US President Joe Biden talks on the phone with service members attending Super Bowl LV watch parties in Kabul and aboard the USS Nimitz, at the Lake House in Wilmington, Delaware Photo: Adam Schultz | White House | Flickr
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Around mid-year, one starts assessing how the year could have looked up had things gone a certain way or if a powerful friend had kept some of the promises they made at the start of the year. Now, what if that powerful friend lives in the White House? Getting an invite is door ki baat, even a telephone call means a lot. But things don’t always go as you plan.

US President Joe Biden must be among those having mid-year regrets. How he could have done things differently, arranged a couple of playdates, or at least made one “important” long-distance phone call to Pakistan. To whom? You already know. It is Prime Minister Imran Khan.

It so happened that ever since taking control of the Oval Office, Biden hasn’t telephoned the PM. What? Who does that? While Biden could say he had better things to do, most Pakistanis are clear that nothing can be better until PM Imran Khan’s phone has rung. Let the record show that Pakistan isn’t waiting for a Biden phone call because, after all, what’s in a call in the age of Snapchat et al. Let the record also show that Joe Biden now faces the wrath of those he never cared to find out about. Tough luck, Biden. You are on your own now.


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A matter of ‘shame’

Imran Khan may have been gracious enough to say that Biden can call him whenever he has time, clearly, Biden doesn’t have time and has other priorities. But others in Pakistan aren’t as forgiving. It turns out that not getting a call from the White House has become a cause to shame the prime minister with taunts and whatnot. Opposition’s Bilawal Bhutto Zardari asked Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood to focus on arranging PM’s phone call with President Biden given its strategic importance in Pakistan’s politics: “It is a matter of shame that our premier doesn’t even get a phone call.”

Now, when you attach shame to national ghairat (honour), then be ready to get a befitting response. Soon enough, throwaway remarks, speeches, rants and everything in between from members of the ruling party began to assert Pakistan’s honour in the hope that those mocking Imran Khan for not getting a call will dial back. The PM took the lead, criticising the US’ role in the aftermath of 9/11, saying he was never “for” the war against terrorism and that the US blamed Pakistan for its own failures in Afghanistan. It’s another debate altogether why Imran Khan was voting “for” General Pervez Musharraf in the 2002 referendum, about six months into the war on terror when he was against his biggest policy. But hey, Biden, are you listening? This meltdown is for you.


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In parallel Pakistan 

Taking the action-packed fight to Biden’s house were the regime YouTubers, upping the ante just a bit too much. They were now convinced that Biden had taken “direct panga” with the wrong man, that the US had angered Army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa and that the days of America were numbered. How, they didn’t say. But the best was still to come: “Biden becomes furious, he will now only give eent ka jawaab patthar se (answer brick with a stone),” drawing reference from the US’ inclusion of Pakistan and Turkey in the Child Soldier Recruiter List this week. However, Imran Khan’s trumpet blared across the US, we are yet to find out but why.

According to these Pakistani prodigies, all this is the net result of Pakistan saying ‘no’ to giving air bases to the US. And yet, in the parallel universe of Pakistan YouTube, the American president was defeated this week and is scared of who else but the Dabanng Khan. They are a perfect match to the warriors on Facebook, where every day is Israel’s last day, all thanks to the universe that works in mysterious ways. Lost in populist public discourse between saying “no” and not caring about “doing more”, the journey continues.

But spare a thought for Imran Khan. Earlier it was Indian PM Narendra Modi who wasn’t taking his calls; now it is US President Joe Biden who refuses to call him. It’s becoming a pattern for a world leader who claims that his foreign policy has been nothing but exemplary. It is ‘absolutely not’ you, Imran; it is them. Them who don’t make the call, take the call, or care about the call. Perhaps, the friendship that Imran Khan started in 2019 with a feeling like “winning the world cup” after meeting Donald Trump appears to be ending with Biden not listening. Or are you listening, Biden?

PS: Till the filing of this article, Joe Biden still hadn’t called Imran Khan and the parallel universe in Pakistan continued to be on fire.

The author is a freelance journalist from Pakistan. Her Twitter handle is @nailainayat. Views are personal.

(Edited by Prashant Dixit)

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