Despite it being a public holiday in the buzzing city-life of Karachi, throngs of people headed to attend a debate held at Habib University, a newly set, private institute. The Dean of School of Advanced International Studies at Johns Hopkins, Vali Reza Nasr was one of the panelists present to speak on 'What is America's Problem?'
The debate was designed to discuss the "inherently unstable relationship" between U.S.-Pakistan -- a 'relationship that's continuously on the swing' as Moeed Pirzada, the moderator of the session expressed.
Nasr, the author of The Dispensable Nation pointed out "they (U.S.-Pak) say they have a common interest, but they never (grow) on that idea."
A major portion of the session evolved around the "image crisis" Pakistani's worldwide suffer from. Dr. Nauman Naqvi, Dean of Arts and Social Sciences at Habib University who was also a panelist voiced, "image arises from what you actually do -- so don't worry about the images (generated), but worry about what you do."
For Nasr, "Image is like a snapshot of events... how you convey it, is a concerted effort."
Now for those, who can't really assess the 'image' conundrum that reverberated inside the walls of the auditorium, the American academic, Nasr, got the closest to describing it as "either others define you or you cultivate how you want others to see you."
The connection between the two nations who have acted as partners against the war on terror mostly seem to be floundering, the Salala example is just a recent chapter. The derailed association has 'substantially improved' according to the author of Persian origin.
The debate moved on to how this South Asian ally of the Western or better yet, global giant, usually experiences halcyon days when military rule is in power.
Henry Kissinger's quote was mentioned by Nasr, "America has no permanent friends or enemies, only interests.' 'Since the civilian governments haven't got the job done previously," relations have seen good days during the four military rules experienced by Pakistanis.
Pirzada set forward the question about the insensitive attitude of U.S. (politicians) towards Pakistan's issues. Nasr, counter-questioned "What is it exactly that Pakistan wants?" To this the other two speakers raised concerns that despite Pakistan losing out so many of its civilians and members of the armed forces in acts of terror since the war against terrorism began by the allies, still the U.S. is unclear on what this country of 18 million wants?
"US doesn't see eye to eye with Pakistan on security issues. It sees Pakistan/Afghanistan as a single entity" -- bodies promoting and supporting terrorism, Nasr further elaborated.
President of this private university, Wasif Rizvi, pointed out that during the era during which heavy influx of dollars were seeing Pakistan's way during the '80s when money was provided by the U.S. to set up madrassahs -- the same religious centers the global power now spends heavily on to uproot. "It was in that period (the 80s) that every chosen criminal chose to come to Pakistan."
The Dispensable Nation talks about the geopolitics of the region and Nasr, 'originally from the area, speaks to both audiences,' Pirzada, a local current affairs show host briefed those present at the venue.
The floor was open for the audience to comment and raise questions. A member from the far end of the enclosure asked about the nature of relations U.S.-Pak endure-if it's a "husband-wife, ex-wife or an ex-girlfriend role that Pakistan enjoys'. For Nasr, it is a very strange husband-wife relationship, but for a witty Naqvi, 'states don't behave in such psychotic ways."
The Muslim world is of the assumption that the "U.S. goes to sleep and wakes up in the morning thinking of them," Nasr retorted to wistful eyes and attentive ears which could be viewed as thoroughly enjoying the session wrapping up towards its end.
What is Pakistan's problem? Let us come back to that first. Pakistan needs to make its stature clear and work on the common interests which will be of essence be it trading or opening up safe and secure paths to foreign investments.
As for concerns over an "image crisis," let individuals decipher what image means to them rather than dictating a generalized perception unto them.