My general take on the Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's visit to Pakistan was positive. She, IMO, had guts just to show up. (I am remembering all the flak she caught during last year's presidential campaign for posing as a daring-doer, touching down on an airstrip in a free-firing zone in the middle of war-torn ex-Yugoslavia.)
Her 29 October meeting with Pakistani students on her recent trip was of great interest to me. I have finally attained access to the transcripts of the Q and A that issued forth from her University appearance. I sought these because I was looking for an introductory short-course out-line as to the range of informed Pakistani opinion, unfiltered by polarized political parties and media.
Therefore, I was more interested in the students' questions than Secretary Clinton's answers. Here are some of them:
Hello, ma’am. My name is (inaudible). I’m from Pakistan College of Law. I wanted to actually suggest American people and the government that the image we Pakistanis are seeing right now is of terrorists and people who are with violence and they create violence all over the country like you see in Iran. The attack that happened, they blame Pakistanis again. So we want American Government to help us build our new image, a good image of good people – not terrorists, but good people in Pakistan.Applause
I am a member of Youth Parliament under the leadership of (inaudible). I wanted to say that why American Government always support Indians as compared with Pakistan, although Pakistan always standing with Americans in every (inaudible).Applause.
The question emailed from Peshawar comes from somebody called (inaudible) about (inaudible). He says: Having spent the last two days in the heart of Pakistan and learning about the apprehensions of Pakistani people about the Kerry-Lugar bill, how would you address this issue for any future bill? And what advice do you take back for the President of the United States?
My name is (inaudible). I am representing Youth Parliament of Pakistan. (Inaudible) is quite appreciative that – giving aid to Pakistani people from the people of the United States. But there have been recent incidents reported in media, there are some incidents of reckless driving, drunk driving that is creating bad image of American people. And on the other hand, the USA’s Clean Drinking Water Project and the districts (inaudible) project that I know are creating will – goodwill of the people of the United States and the people of Pakistan. So it’s – what would you do to appreciate the good managers and to restrict the bad managers who are implementing the job? That’s my question.
My name is (inaudible) and I would like to ask the Americans – okay. First of all, you mentioned in your speech that the Americans would like to become true partners with the Pakistani. And my question is that what can the Americans give Pakistan that we can now trust you (inaudible) the Americans this time of your sincerity and that (inaudible) are not going to be between us like the Americans did in the past when they wanted to destabilize the Russians and (inaudible)?Applause. Sustained applause.
My name is (inaudible) and I would like to ask the Americans – okay. First of all, you mentioned in your speech that the Americans would like to become true partners with the Pakistani. And my question is that what can the Americans give Pakistan that we can now trust you (inaudible) the Americans this time of your sincerity and that (inaudible) are not going to be between us like the Americans did in the past when they wanted to destabilize the Russians and (inaudible)?Applause
Hi. My name is (inaudible). I actually have a question for you and Ms. Patterson. USAID did betray us, and this is a fact. Even back when you were just an intern in Ford Administration back in the ‘70s, and later on when you became First Lady, even in the ‘80s, they did that. My main question is: What is the difference that we will see between Obama Administration and Bush Administration towards Pakistan?Applause
Madame Secretary, my name is (inaudible) and I’m a student at Pakistan College of Law. My question is we have a lot of respect for what the Americans believe in, and they’re doing great things for Pakistan right now. But there’s a fundamental difference between the way your democracy works and the way ours is encouraged to function. And while you keep stressing on the return to democracy for Pakistan, my question is: Does the U.S. Government support summoning former President Pervez Musharraf to a competent court within Pakistan for being tried for treason because he was obstructing democracy?Applause.
Madame Secretary, the next question is via email. Please, this is a question from Karachi. And it says: Good afternoon, Madame Secretary. My name is Roshinda (ph) from Karachi, and I’m a student at Mohammad Ali Jinnah University. My question is: What kind of accountability is needed to ensure the success of democracy?Applause.
Hello, ma’am. I am (inaudible) and I represent Seeds of Peace. I am a medical student at King Edward Medical University. First of all, I’d like Madame to know what an inspiration she is for all the aspiring young women all around the world for being who she is. Madame, thank you so much for coming here today.Applause.
Talking about the speech that you just gave and in the beginning you talked about the misunderstandings and lack of communication between the two (inaudible) partners, Pakistan and America. Well, we also see that every time an American leader comes, he always emphasizes the fact that there should be exchange of information, intelligence, all along. But at the same time, the drone attacks are being carried out in our country in our people. They are causing so much collateral damage at the same time. We, at one point, asked the United States of America to share the intelligence with us and carry it out. And at the same time, the drone attacks are still going on in Waziristan. What does Madame or America in general plan to do about that, because it’s creating a lot of frustration among our people?Applause.
Hello. (Inaudible) University of Punjab. My question is about war on terror. As you have mentioned in your speech that there is a misunderstanding or lack of communication among the United (inaudible) and Pakistan, I don’t think there is any misunderstanding or lack of communication. I think there is a concerted effort (inaudible) confidence, and that has a history, long history behind it. My question is: Would it not be better to replace the present U.S. and national forces in Afghanistan by UN or peacekeeping forces from the liberal democratic Islamic (inaudible) so that would give some sort of credibility to this war which is going on, so that Muslims also believe that they are participating in this and they also believe that what is going to happen on the name of war of terror?Applause.
Good afternoon, ma’am. My name is Rabab (ph) and I’m representing (inaudible) Punjab (inaudible). Ma’am, the challenges faces – faced by the United States, they are very similar to the ones that are faced by Pakistan. We face a threat (inaudible) just as you do in many parts of the world. (Inaudible) today is (inaudible) to reduce that threat (inaudible) to an extent. Now, what are the people of Pakistan, the youth of Pakistan, the Government of Pakistan, and you know, just the public in general supposed to do to reduce the trust deficit that has been created if a student from Pakistan goes to the U.S., that student is looked as – looked at as a terrorist rather than just a normal student? How is this trust deficit to be reduced? Thank you.Applause.
My name is (inaudible). I’m from (inaudible). I want to ask that America is standing with Pakistan in the war against terrorism, but Pakistan is being destroyed or you can say that the shortfall of energy and some other problem like education and unawareness. So what America is doing in this regard to Pakistan or America is promoting something now (inaudible) to cover the shortfall of energy, plus education and awareness in this society? I want to ask that America is standing with Pakistan in the war against terrorism, but Pakistan has a problem of a shortfall of energy, lack of education, and lack of awareness. So America is doing anything in (inaudible) or in future to (inaudible) Pakistan?
My name is (inaudible). I’m from GC University Lahore. Being a student of history and interstate politics, it is my perception that there are analogous moments and common inflection points between the Vietnam war and the current U.S.-led Afghanistan campaign, and it seems that Afghanistan is a sequel to the Vietnam quagmire. So don’t you believe that it is the time that is better to win the battle of hearts and minds than to win a battle to occupy a barren land for no specific reason?Applause.
Thank you. My name is (inaudible). I am from (inaudible). My question is that the war in terrorism – there’s not been much progress after the Obama Administration, you know, came in, because the Gitmo is still there and your troops are still in Iraq, and, you know, you’re sending 48,000 more troops in Afghanistan. So it’s very hard to believe that the U.S. policy in regards to Pakistan – the war on terrorism – is going to be changed. But don’t you think that hampers the democracy, because now the U.S. is forcing Pakistan to take actions which, on the other hand, we might not be willing to take?Applause.
A few final observations.
The Q and A sparked high interest. A long queue of questioners immediately formed behind the audience microphone. Questions were greeted with quick applause, as were some of Secretary Clinton's answers. Some may differ, but I thought HRC performed at a creditable level as a messenger conveying the concerns of the American people. But the issue was really was she credible? What did Pakistanis want to hear from her, and did they hear it?