs to incorporate the interests of the Pakistani people by decentralizing national authority.
“Once they decentralize the authority, it will allow the economy to grow,” he said.