Pakistanis Baffled, Buoyant over Trump’s Fantastical Praise

By Frud Bezhan | ( RFE/RL) | – –

The office of Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has cited a phone conversation with Donald Trump in which it says the U.S. president-elect described nuclear-armed Pakistan as a "fantastic country" and its embattled prime minister as a "terrific guy."

The exchange, as described by Sharif’s side, was followed by a more muted description of the November 30 conversation from the Trump transition team that said the "productive conversation" centered around how the two countries "will have a strong working relationship in the future." Trump’s team added that the president-elect "is looking forward to a lasting and strong personal relationship" with Sharif.

Trump’s transition team did not confirm the authenticity of the Pakistani transcript.

The seemingly effusive praise quoted in Sharif’s statement appeared to surprise some in Pakistan, a conservative Muslim-majority country that Trump described as "not our friend" during a campaign in which the billionaire real-estate mogul frequently employed anti-Muslim rhetoric.

In the phone conversation with Sharif, the Pakistani government quoted Trump as saying that Pakistan was a "fantastic place" with the most "intelligent" people and "your country is amazing with tremendous opportunities.”

The statement said Trump told Sharif, currently embroiled in a corruption court case, that he has a "very good reputation" and he was doing "amazing work."

Among the extensive references in the Pakistani readout, Sharif’s office said Trump told Sharif he was "ready and willing to play any role that you want me to play to address and find solutions to the outstanding problems."

U.S. officials have grappled with Washington’s complicated relationship with Pakistan, sending hundreds of millions of dollars in annual aid but publicly questioning Islamabad’s commitment to fighting international terrorism.

Pakistan also has fought four wars with regional rival India, which also has nuclear weapons and has enhanced its ties with the United States over the past two decades, particularly in the areas of civil-nuclear cooperation, trade, and security.

It was unclear if Sharif’s office intended the passages on Trump speaking to be regarded as direct quotes. The transcript was released by the Pakistani government’s Press Information Department.

The praise attributed to Trump has not gone unnoticed in Pakistan, which saw an outpouring of bafflement, ridicule, and support in the mainstream and social media.

‘Fantastic Diplomacy’

The Pakistani Foreign Ministry welcomed Trump’s remarks on December 1, saying Islamabad "would like to strengthen…the existing relationship further and we would like to continue working with the new administration when it takes over."

Trump’s purported praise made the front pages of many Pakistani newspapers. The Jang newspaper went with the headline: "If Fulfils His Promise, Trump Would Be First U.S. President To Visit Pakistan In Democratic Rule." Trump would be the first U.S. president to visit since George W. Bush during then-military leader Pervez Musharraf’s rule in 2006.

Meanwhile, a report in the English-language daily The News said that Trump’s alleged promise to visit Pakistan has come as a "pleasant surprise" but cautioned that "only time will prove whether the U.S. president-elect fulfils his promise."

Some social media users also appeared to welcome the phone-call revelations.

"Fantastic diplomacy," Pakistani journalist Waseem Abbasi, who is based in Washington, posted on Facebook.

Other Pakistanis were more skeptical.

Pakistani journalist Ali Salman Alvi tweeted: "Donald Trump has never met PM Nawaz Sharif but Trump knows Sharif has an ‘outstanding reputation,’ and understands he is a ‘terrific man.’"

Journalist Omar Quraishi tweeted: "But Mr Trump do you know most Pakistanis are Muslim – how can they be ‘brilliant and exceptional’ as well? Won’t you stop them entering?"

Another Twitter user, Baba Sattar, posted: "We’re all trumped by Trump & Sharif. Yes, hilarious in a sad way. Bigly!"

Others were simply baffled, suggesting the remarks were fake.

CNN journalist Muhammad Lila tweeted that Trump’s remarks were real and "not a spoof."

‘Not A Friend’

Trump’s remarks could come as a relief to many Pakistanis wary of his sharp criticisms of the country in the past.

In January 2012, Trump tweeted: "Get it straight: Pakistan is not our friend. We’ve given them billions and billions of dollars, and what did we get? Betrayal and disrespect – and much worse. #TimeToGetTough"

Months later, he asked when Pakistan will "apologize to us for providing safe sanctuary to Osama Bin Laden for 6 years?! Some ‘ally.’"

Pakistanis have also been suspicious of Trump’s relationship with India. Trump courted Indian-American voters during the campaign and he met Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi last month.

Islamabad relies heavily on U.S. aid and security assistance. U.S. officials have accused Pakistan of not doing enough to crack down on militants group like the Afghan Taliban and Haqqani Network that use the country as a springboard for attacks in neighboring Afghanistan.

Since 2002, Washington has sent around $20 billion in aid to Islamabad for its help combating international terrorism.

There are fears that with Trump at the helm, he might scale back on such aid.

8 Responses

  1. My theory is Trump got mixed up about which country and leader he was talking to and read off the wrong script.

  2. jf cloutier

    Next will come the vitriol then more praise, in an unending cycle, as you’d expect from an abusive relationship with a narcissist.

  3. Or maybe Trump has only one “introducing me” script filled with banal flattery that he is using on his first call with all the “big league” leaders of the world, and he doesn’t know Pakistan from Peru.

  4. Apparently, Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has never experienced an American circus sideshow barker before.

    The Electoral College just elected one.

  5. He’s turning into a such a sweetie, isn’t he? Everybody’s friend…
    I think getoffmedz has the right millieu for him. Juggling so many contrary balls that it will be amazing if they don’t all come down & hit him on the nose all at once.
    & he’s going to reconcile the Israelis & Palestinians I read. I guess he thinks he’s a cosmic healer as well!
    Well he might succeed in the long long long terms if he was to reneg on the Israeli US$ X billion aid package. Put the Israelis on a diet – they must like diets cos they talk about putting the Palestinians on one. Out of the kindness of their hearts of course.
    On the subject of Pakistan however, I do miss Prez. Mush! Now he knew how to keep all the balls in the air, grin!
    Frankly, quite a few countries play the US for suckers!

  6. Meanwhile, Trump chatted on the phone with the new Taiwanese president and stirred up another hornet’s nest.
    Searching for other metaphors, and “bull in a China shop” seems particularly appropriate there.

    To understand what in the heck is going on, I found this
    note a friend sent me about Trumpian Narcissistic Personality Disorder very helpful. Maybe all of us (including leaders of state) will have to become amateur psychologists. Duterte and Putin seem to have already figured this out.
    “Coping with Chaos in the White House”
    By Phelps S. Hawkins

    A few days ago, I wrote a post for my Facebook friends about my personal experience with narcissistic personality disorder and how I view the president elect as a result. Unexpectedly, the post traveled widely, and it became clear that many people are struggling with how to understand and deal with this kind of behavior in a position of power. Although several writers, including a few professionals, have publicly offered their thoughts on a diagnosis, I am not a professional and this is not a diagnosis. My post is not intended to persuade anyone or provide a comprehensive description of NPD. I am speaking purely from decades of dealing with NPD and sharing strategies that were helpful for me in coping and predicting behavior. The text below is adapted from my original Facebook post.

    I want to talk a little about narcissistic personality disorder. I’ve unfortunately had a great deal of experience with it, and I’m feeling badly for those of you who are trying to grapple with it for the first time because of our president-elect, who almost certainly suffers from it or a similar disorder. If I am correct, it has some very particular implications for the office. Here are a few things to keep in mind:

    1) It’s not curable and it’s barely treatable. He is who he is. There is no getting better, or learning, or adapting. He’s not going to “rise to the occasion” for more than maybe a couple hours. So just put that out of your mind.

    2) He will say whatever feels most comfortable or good to him at any given time. He will lie a lot, and say totally different things to different people. Stop being surprised by this. While it’s important to pretend “good faith” and remind him of promises, as Bernie Sanders and others are doing, that’s for his supporters, so *they* can see the inconsistency as it comes. He won’t care. So if you’re trying to reconcile or analyze his words, don’t. It’s 100% not worth your time. Only pay attention to and address his actions.

    3) You can influence him by making him feel good. There are already people like Bannon who appear ready to use him for their own ends. The GOP is excited to try. Watch them, not him. President Obama, in his wisdom, may be treating him well in hopes of influencing him and averting the worst. If he gets enough accolades for better behavior, he might continue to try it. But don’t count on it.

    4) Entitlement is a key aspect of the disorder. As we are already seeing, he will likely not observe traditional boundaries of the office. He has already stated that rules don’t apply to him. This particular attribute has huge implications for the presidency and it will be important for everyone who can to hold him to the same standards as previous presidents.

    5) We should expect that he only cares about himself and those he views as extensions of himself, like his children. (People with NPD often can’t understand others as fully human or distinct.) He desires accumulation of wealth and power because it fills a hole. (Melania is probably an acquired item, not an extension.) He will have no qualms *at all* about stealing everything he can from the country, and he’ll be happy to help others do so, if they make him feel good. He won’t view it as stealing but rather as something he’s entitled to do. This is likely the only thing he will intentionally accomplish.

    6) It’s very, very confusing for non-disordered people to experience a disordered person with NPD. While often intelligent, charismatic and charming, they do not reliably observe social conventions or demonstrate basic human empathy. It’s very common for non-disordered people to lower their own expectations and try to normalize the behavior. DO NOT DO THIS AND DO NOT ALLOW OTHERS, ESPECIALLY THE MEDIA, TO DO THIS. If you start to feel foggy or unclear about this, step away until you recalibrate.

    7) People with NPD often recruit helpers, referred to in the literature as “enablers” when they allow or cover for bad behavior and “flying monkeys” when they perpetrate bad behavior on behalf of the narcissist. Although it’s easiest to prey on malicious people, good and vulnerable people can be unwittingly recruited. It will be important to support good people around him if and when they attempt to stay clear or break away.

    ? People with NPD often foster competition for sport in people they control. Expect lots of chaos, firings and recriminations. He will probably behave worst toward those closest to him, but that doesn’t mean (obviously) that his actions won’t have consequences for the rest of us. He will punish enemies. He may start out, as he has with the NYT, with a confusing combination of punishing/rewarding, which is a classic abuse tactic for control. If you see your media cooperating or facilitating this behavior for rewards, call them on it.

    9) Gaslighting — where someone tries to convince you that the reality you’ve experienced isn’t true — is real and torturous. He will gaslight, his followers will gaslight. Many of our politicians and media figures already gaslight, so it will be hard to distinguish his amplified version from what has already been normalized. Learn the signs and find ways to stay focused on what you know to be true. Note: it is typically not helpful to argue with people who are attempting to gaslight. You will only confuse yourself. Just walk away.

    10) Whenever possible, do not focus on the narcissist or give him attention. Unfortunately we can’t and shouldn’t ignore the president, but don’t circulate his tweets or laugh at him — you are enabling him and getting his word out. (I’ve done this, of course, we all have… just try to be aware.) Pay attention to your own emotions: do you sort of enjoy his clowning? do you enjoy the outrage? is this kind of fun and dramatic, in a sick way? You are adding to his energy. Focus on what you can change and how you can resist, where you are. We are all called to be leaders now, in the absence of leadership.

    Phelps S. Hawkins

    Assistant Professor, JMC

    Savannah State University

    • You are far too polite, the Electoral College has elected a dangerous BATS••• crazy egomaniac with no concept of the rule of law.

Comments are closed.