Momentum to cut off or reduce funding began growing this year following the covert U.S. raid that killed al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden in a garrison town not far from Islamabad. Bin Laden’s hiding place sparked suspicions among many U.S. officials even though the government hasn’t found evidence that senior Pakistani leaders knew he was there.
The Pakistani government was outraged by the May 2 operation because it wasn’t told about it beforehand.
Relations plunged to a new low following Mullen’s allegations about Pakistan’s spy agency helping the Haqqani network. The U.S. has long accused the ISI of having ties to the group, which is based in Pakistan’s North Waziristan tribal area, but this was the first time officials publicly linked the agency to attacks against Americans.
The U.S. has repeatedly demanded that Pakistan attack Haqqani fighters, but the government has refused, saying its troops are stretched too thin by operations in other parts of the tribal region. Many analysts believe, however, that Pakistan wants to remain on good terms with the group because it could be a useful ally in Afghanistan after foreign forces withdraw.
Despite the larger issues at stake, U.S. officials present at the concert Tuesday night expressed hope in the power of music, especially the “friendship song” that the jazz band recorded with the Pakistani rock group, Fuzon.
The song is “something that I think will guide us as we go forward and something that I hope will provide a path for Americans and Pakistanis to continue working together and creating wonderful things together,” said Mark Davidson, a senior public affairs official at the U.S. Embassy.
Fuzon’s lead singer, Rameez Mukhtar, said the song was called “Friendship is Life and Life is Beautiful.”
“Let’s talk. Replace the face of hatred with a new face,” sang Mukhtar in Urdu. “Shun differences, cut distances … let’s light the lamp of friendship.”
Mazhar Hussain, a 40-year-old media professional who attended the concert, said it represented the kind of ties the two countries should foster.
“This is what we need to carry forward, not just arguments with each other about fighting a proxy war,” said Hussain. “It needs to be a lasting relationship.”
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