Donald Trump is not the first U.S President who has asked Pakistan to do more, but he is certainly the first one to do so over a tweet.
Also Read: Wrap-up 2017: How Donald Trump Used Twitter
For a moment there this out-of-the-blue tweet put the civil-military bureaucracy in Pakistan in a bit of a fix. Now the issue was not that the country’s ruling establishment did not have the facts and figures to draft a befitting counter response. God knows we have done just about enough in the last 16 years to hit back with an argument so strong that it would put Trump’s “33 billion” to shame faster than the billions of jaws that dropped after the Billy Bush tape.
No. The dilemma had nothing to do with the actual response itself but the channel through which this response ought to be communicated. You see, up until yesterday the Pakistani establishment had been holding tight to the hope that policy statements made through Donald Trump’s Twitter account were exclusively the concern of American people – and perhaps North Korea. However, the dynamics suddenly changed yesterday at precisely 5:12 p.m. (Pakistan Standard Time) when Trump sent out this tweet:
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!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 1, 2018
Now seriously, how do you respond when a sitting President belittles and threatens you by micro-blogging about it? But to give the devil his due, perhaps this was one of Trump’s more coherent and grammatically sound tweets with abundant punctuation (the comma after “and” was unnecessary though).
But that’s besides the point.
The point was that the damning tweet had been sent and a response by Pakistan was in order. Foreign Minister Khawaja Asif, who along with his aides was perhaps grappling with the same dilemma at the time, sent out a tweet of his own.
We will respond to President Trump's tweet shortly inshallah…Will let the world know the truth..difference between facts & fiction..
— Khawaja M. Asif (@KhawajaMAsif) January 1, 2018
About an hour later, the Ministry of Defense came up with a response. Following the precedent set by Donald Trump, the Ministry opted for Twitter as its channel of communication.
Pak as anti-terror ally has given free to US: land & air communication, military bases & intel cooperation that decimated Al-Qaeda over last 16yrs, but they have given us nothing but invective & mistrust. They overlook cross-border safe havens of terrorists who murder Pakistanis.
— Pak Minister Defence (@PakMnstrDefence) January 1, 2018
Later the U.S Ambassador to Pakistan, David Hale was also summoned by the Foreign Office to register the government’s protest against Trump’s tweet.
Now, I understand that Pak-US relations have been deteriorating steadily for the last decade. Both the sides have their own list of grievances that are frankly not very hard to resolve but neither side is interested to address them. As usual it’s realpolitik taking precedence over goodness and common sense. I get it. I’ve made peace with it.
But what I refuse to understand is the juncture at which international politics has come to. Have world leaders become so laid back and incompetent that they don’t even have the common courtesy to communicate through formal means anymore? Whatever happened to good old exchange of letters between heads of state – or even phone calls? What is this madness where a powerful country’s President decides to harass a smaller country through a tweet – and this is only my imagination – while taking a dump?
This is all the more enraging when the smaller country in question has lost over 60,000 men, women and children to fight a war that it did not even start!
Trump remembered the $33 billion given to Pakistan over the last 16 years but was he aware of the 0.1 million Pakistanis who have been left physically disabled because of the terrorist attacks that became a norm following Pakistan’s involvement in the war on terror?
You can demand, “Do more,” all you want Mr. Trump but unless you learn the basic etiquette of state-to-state communication, all we can offer is, “No more.”